Photography: The Value of Images

Lately, I have been inundated with two very different observations about photography.

1. “Why do you charge so much for photos? They’re just pictures.”

2. “Thank you so much for sharing/providing your work – it made all the difference to our brand/experience.”

So what is the real value of photography to a brand? To a website/magazine/catalog visitor? Or to someone researching a destination and looking for information/inspiration? These are the three primary users/viewers of our work. In the past weeks I have had an incredibly positive response to our work that demonstrates the true value of what images are worth. For those asking the question in number one above, the stories from others might help explain why the work of a professional photographer is indeed worth something. And I am not even going to go into all that is involved in making images, from the time, expense and knowledge – this is simply about the image.

Brand Value

A client of our’s wrote to tell us that an image we made for them on a commercial assignment launched their brand in ways they never dreamed of. They created a new product that was picked up by REI in the US. They hired us to do the photography to support it, both POP (Point of Purchase) and catalog. Off we went with a great model, had some good weather, and came up with a strong concept. The result… images they were very happy with, one of which ended up being used as the brand image. A year later? Seems REI sold over a million units, far beyond what they ever thought possible on launch. Rush orders were made to the manufacturer and the product continues to sell. Their reason for writing was to remark that the image made the difference. Value.

Experiential Value

In the outdoor industry the Patagonia catalog stands as a monument to which others are compared. Perhaps the photos are not all the best or the most creative, but as a whole, the catalog produces a feel, there is emotional appeal to outdoor people – the images are outstanding for what they are meant to do. The Creative Team knows this, it is all by design, they seek the best content for their brand. The same goes for some magazines. Pick up a magazine at the newstand, if the photography is weak, you are likely to have made a judgement regardless of the content. There is an immediate response to poor images – a shoddy product. The same goes for advertising. Often, companies spend money to advertise but not on the advertisement. Placement is simply not enough, in fact a poor ad might actually do a brand harm by decreasing the perceived quality of that brand. Ditto for editorial content. Basically, the old rule applies, “If you are going to do something, do it right”.

Recently, we have had the best response of all to our work as several people have taken the time to write and tell us that our images made a difference in their lives. One wrote to report that our Iceland images were so compelling that he booked a trip and had an amazing experience. Another couple followed our DolomiteSport site’s stories and decided to spend their honeymoon in the Dolomites. And in the last two summers our images have inspired about 50 different people to visit the Dolomites for cycling, to hike, or to trail run – the very things we shoot most. Best of all, one wrote to say that an image of our’s made in California’s Owen’s Valley landscape was so beautiful, she went, checked it out, and decided to move there.

I am not trying to blow our own horn here, I am simply relating my experiences as an image provider. For new shooters, it is critical to understand the value of your work, not only for your own compensation but to truly be a professional photographer means to understand how to provide the most value to the brands you work for. You must have clarity about what it is you are trying to provide, be it for an emotion, a brand or a location.

Right now we are in the planning stages for some upcoming travel, we have to decide between a few new destinations. What will make the difference in where we decide to go? Undoubtedly, it will be the images we see.

Fun Photos vs. Work Photos

The last couple of weeks have been a flurry of activity here in the Italian Dolomites, both personal and work. We have had a number of assignments around which we have spent time doing our own thing at the usual frantic summer pace; mountain running and cycling.

All our images get downloaded into a computer to an incoming folder, and from there they are separated into either a Work or Fun category. Fun being primarily from the iPhone or outtakes from photoshoots.Work is work; clean, sometimes produced, sometimes from the hip.

Today I began cleaning out the folders as we have processed the jobs and the workflow is complete. There, side by side, was two weeks of work vs. fun. Beyond the quality of the pixels themselves, I was happy to see that we have brought together everything we do, our work is much the same as what we do anyway. I thought it interesting to compare them.

Fun iPhone…

Work Digital SLR…

Croatia Travel Photos

Janine and I just returned from almost two weeks traveling in Croatia. For both of us it was our first time there and we found it an absolute joy. It is Europe without the masses, where one can get some breathing room, escape, and find slices of perfection. We loved it.

With no schedule we moved about as we pleased; climbing perfect limestone in Paklenica National Park, cycling along the intricate and stunning coastline, island hopping and of course making some fun snaps. Then there was Dubrovnik… For photos, getting lost, and meeting new friends in the various piazza’s each evening for outdoor World Cup viewing on massive monitors, Dubrovnik is truly a special place.

Nearly two weeks freedom exploring a great country – 10 Big Photos here: Croatia Photography

Giro d’Italia Photography

Today we were fortunate enough to walk out our door and photograph the finish of this year’s toughest stage of the Giro d’Italia, or at least the most tortuous. Cycling is my sport, though I swore to never photograph it as I don’t want to mix work with my escape sport, but how can I resist when the Giro comes to town each year?

Janine and I shot from a few locations along the top part of the course as well as the finish before jumping in a tram and descending to our house. Once home, we hit the download from Film Card in Lightroom, edited, processed and got them out in the market. Ta-da! Modern living. Love it.

Below are a few samples, or visit the full selection here: 2010 Plan de Corones Giro d’Italia Time Trial

Thomas Voeckler at 100% effort

Alexandre Vinokourov rides through a tunnel of fans

The Giro leaders's jersey on David Arroyo

Italian Dolomites Backcountry Ski Shoot

Ongoing winter weather in California forced us to cancel a commercial ski shoot in the Sierra Nevada and move it to the Italian Dolomites. Here, the weather was with us and we had quite possibly one of our best overall two day shoots. For Janine and I, it was our favorite style of producing photos. The client knows us and provides the Creative, “Go make photos of a real ski tour with friends”. Deal.

The Dolomites are without a doubt one of the finest photo shoot locations in the world, our backcountry ski trip was truly perfection. For more photos, and the fun story of putting this trip together, visit the post at our site DolomiteSport.

Winter Macro and Landscape Photography

It is not often that we have nature or landscape shots to show off, even less macro still lifes. But here are a few of Janine’s from this winter – she likes to wander around outside with a 100mm 2.8 macro and see what she finds. This collection found a home in our stock, and maybe soon on our walls.

Sunset over the Pacific. Ventura, California

Trail Runner and Women’s Adventure Cover Images

As professional photographers, it is especially rewarding to see our images on magazine covers. Here are two current issues from two great clients (and friends) Trail Runner and Women’s Adventure Magazines. Both of these should be  just hitting the newstands now.

We shot this photo of our friends Denice Crall and Matt Holding while on a run along the Poion Spider Mesa Trail in Moab last November

Shot right our door in Brunico, Italy during one of Janine and I's countless trail runs on the endless singletrack of the Val Pusteria