On the Power of Imagery

Fashion Photographer Nick Knight on the power of the photograph, and its global reach;

“Having a phone and an Instagram account means that I can create images on my own. When I first started using it a couple of years ago, it reminded me of the 70s, when I first started out in photography. It felt very direct – it was about me taking the image. It felt really authentic. I don’t have a Twitter account because it’s essentially about writing and my focus has always been visual. Instagram felt like the most appropriate way for me to communicate. I also really enjoy the instantaneous nature of it – you can publish images straight away – and get feedback from people across the globe. And I’m really interested in figures who have huge followings – such as Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne and Lily Allen. People have so much power to put out a message direct to their fans. It’s almost like when magazines were in their heyday – a printed publication would be where you could get celebrity images. Now it’s been reversed and the next generation is one that is used to getting information from digital mediums. The Diesel campaign acknowledges that and feels completely relevant. This is an exciting time – things are changing and I always think change is good.”

Read more here.

Six Reasons Why You Should Hire a PROFESSIONAL Photographer

Six Reasons Why You Should Hire a PROFESSIONAL Photographer

Most people will go through life without ever having to hire a professional photographer. Unless we are talking about wedding photographers, or portrait photographers who photograph our kids for school, most folks just never have a need for a commercial photographer.

Commercial photographers usually deal with other businesses, a B2B approach that makes Graphic Designers, Ad Agencies, Magazines and Corporate Communications their main points of contact for work. Those entities are usually working on behalf of another company that is needing photography to promote their business, product, service or craft.

However, increasingly people are starting businesses from their homes and offices and are in need of a photographer. Perhaps they are starting a website to sell something, or have opened a service business and need images for a brochure and website. Maybe they have begun to make furniture or musical instruments or iPhone cases and need photographs of their products for marketing and distribution.

If you are one of these folks, and are thinking that you maybe need a professional photographer, here are some things to think about as you make your decision.

  1. You are not hiring an “Artist”, you are hiring a “visual solution provider”
    Yes, I know that sounds kind of strange, but that is what commercial photographers do. Every product has challenges to making it look great. Every service has challenges in bringing that service to a photograph. Professional commercial photographers are uniquely prepared to meet those challenges and provide solutions that make images that work for you. Most commercial photographers consider themselves problem solvers first… and that is good for you.
  2. Don’t look for “your photograph” in their portfolios
    Photographers always have portfolios of images they have taken for someone else. Those images solved that client’s problems, and provided the unique visual solution that had been worked out with that with them. Your needs and challenges will most likely be different than theirs, and the photographer will work with you to find the best solutions to your unique visual challenges.
  3. All Photographers are not the same
    That wonderful photographer that photographed your daughters wedding may not be a commercial photographer, nor have the skills needed to provide that work. (In fairness, they may also be commercial shooters… ask for a client list.) The dentist across the street with all the big lenses may take incredible landscape photographs when he is on vacation, but may have no idea at all how to shoot your shiny product so it looks great in print and on Amazon’s website.If you need a people shot, you should look for someone who does that well. If you have a product, make sure the photographer can shoot products. Remember that their portfolio, while not having the exact shot you are looking for, will definitely let you know if they are capable of shooting products, people, locations and studio work.
  4. Discuss your budget honestly
    Most professional photographers are decent, honest people and want to work with you. They can take your budget and find the best way to get what you need done. If your budget will not be enough for a studio rental, they will find a way to shoot it on location. If you only have a specific amount of money to spend on the photography, most photographers will find a way to make sure you get the absolute best work possible. And for sure, different photographers have different ways of getting things done. It is certainly OK to look at different photographers and compare their quality and bids.
  5. Hire a photographer that understands your needs
    How can you tell if they understand your needs? They ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. They will want to see what you consider your competition, they may want to scout your location, or meet with you for a pre-production discussion. They may ask to do test shots before the actual shoot to make sure they can solve the challenges in the best way possible. They will want to know exactly what you want to do with the images so they can prepare them for the best presentation possible.
  6. Great photography is not a cost item, it’s a profit center!
    Good photography sells more product. It makes your service look better. It takes your business and shows it in the best light (no pun… seriously). Look at the premium brands for the truth. They spend tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars on their imagery. Why? Because they KNOW it works. In side by side comparisons, consumers and purchasers choose brands with great photography over products with bad, boring or mediocre imagery.In short… better photography sells more stuff to the clients you want to serve.

