Beautiful buildings can almost market themselves. But you can put a much bigger audience in the picture with the right photography. Jessica Taylor, from Architype, tells us more…
The idea of a picture painting a thousand words is never more relevant than in the world of architecture. However pioneering, dynamic or forward-thinking a building project is, people will only give it the attention it deserves when they see it for themselves.
Someone who understands the power of pictures is Jessica Taylor, marketing assistant with innovative architectural firm Architype. Jessica describes great photography as ‘priceless’ for the business. It provides a golden ticket for building better media coverage and eliminates the need for expensive paid-for ad campaigns.
To understand the true power of great photography, it’s important to delve a bit deeper into Jessica’s role with Architype. As a vital cog in the marketing department, she’s required to get projects published in the media, submit convincing award entries and bid for new business. Without good photography, her job would be significantly tougher. So it’s no surprise she’s a passionate advocate of the trade.
“Architype strives to deliver high quality in our buildings,” says Jessica. “So we want to do them justice with quality pictures. It’s an opportunity to familiarize a broad audience with your project and give a very real impression of what that building is like, so it’s high priority for us.”
With architectural photography there really is no place to hide. But if, like Architype, your designs are uplifting and inspiring, then good photography will bring out the best of that. And this can bring tangible benefits to your business. More than you might imagine, in fact.
“Our recently completed University of East Anglia (UEA) Enterprise Centre building has received a huge amount of media attention,” says Jessica.
“We commissioned a professional photographer and the images were absolutely fantastic. They led to us having an awful lot of coverage and we captured new media streams that we wouldn’t necessarily always capture.”
Jessica is sure that this photography was the catalyst for the project being publicised in four different countries, landing four front overs and more than 10 feature length articles.
“The photography was the difference between it being a news item in an industry magazine or something that developed into an in-depth extended article because the photography was really good,” she says.
“Obviously, it is largely about the design merits of the building that forms the real meat of the content, but we do live in a very visual world and people like to see amazing imagery. Good photos are the first thing to capture peoples attention and for magazines in particular, it’s important for them to project themselves as glossy enterprises; if you’ve got great pictures you’re helping them to do that.”
Jessica couldn’t be more certain that investing in good photography delivers an excellent return on your investment.
“Photography can be an expensive exercise, but you have to way-up what the return is on a successful campaign.” says Jessica. “For example, at Architype, we never really advertise. We don’t spend money on placing ads because we get great editorial, and we get great editorial because we get great pictures.
“So although photography can seem expensive, if you’re getting five or six articles in industry magazines because of your pictures, then it pays for itself.”
Jessica has learned a few useful secrets. Here are her top tips for getting the best from your photography.
1. Be organised from the start
When it comes to setting dates for a shoot, make sure you have a few options, not just one. As the shoot gets closer, find out the weather forecast and make sure you shoot on the best weather day. Your photographer will be able to help with this – most of them are better at forecasting accurately than a weather man! Permission is also important. Do you have permission to go into the building you need to shoot? If it’s a school, do you have permission to photograph the children or can you only photograph sensitively? Perhaps there’s a good vantage point from a nearby building. Do you have permission to go in and take a picture from their balcony or rooftop?
2. Make a comprehensive list of what you want from the shoot
Normally I’ll sit down with the project architect and make a list of everything we need and put it into a floor plan so we have something to work to. It needs to be accurate because you need to know which side the sunlight’s coming in on and work around the building in a way that follows the light.
3. Be really familiar with copyright laws
You can’t get this wrong because it causes upset and bad feeling if you share photos that haven’t been paid for. Respect the photographers you work with. It’s their living at the end of the day, so it’s really important that you honour any copyright agreement you’ve come to.
4. Employ a good photographer and share the cost with other project partners if it feels too expensive
Cost wise, there’s not much difference between the day rate of a mediocre photographer and a specialized one. And if you can organise sharing the cost, with three or four project partners it will be much more economical.
5. Spend time finding a photographer that’s going to match your brand
Someone who’s interested in architecture, if not an architectural photographer. Do some research for yourself as well as listening to recommendations. Call, get quotes, compare and interview people and see what their own interests are. Talk to them and find someone who can really capture the look you’re going for.
6. Accompany the photographer
Lots of photographers get commissioned and do their own thing, but it’s pot luck really what the results will be. If you can afford to have someone to go along with them and work together for the day, it really pays off.
7. You need to be patient, because good photography is not something that can be rushed
It’s worthwhile taking your time setting up the shoot and getting the right picture rather than relying on post-production where you can see it’s been doctored. Today, people are really savvy about what’s real and what’s not, so it’s better to get the right picture in the first place.
8. Try to capture a building in use
Use people to bring animation and scale to your pictures. Part of our mission statement at Architype is to deliver uplifting architecture and a lot of that is about how people operate in a building. So putting people in situ always looks so much better.
9. Try to get animation from seasons as well
It’s not always possible to shoot in summer, which is obviously always more preferable. But if you have a building finishing in the middle of winter, you can still get nice shots with a low-lying sun. You just have to make the most of the situation.
And a final word from Jessica. “Last year we launched our new branding and that’s really coming into its own now. The photography we commission really complements that,” she says.
“Our buildings speak for themselves, but we have to represent them with the same quality that we design them with. Good photography is the cherry on the cake and it reflects the ambiance and vibrancy of our projects as well as their physicality.
“Although photography can be expensive, if you’re getting five or six articles because of your pictures, then it pays for itself.”