Congratulations, your AEC firm has created a library of key completed project images you can use for everything marketing. You’re actively using them in your outreach campaigns, online branding, website and across your proposal/RFP submissions. You’re really getting all the ROI you can from each and every successful project showcasing your firm’s accomplishments. Do a celebration dance, that’s big!
So how long after you’ve photographed your signature projects will they stay current and looking fresh?
The general window of time I suggest to consider project photography current is 2-4 years before images start to become dated and need rotation. If managed well, capitalizing on this period of time provides an ROI that exceeds your investment in the winning new work, which means more success for your firm. Whether you’ve made a larger investment in hiring a pro, or if you put your money toward a new DSLR for the office, it’s about how much time you have to get the most use out of your shots before it’s time to create a new wave of key projects to showcase. This process should be something ongoing, as part of your project management function. See why architectural photography belongs in your Gantt chart.
When talking about imagery and keeping it current, there are a few elements that impact how fresh images continue to look, and for how long, they are:
- Cars and people
- Interior design trends
- Shifting markets
- Firm specialization
Cars and people.
If you’re ever seen throwback photos of the epic snowstorm of ‘78, or your old yearbook pictures from middle school, you know what gives those images a time and place, even if it’s not conscious. At first glance an image may appear to be old or vintage because the photo itself is low quality or poorly lit, but look closer and you’ll see the “fashion” of the day or the cars driven at that time. Both are all visual clues that help you identify when they were taken.
That said, both of these elements are not preferred when shooting project photography if you want to ensure getting the maximum amount of time and usage out of them. If you have some or total control over these factors during the time photography is taken, they’re best left out of the shot.
Interior design trends.
Another factor that dates architectural photography images are the interior design details of a place or space; everything from the types of building materials to the furniture and the finishes. Often they will carry a trend or theme forward with them that identifies a moment in time, captured by the lens. For example, the open work space, which recently rocketed into popularity, until the bubble burst and the employees pushed back that they couldn’t get their work done, they needed office space and quiet to be productive, was a hugely hot trend that’s past its peak. So featuring an open or shared workspace will identify the last 2-3 years in time.
If your firm has diversified its project portfolio and is doing more and more private work than ever, that work should be front and center across your marketing efforts. Balance that private work with enough imagery of the market segments you serve best so you have a strong library of visual assets to help you continue to win more of the same in the coming years. Take down any of the work you “used to do” immediately to make room for the markets you’re working to grow.
Do your images continue to reflect the projects you build or design now? Or do they still show projects you were producing five, or even 10 years ago? If they aren’t aligned with the work you specialize in now, it’s time to update your images to reflect as many of the projects you’d like to be awarded vs. communicating what you were doing in the past. Some firms can struggle to decide which key project images to shoot, as they are shifting or growing their business over time to stay competitive.
Evaluating whether the images you share out in your marketing and business development for your architectural, construction or real estate development firm continue to represent your strengths and best work is critical to winning more new work and recognition. Featuring your firm’s highest profit margin projects so you get more of those in the door should be top of your list to get photographed once successfully completed.
Creating a project and budgeting process for project photography that your firm will consistently follow year-over-year will help keep you current. As build season winds down in late summer toward fall, most marketing pros are already thinking about award season submissions. Shortly after that it will be time to figure out how to maximize your photography budget this year. Having the solid budget planned is another way to be on top of project photography so there are no missed opportunities when that next great RFP comes up for bid.
If your projects take longer to design or build, the rotation timeline will shift to reflect the longer build cycles in your firm. This gives you more time to plan ahead for photography. On the flip side there is also a time when it’s too late to shoot an architectural project.
Is your firm reflecting its best, most profitable work?