Simple ways to use stunning architectural photography in your marketing mix
Posted on: 18/01/2016

Architectural photographs are the eye-candy that draws readers in, especially for the home improvement market.
(Think builders, interior designers, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom retailers here).

It’s a well documented fact that social media posts with images are 80% more shareable and 42% more clickable.
In terms of attraction, action and reaction, nothing outperforms a stunning photograph.

When deciding which photographs make the gallery pages of your website, there’s a fine balance in getting your message across, especially so when you're doing your own content management. These are my suggestions for the most effective way to maximise the value of a well edited portfolio.

Luxury interior photograph by Paul Leach

‘The reader sees before he ever reads and may never read if there’s nothing interesting to see.’
      John Loengard, former Picture Editor of People and Life magazines

How to decide which photographs make the final cut.

Your next customers are looking for a solution.
Photographs should be chosen to help prospective customers imagine how your product or service will solve their problem. They are looking for the end result. Well composed photographs spark imagination. That’s the real value of great photography.
It has to be the right photograph though. If we accept that statement then how do we decide which is the right photograph?

Accepting, intially at least, that your next customer is totally focussed on finding a solution to their problem, real or imaginary, we can safely conclude they’re neither interested in you nor your company, other than in your capacity to provide a satisfactory solution to their problem or objective. Photographs that show how you have found solutions to similar problems for other customers in the past and immedialetly, you're in the running.  Show them professional results. Select only your very best photographs and then you'll start to convince them why you are their best choice.

Here's how to edit the available photographs.

1. Kill the bad shots.
This is the easy bit. Bin the duff shots. If you’re using a professional photographer you won’t have to do this. Any photograph that is blurred, out of focus or badly exposed has to go. Same with any taken before the project was fully finished. For some companies this would mean every photograph on their website. Don’t let that be you.

2. Check the background
One common mistake many amateurs make when taking photographs is to concentrate on the subject of the image and forget about the background. Wheelie bins and washing lines are common culprits, especially through windows and patio doors.
Finding a cast-iron bath right outside the patio door after I’d travelled 250 miles to shoot a kitchen wasn’t fun, but it did actually happen.
Worktop clutter, tea-towels and waste bins do immediately eliminate great kitchen designs from inclusion in mainstream magazine articles, as well as distracting from a stunning room.
When creating a room photograph, I frequently remove all sundry items; deliberately adding back only the choicest items that enhance the final image.

3. Take time to reflect.
Check the reflections. It’s another area that tends to trip the unwary photographer. Avoiding unwanted reflections isn’t always easy and pops from a flashgun never look good.
Sometimes it’s not just the reflection of the photographer. Patio doors and bi-folds often reflect all sorts of garden and building site debris.
Reflections can be controlled as seen here, whilst this project had numerous reflection challenges.

mirror kitchen no reflection

It does need careful preparation and advanced Photoshop skills, both of which are time consuming, but the end result is worth the effort.

4. Less is more.
One or two killer shots are always best. This means being ruthless. Short-list your photographs. Be your harshest critic. And keep repeating the process until you’ve rejected at least 80% of the available shots.

By being selective, you can keep future blog posts and web pages fresh and interesting with new images from your image bank. (Image bank. Think extra revenue). Those additional photographs are always available for social media. Martin Bell at Transform Architects regularly posts on Facebook with selected images from previous projects. He finds this creates a steady stream of new enquiries and engages people in the narrative behind the photographs.

5. Enhance your brand.
Every photograph used in your marketing must serve a specific purpose. Each photograph should enhance your brand image and prompt a specific response from your prospective customer. Unless you are using photographs to explain a process or system, save the work-in-progress shots for later.

6. You will be Googled.
Photographs are posted online in unfathomable quantities. They’re being scrutinised by your future customers, your competitors and even the authorities. If you are in the building industry or an allied trade, every work-in-progress image you post on-line could be a potential liability. What you post on-line now might seem insignificant but Google has a very long memory. Even if you follow best working pratices and you are 100% compliant with Health and Safety, prospective customers will use your photographs to check out your site safety and tidiness, especially so if they have children.

7. Be your own biggest critic.
Always remember, it’s about the customer. If you’re proud of the way you’ve achieved something and if that something that differentiates you from your competitors, that’s fine. Just make sure if it’s a detail shot, the detail fills the frame. Put it somewhere you can add a comment, to explain why it’s important. If it shows care, attention to detail, complies with regulations etc. then tell them. Don’t assume that the viewer will understand. They aren’t in your industry and probably won’t. Tell them why it’s important in the text and put the photograph next to the text.

8. Vanity publishing
As I suggested earlier, work-in-progress shots have a place. They need to be carefully considered and very carefully edited. If you really feel the need to use them, be very clear on why and choose accordingly. My suggestion is to divide your image bank into appropriate sections. For example, separate folders for marketing images, social media images and technical processes and work-in-progress.
One major drawback with work-in-progress photographs is that they tend to show your future customer exactly how much disruption and how big a mess you will make of their home during the transformation. You both know it’s going to be disruptive. Just avoid showing them exactly how disruptive. Remember… you’re selling the dream not the nightmare.
The second drawback is that they are often little more than vanity publishing. Not only is social media is littered with them, they feature on many websites too.
We’ve all seen them….Look, we’ve dug a big hole… Look how big our latest project is… Look at our shiny new van… The common denominator is that it’s about them. Only their mates in the industry get it. It suggests inexperience. They’re not marketing to the right audience, in fact they're not marketing to any audience.
The best place for work-in-progress images is on a laptop or tablet. Good quality, well collated, progress photographs are essential during negotiations with customers. This is where your image bank pays real dividends. You are at a stage where your client is asking specific questions about your expertise and competence. Because you are there to answer questions about the how and why of each picture, you can continue to control the sales process.
Left out on the internet, work-in-progress photographs can easily be harvested by your competitors and used against you during their conversations. Unethical? Possibly. Unlikely? Probably not. Worth the risk? No.

9. Don’t invite the public to create brand related photos.
Photographs make great visual content for sharing but if you’re inviting customers to contribute you need to ensure it’s moderated. In that way you can continue to control your brand image. That’s time intensive, so unless you have that time, my advice would be to avoid it, at least until the resources are available.

Humans are visual beings, which explains one of the reasons why we’re attracted to photographs. As a marketer, ensure photography (or images in general) play an integral part of your content offering. Photos are valuable in achieving your marketing objectives and extend readers’ engagement with your content.

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