With shrinking budgets, over-stretched teams and frankly there just being never enough time in the day, it would seem to be ultimately more straightforward for any brand, healthcare, financial services or other, to resort to the tried and tested solution of image libraries for new brand photography.
However, creative agency Embrace’s recent bespoke shoot in Cape Town with acclaimed photographer Michael Heffernan for one of their healthcare clients, Hartmann has highlighted the value of ditching image libraries and instead commissioning original photography.
Here are five great reasons why any brand should commission its own photography.
The new cash-strapped economy is dictating how brands should manifest themselves (or not). Image libraries seemingly offer the exciting lure of an ‘easy, affordable shopping experience’ for stock images – it’s just a few clicks to find pictures and download them, right? Erm…
‘One of the real revelations from this shoot,’ says Embrace Managing Director, Simon Davies, ‘was that the cost of original photography was ultimately so much more cost-effective than an image library.’ This is a common misconception amongst clients
‘To give you an example, for just one of Michael’s photographs through a well-known picture library you could look at thousands of pounds for just one five year licence whereas we have created in excess of 20 bespoke hero images (with twice many more supporting) for a unit cost substantially lower.
Of course, both approaches require planning, research and setup – but ask anyone who’s ever done picture research how easy it is to find the right picture in a vast picture library or number of picture libraries and you’ll know how much of a time-suck that can ultimately be for in-house teams, even before all the administration and associated manipulation to give this standard image your brand feel.
Ultimately, one of the key reasons to opt for original stock photography is the absolute control that it gives you over your brand across every aspect of the above and below the line activity.
‘Going into the Hartmann shoot, we knew what we wanted to achieve,’ says Simon. ‘We had spent time with Hartmann to create a bullet-proof briefing document for Michael and the production team in SA.
‘This “living” document featured a shot-by-shot brief for the campaign that we built up through the planning stage from shot outlines, associated messages that needed to be conveyed, casting shortlists, images of the models, future use of the image needed – all of this was signed off by the client at every stage to ensure the resulting images were exactly what the client had anticipated.
‘Even if we hadn’t been involved in the execution, any decent production company would’ve been able to pick up that document and fulfill it to a quality standard.’
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There’s so much more to be said for a portfolio of photographs that are implemented to a brief: any brand can dictate the quality, feel and ensure that there’s a consistency or through-thread through the materials produced.
Thanks to the fragmented media landscape surrounding any brand now where users are poring through a jumbled number of images and posts, so all imagery should reflect the brand values be that through the filters, design-elements and even the colours selected or highlighted – note the greens and blues in the images of the Hartmann shoot – to give the brand some consistency wherever the user accesses it.
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As Michael Heffernan discusses, ‘Briefs now include specifications for banners or skyscraper ads, moving 3 second gifs, landscape and portrait images and increasingly there’s a specification for video.’
Brands have to do much more across more and more platforms – controlling your shoot and specifications gives you the kind of flexibility a picture library can’t, especially as we move into video.
But stills and video can definitely be generated from the same shoot.
Michael adds, ‘Stills are more difficult to create than moving image because it’s about just one moment. It’s still a good idea to start with the premise of photography and expand it. To have the photographer also act as the director to set the scene can work therefore with a cameraman complimenting the setup.’
And of course a by-product of the above is having a shoot that is absolutely unique to your brand - and the peace of mind that gives the company.
Particularly for niche brands, organisations or campaigns, the limitations of a picture library are more obvious. The variety of pictures of a woman laughing at salad are inevitably more plentiful than – as was the case for Hartmann – finding a person with one arm. Not to mention the contrived nature of any stock images versus those shot specifically to a brief.
When it comes to niche subjects, the possibility of finding what you need decreases while the likelihood that a competitor is already using it certainly increases. There have been situations where competing brands have used the same image on facing pages in print. Gulp!
If you would like to discuss brand photography in the light of this article or purchase the brand photography commissioning toolkit, please make contact with Simon Davies on +(44) (0) 20 7336 7633