Looking for visual interest

Last year I was taking photographs for a client (Pilon) who operates in the Social Housing Sector providing construction and refurbishment services throughout the London and the South East. The challenge, as always, is to find visual interest in situations that might not present the most glamorous of subjects.

Business Photography can be visually interesting

In addition to the subject matter itself there were other elements that I had no control over either such locations, dates, times, people, or the weather. I know that I had to adopt a documentary photography approach and look for the visual interest in a story that celebrated the work these people did and the residents they worked for.

Best use of available light

visual interest

The first thing to do was find the best establishing shot and to do that I had to understand where the light was.

With the trees casting shadows on this apartment block it softened the grey cladding and created some patterning on the wall. If I had made a photo from the other side of the building it would have been in shadow so very flat and would highlighted the pre-fabricated material much more.


I also found alternate angles where I could use the foreground landscaping and shadows to balance the harsh angles and greyness of the building.


For this documentary project I needed context. Having established where we were I needed to put the client (the subject) into context. With the green foliage and landscape part of the establishing shot, I wanted to see the workers in front of the building within a similar visual treatment.

I decided to use the sunlight to my advantage on this day and incorporate it wherever I could. Without compromising the integrity of what these people were actually doing, I ask them to position the car further forward than they had and this created the perfect image with the two people in full light, the building behind them and the branded car in the dappled light under the shadow of a tree. Pulled together this created some visual interest in what was essentially a briefing outside of an apartment block.

Detail and portraits

This person was fitting a new kitchen but there wasn’t really much to see because he had only just started so my plan was to focus on detail. By bringing him to back door to look at the plans of the kitchen I was able to create some depth and hint at what he was working on.

By using the available light to maximum effect it wasn’t long before he was using an electric screwdriver on a wall with a shaft of light across his face. Had I not waited I would have been forced to expose for the shadows in the room which would have created a flatter image that might not have held the same visual interest.

I used the same technique here – I waited for these guys to come outside and into the light where they were discussing the tiles they were about to use on the kitchen wall.

Moments and connections

One of residents received a small gift upon completion of her kitchen. I used the kitchen window for light and rather than ‘asking’ them to smile, I joined their conversation chatting to them both and encouraging them to laugh.

I had no control over the weather, people or locations but I made the best of each situation to create photographs that this client has never seen before. They’ve taken photos of the places they work and their people at work, but never quite like these. And for that reason they are a success. 

It may not be the most glamorous photo shoot but as a business photographer or commercial photographer, if I can surprise a client by presenting their world in a way they haven’t seen before, then I have achieved something as a visual storyteller.