Marketing Smarter

While my lovely Pentax S1a is off for a rebuild, I’ll return my attention to things more corporate photography related.

With doom and gloom headlines about the state and future prospects of the UK economy all over our news channels it might be tempting to think it’s time to tighten belts and hunker down for the long haul.

Often the first casualty of financial difficulty is marketing, and perhaps more specifically photography, but if that’s your plan you might want to hold fire because done right, good marketing and good photography, even on a reduced annual budget, can keep your company name in the frame and help you survive the economic Winter.

This week’s message is simple: If you’re going to market less, you’d better market smarter. What does this mean in practice?

Of course I speak from the perspective of a photographer in this corporate world and what I occasionally see is businesses devoting a lot of resource to cutting corners. Not only is this a waste of their valuable time, it also leads to results which don’t hold the client in the best light, or images which have little real impact. It might look like the cheaper option, but at what cost to the business?

I know I’m not the cheapest photographer in my market, but then I wouldn’t want to be. Because quite apart from the quality I strive for in my photography, when a client approaches me I’m there for them from the word go until well after the project has been delivered.

The difference I offer starts with the helping hand and sounding board at the concept stage. Even corporate portraits or the “humble” press release require a level of creative input and the right photographer will be able to guide the project from the earliest stages, ensuring the end-result has maximum impact.

The other aspect you’ll want to consider when hiring a photographer on the sole parameter of cost is, will they help, guide and assist during and after the photo session?

All this help and input, from concept stage to post-delivery assistance, requires time, knowledge and experience, all of which have a value which should be factored into the cost of hiring. Of course this means a cost above and beyond simply that of producing photographs, but since you’re spending the money anyway (and almost certainly taking up your and your colleagues’ time doing so) you may as well get the best results possible.

And when the job is over, the photos delivered, is your photographer still there to help if you need it? I’m not just talking about up to the point they’ve sent the invoice. I’m often helping clients with follow-up assistance months, even years after the job was shot, delivered and paid for.

So, who’s the smart marketer now?


Basic as a spade

You might know, or at least you should if you’re a regular reader of this blog, that I’ve been taking some time to revisit film photography of late and I have to say I’ve been rather enjoying it.

There’s definitely a different interaction with photography when your camera isn’t buzzing with electronics, utterly reliant on batteries and a whole host of features which are sold to us as benefits, but which on the whole are just technological mitigations for the shortcomings of digital.

That’s what I said, digital has shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong, digital is incredible and of course it’s perfect for my corporate photography. The technical image quality of digital is astounding and under most circumstances far out-performs film, but this isn’t an article for those wishing to watch a punch-up between film and digital.

My point is just this; shooting with film allows you (indeed often forces you) to think differently, approach your subject differently. It sometimes limits what you can do, but if you’re doing it properly then you’ll realise that film isn’t about photographing everything, it’s about considering and carefully choosing not only how we photograph something, but also which things we choose to photograph.

I’m also finding it’s getting me back to basics, and as of Wednesday evening even more back to basics than I have probably been in maybe 30 years. That’s because there was a knock on my door and my neighbour, knowing my interest in getting back into film photography (and him having cupboards crammed with gear he stopped using years ago) gave me, gratis and for free, a Pentax S1a camera with three lenses and a camera-top light meter. I was bowled over and spent the evening cleaning and cooing over it.

To say this camera is in stunning condition would be an understatement. In all likelihood it was manufactured in the 1960s, but apart from the odd mark, scuff and slightest of dents, it’s immaculate. Inside, the film chamber looks like it’s never been accessed; it’s that clean.

For several months now I’ve had an inexplicable craving for a basic, no-frills, fully-mechanical camera. No batteries, no lights, bleepers or anything which could break or fail through old age and lo and behold, my amazing neighbour just gives me this utterly scrumptious camera. It has no instructions, but then it’s got nothing to learn beyond the theory of photography. It’s as basic as a spade.

It’s weighty for sure; it’s solid metal, but everything seems to work. I’ve put a film through it and will get it serviced soon because I suspect the seals around the film door have probably deteriorated, but I bet it’s still light tight. I just want to be sure and I want to have the shutter serviced too. Of course components on this camera could fail, but they’re all almost certainly repairable.

One thing I can say for certain about my current digital cameras is that as fine as they are, I (or more realistically, my descendants) won’t be able to get the batteries for them in 50 years time. They will at best be nostalgic, novelty doorstops, at worst landfill.

At the same time I’m having a look at a medium format kit he’s selling because I also want to have a go with a larger film format. One thing is for sure, my adventures in film have only just begun. Obviously I’ll be keeping you updated here.

Art for Inspiration

This week I took a trip to Birmingham, partly for pleasure and partly to refresh the ol’ brain cells and for a change of scene.

Yesterday, during a visit to the city centre I decided what I really needed was an injection of inspiration so headed to the IKON gallery to see an exhibition by Žilvinas Kempinas. Sara Barker is also currently showing there, but for time/space constraints I’ll need to concentrate on Žilvinas’ work today. I happen to prefer his work too.

Žilvinas’ art is very much on the Intsallation spectrum, and normally I’m a little sceptical of anything with that tag, but his work is very engaging and thought-provoking. I’m no art critic, so I’m going to struggle with the terms and concepts used to describe this work, but it seemed to me he’s very interested in magnets and magnetic media, physics, frequencies, organic shapes and ways of using these elements either singly or combined to fascinate or disturb us.

I won’t describe the entire exhibition, but highlights would have to include Oasis; imagine a loop of recording tape, diameter approximately 6 foot, levitating, swirling, shape-shifting, rising and falling in mid-air by use of a ceiling fan directly above and an arrangement of metal panels on the floor below which together form some kind of air vortex which keeps the tape from ever flying out of its space or dropping to the floor.

In another room, black walls with circular works laid behind panels, illuminated all-round from inside the wall, resemble a series of moonscapes. From the ceiling are suspended dozens of strands of magnetic recording tape, forcing the viewer to mind how they navigate the room. At the end of the room is a giant screen, a piece titled White Noise, comprising a dizzying display of horizontal strands of video tape, rapidly animated by hidden fans, creating the effect of white noise on a de-tuned TV.

Standing facing this screen and allowing it to fill my vision for a few moments gave me motion sickness, but it was fascinating to allow a piece of art to affect me on such a visceral level and I struggled to peel myself away.

The IKON positively encourages photography, and plenty of visitors were snapping away on cameras and smartphones, and while I wanted to concentrate on just looking at and considering the works I couldn’t resist lining up a couple of shots to capture peoples’ interactions with them.

I don’t get the opportunity to get out and view much art, but often when I do I come away with new thoughts about my own work; even the corporate photography. It’s good fuel for my mind’s eye.

And every time I do go and see an exhibition, I tell myself I must get out and see more. Then time passes by, life intervenes and I seem to be back where I started. The beauty of Žilvinas’ work is I think unlike most modern art, this will stay with me for a long time and I’ll keep thinking back to what it represents and what I learned from it.

For more information on this and future exhibitions at IKON, see this link.