A warning… you may have heard of some very inexpensive images, even free, to be found on the internet. We call them “stock” photography. And there are indeed some places in your marketing where good stock photography can be used, but remember that those same images can be used by every and anyone. Even your competitors. Now THAT would be embarrassing.

Hiring a professional photographer should not be difficult or cause angst or pain. It is an important business decision, and should be considered with deliberate thoughtfulness. Choosing the wrong photographer, or making visual decisions that are not in keeping with your brand and the goals of your business can have long reaching consequences. Choosing the right photographer can bring more to the bottom line of your business than you even imagined.

Choose… wisely.


NOTE: this post was inspired by this excellent post by Mike Montiero of Mule Design. He was discussing hiring a designer and I, being a designer as well, realized that many of those thoughts transfer to hiring a professional photographer. Great post, Mike.

Will “Native Advertising” Become More Powerful for Small Businesses?


What is Native Advertising you ask?

Let’s explain it this way… an ad that takes the form of something native to the site it is being shown on.

An example: A regular ad would be something like a banner for an accounting firm placed on a community page. It may be a banner or a box or even some sort of text link. We see them all the time.

A native ad may be something that appears as content within the community site. For all purposes, it is an informational article that looks like most of the other informational articles… but it is NOT. It is paid advertising that simply LOOKS like the surrounding native content.

We have had “Advertorials” for a long time, and they are considered “Native” advertising. The newer forms of native ads may not appear so blatantly advertorial, and instead be perceived as content created as information only, and placed in such a manner as to help that perception along.

A couple of things to consider: IF the content is good, and informative and NOT misleading in any way, there is simply nothing wrong with it in my view. If it goes down the rabbit hole of bullshit ad speak, misleading at best, fraudulent at worst, then it can damage the content provider as well as the advertiser.

I think it is here for a while, and presents some amazing possibilities for marketers who are very sure of their message and aware of the possible pitfalls. This can be an extraordinary new platform for getting a valuable amount of info into the hands of consumers who are seeking it.

But remember that the content MUST be accurate, informative and free of ‘selling’.

Here is a graphic that introduces you to the concept and what others are thinking about it. Visit Copyblogger (click graphic) for more information and what the breakdown of stats mean.

Copyblogger's 2014 State of Native Advertising Report
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

An Old Acquaintance Died Yesterday, RIP Dude

Stock photo from the stupid CC collection at Flickr.

A friend died yesterday.

Well, not really a friend, more of an acquaintance really. We never did see eye to eye on what my friend’s real goals were.

Oh, I hung around him for a few years. Coffee. Lunch now and then.

But I always walked away feeling uneasy about my friend. Sort of like he was out of sync with many of my thoughts about photography.

He was a connoisseur of sorts. A collector of photographs, and for those who needed his services, an ally with a long, deep understanding of photography and its uses. For the most part, a rather class act fellow.

A few years ago he got real sick. He had been such a popular guy, and so many people had invested in his friendship that it was simply sad to see him that ill, and totally in denial of his predicament. Many of his long time associates simply left him out of dinner parties and stopped hanging out with him.

His sickness began to change him from a sophisticated searcher of the best art to simply a revolving door of cheap imitations. Even to the point of taking most of his original supporters for granted – or worse. Interventions were attempted, but were always defeated by his arrogance and self importance.

And he allowed himself to be taken over body and soul by a megalomaniacal manager. A boss so powerful that he was consumed by its power. A boss that would define him in ways that were once abhorrent to him.

He increasingly became angry, defiant, greedy. He worshipped at the alter of the fast buck, the cheap sale. Argue against him and he would simply remove you from his increasingly insipid crowd of riff-raff. A once stalwart friend of photography, he became an anathema who prayed on the desires of the beginner, the egos of the wannabe’s.

