Photography itself is subjective; the process behind great professional photography is not. Don’t let one bad experience with an architectural photographer turn you off to the idea of giving another photographer a shot at a different project.
I’ve worked with dozens of clients over the years who have been burned – often to the tune of thousands of dollars – by professional images that just didn’t work. Here’s what I’ve identified as some of the most common reasons architectural photography projects fail.f
1. You didn’t devote enough resources to support quality deliverables.
Anyone with an iPhone can take a picture. When you choose to work with an experienced architectural photographer you’re getting so much more of value than a curated set of showcase images.
Trained architectural photographers aren’t just talented creatives, they’re also excellent project managers. Without the attention to detail and holistic thinking an architectural photographer brings to the table, the entire experience can leave a lot to be desired. Personalized service, extensive preparation, and a streamlined process that delivers results are just a few of the differentiators that make commercial architecture photographers worth the investment.
2. You chose to photograph a project that wasn’t “portfolio worthy.”
Not all projects will naturally result in amazing images! It’s the job of a seasoned architectural photographer to be honest with you about what to expect from a photo shoot. Some situations like renovations of older buildings, spaces with poor lighting, awkward site layouts, or even use of low-cost material choices (ex. Wayfair consumer-grade furniture) within a project space can make for lackluster photography. To help clients choose the most appropriate projects I often ask pointed questions. If there aren’t compelling reasons to support a particular project and the it isn’t going to present a useful advantage, it’s most likely not a contender for a shoot.
The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening in the future is to find a photography partner who will manage your expectations in a way that leaves you feeling pleasantly surprised, not disappointed.
3. You and your photographer didn’t share the same “vision.”
Great architectural photographers are craftspeople. They’re artists, but they’re also business professionals who should have a sense of what it takes for images to communicate the vision and intention of your successfully completed project. What purpose did you build or design this space for? Which group or community will be using it? What challenges were solved, and how did you solve them? Creating a shared vision together ensures expectations and the deliverables that go with them are all pointing in the same direction.
I always ask why. Why are we shooting this project? Why are we telling this story? As architectural photographers, we spend so much time discussing projects in advance with clients precisely for this reason. Be sure these conversations are happening upfront so you won’t end up with a final set of images, five of which feature doorknobs. (And yes, this really happened.)
4. You didn’t adequately convey what your end-use would be.
Knowing where you plan to wear a new pair of shoes – To the gym? To the opera? – will dictate what kind of shoes you buy. The same is true for architectural photography. What you plan to do with your images once they’re finished has a huge impact on how a forward-thinking photographer works.
If you’ll be using your images for marketing purposes vs. on your brand new website, your photographer may need to shoot them differently to accommodate those different applications. For standard marketing use, a landscape (horizontal) layout typically covers everything from RFPs to sell sheets, print to presentations. For example, if you want to print your images in a high-quality collateral piece or feature them on trade show banners, both of which might utilize a portrait (vertical) orientation, clarify that specific application upfront. A seasoned architectural photographer will suggest adding alternate views of those photographs already in your shot list to ensure there’s enough visual space around the subject to fit these types of special needs.
5. You didn’t choose the best architectural photographer for the job.
Or, worse…you didn’t choose an architectural photographer at all. Commercial architectural photographers understand the how to bring project spaces to life. Just as importantly, they also have the specialized field experience necessary to tackle complex, multi-location photo shoots and the post-production retouching capabilities to deliver images that will help bring in more new work. Best case scenario? You may even win a design award!
Even within architectural photography, skills and professionalism vary widely. It’s critical to do your due diligence when choosing a photographer to invest your time and money in. The best architectural photographers take into consideration everything from the aesthetics to the budget to the marketing opportunities that will help your firm the most.
Are you still reeling from a bad experience with an architectural photographer?
I want to hear about it. Sharing your experiences helps me understand exactly how to serve you better and improve your next photography project with a pro.
Ready for a better experience?