Business Photography is incredibly diverse
When people ask ‘What type of photography do you do?’ I find it more helpful to talk about projects I’m working on at that time because they usually represent the scope of work.
It’s taken for granted that business photography involves working in offices but we can sometimes forget that the world of work isn’t all about glass buildings and rows of desks. For some people the ‘office’ is a nature reserve, or a workshop, or a building site, or a boat, and to my mind business photography is about celebrating people at work wherever they are and whatever they do.
Here are four very different projects from 2022.
The Studio Shoot
In late 2021 the John Lewis Partnership (who own John Lewis and Waitrose) announced they would be diversifying from retail and entering the Build to Rent market, which means building homes for rent within the footprint of their existing estate. Their reasons for entering the market stem from a desire to provide quality homes and a greater level of service to renters who regularly complain about living conditions, unexpected expense and the lack of professional landlords.
I was invited to get involved early to help define the narrative and was appointed creative director for the production of a video and an image library for communication assets.
The obvious challenge for a project such as this is that the new venture only exists on paper – there is nothing to actually photograph because they haven’t built any homes yet.
However, the story they wanted to tell is all about ease, simplicity, wellbeing, and stress-free living. I knew we could create these stories in the studio using a simple palate of colours with soft lighting and punctuated with John Lewis and Waitrose products.
The Construction Site
PiLON is a construction firm and I have worked with them for several years helping them to build an image library that covers the breadth of their work.
Visual imagery is very important to PiLON, it’s used in their proposals, social media, website, offices and on-site. It’s often the easiest way for employees to see what the scale of the operation and for potential clients to see the people delivering the work. In both cases it is easier to use photography than it is to organize site visits, which comes with its own challenges.
Although every office is slightly different, when you put a rectangle around the subject you want to make a photograph of, the differences disappear and the office environment becomes fairly generic. Often we characterise offices through visual cues such as glass, steel, a light clean colour palate and bright lighting. The environment in a busy workshop is very different.
The Speyside Cooperage is a global business and one of largest suppliers of casks (barrels) to the whisky and bourbon industries. They have workshops all over the world and the one I visited in Scotland was very typical.
It’s dark, open plan, noisy, constantly shifting, it’s hot and cool depending on where you are in the process. “You sleep well” I was told by one of the coopers and I can believe it. Hammer, plain, push, pull, stretch. The work varies from requiring brute force one minute to intricate hand-to-eye coordination the next.
The challenge here was to capture the effort and variety of tasks, whilst battling against low-light conditions.
The Team Event
Before photographing an at event it is important to understand the objectives. Events can last all day or even several days and without a clear sense of what the photography needs to achieve it is possible to shoot thousands of ‘general coverage’ shots that will never be used.
For this event I was asked to capture images that could be used for promotional material so I had a very clear brief and knew that I wanted to capture the energy of the day. The location and environment (a hotel in France) was not a priority in telling the story.
It’s also worth remembering that post-event all the photos need to be reviewed, maybe edited, rated and then exported. The more there are, the more time it takes, and the more it costs.
I recently explained to a client that it was very likely that the loose brief provided for a particular event might easily generate 900 images. If post-production processing required just 20 secs per image, that would be five hours of work.
When the objectives are clearly defined, most clients realise they actually only need a limited number of shots to use across different communication channels, often within a time period immediately after the event. They also realise that the material has a limited shelf-life and in many cases can be out-of-date very quickly.