And he died yesterday. Not so much murdered by Getty, but surely led to the cliff of his own demise by his formidable boss and overseer.

His name was Stock Photography. Getty killed Stock Photography yesterday. Perhaps out of self righteousness, perhaps to put it out of its misery. Perhaps because they are collectively evil and stupid. I don’t really know… or care.

I will never forget him, but I will always remember that the choices my friend made led him to his ultimate demise. So many of us tried to warn him that he was on a spiral that would only take him to this ultimate end

He simply refused to listen and now he is gone.

Crisis in Event Photography?

Horse Show Photographers Are Facing A Crisis

From Chronicles of the Horse…

Wow… you can just feel the pain and hurt in the words.

“I don’t think photo thieves realize how much of our life is consumed by the photos that they are so quick to take without paying. I don’t think they realize they’re putting people out of work. I don’t think they realize I stay up late at night trying to figure out how to employ our staff with diminished sales due to theft. I know these people don’t steal from tack shops, that they pay the braiders and the blacksmith and their horse show bill, or their trainer. So I don’t think they really know what they do.”

Oh no, they do indeed know. They don’t care. That is the hardest thing to face… the customers don’t care about what your personal challenges are. There is a fundamental change hitting that kind of photography (I would insert the obligatory ‘weddings next’ statement but I thought better of it so no one sends me any death threats… this is not the sentence you were looking for…), and there will be fallout and chaos.

“The next issue I want to address is the scab photographer, or poacher, or faux pro. This is the photographer who shows up with nice or not-so-nice camera equipment, with little to no expense involved in being there. They have full-time jobs outside photography and just show up for fun or for the weekend.”

Unfortunately for the professional horse photographer (dogs, events, skating… all are feeling it) the arrival of digital has lowered the bar on acceptable, and a dentist with a bigass DSLR can indeed make a good, sharp image. With some practice they can make killer, sharp, well composed images.

Loyalty to you, the photographer may be more difficult to create.

“The unfortunate truth is that brand loyalty across every industry is declining. According to Ernst & Young, just a few years ago the average customer was loyal to their favorite brands about 40% of the time. Now, that percentage is estimated to have dropped to just 25%.”
— Angela Pointon, “How to Create Brand Loyalty”

Yes, they are taking away your business as a horse photographer. They don’t care. It is NOT their responsibility to care… they want to make pretty pictures, and read somewhere on a forum that they could recoup their lens purchases with the prints they sell. Single purpose ROI.

I am not saying this is right or wrong (and using the word “scab” will certainly not go a long way in public relations… sheesh…) but it most definitely IS the state of affairs with consumer/commodity photography.

I know people get tired of hearing the same old thing… but, sigh… to succeed in this type of business (little capital investment, easy to produce product) one will have to go far beyond what is now considered traditional marketing/service to something totally different and exciting enough for customers to want to pay.

Then get ready for it to fall on its self again… and again.

Change the game!

4. Have a Point of View

In a world of mass messaging, right and left points of view, and chest thumping me-ism, I see so many artists who are reluctant to let their true colors shine. They’re worried that having a point of view might alienate a subset of fans or followers. Well, that’s bullshit. Because the only reason you’d want fans and followers is to genuinely connect with a community of like minded people – connect your authentic self with theirs. Referencing #1 above – you think it didn’t take balls to stand up for a belief in marriage equality amidst the typical hiphop anti-gay mindset? Sure it took balls, but that’s what M&RL believe and so they found it a perfect thing to write about – with confidence. I spoke to them about it here. THAT is called having a point of view.


I’m guessing there’s a few things in your world (I know there are in mine…) that you’ve been scared to put out there. Dimes to donuts that this thing you’re holding inside will be a huge benefit when you get out of your own way and share that thing, own that thing, have a point of view. The people that will care about that thing are the people you’ll want to connect with anyone. So what are you waiting for?”
— Chase Jarvis, “7 Lessons Anyone [YOU] Can Learn from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis”

The hockey stick for how this stuff will change and mind-share is at nearly vertical… what is cool this year may not be cool next year. It will be a constant struggle for the minds and hearts of customers.

Not saying it is right, only that it is what it is.