As with any specialized industry, part of my job is to educate people. I help AEC firms learn how to get the best possible professional photography and the most return on their investment. You’ve heard the term “time is money”? It truly is for your AEC firm. In this case … it’s 90 days of time.
Caldwell & Walsh Building Construction, Inc.
“There is great value in having an image library filled with attention-grabbing images. We know people respond positively to visuals, that’s why when a project commences we carry a budget line item and make a milestone on the schedule for photography. Because we regularly review budgets and schedules at our project meetings so we don’t lose sight of scheduling photo shoots. Great projects deserve great photography, particularly because we get frequent requests to provide examples of our industry experience.”
– Sharon Pomeroy, Marketing Director
Ninety days — or three months — is a new project milestone in the architectural photography world. It’s when you should reach out to your architectural photographer and begin planning for a shoot. I advocate for firms to put the three-to-four-month mark in their Gantt chart as part of their project process. Here’s why:
Photo shoot pre-production is a process within itself, and should be part of a firm’s larger planning system. With quality imaging a foundation of marketing, professional architectural photographers don’t just pop out and snap pictures. I’ve been called only two weeks before a project turnover date by clients I haven’t worked with before, and can’t help — not only because I know I’m usually booked up during the warm months — but because this part of the photography project process, from proposal to contract to booking dates, can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks, depending on how quickly a firm makes its decisions.
This process works best when we don’t compress or overlook the time it takes for the planning (or pre-production phase), or you might just completely run out of time. Doing so can limit a firm’s ability to have the space that helps in making decisions along the way, having a positive client experience, and accomplishing the end goal successfully. These things never end well in a rush.
In addition, knowing your project’s photography budget in advance (which, let’s be honest, is just more good planning) may allow you to carry the cost either somewhere inside the bid (the graphic below suggests how an AEC firm may find good opportunities early in the bid process) or simply ear-marking spend for the project expense. For example, if a small project costs $3K, a medium one $5K and larger projects $10-15K, you could budget well ahead before project completion arrives in 2-3 years. Break down that cost each year and you’re covered for a great shoot when it’s time!
To think outside of the box and by looking at the graphic above, when should you budget in your photography spend? At the exact same time you begin preparing a project bid for submittal. Yes, it may seem radical. It’s not how most AEC firms are accustomed to handling shoots. They just pray to get their RFPs in on time down to the minute! This alternate approach reverse-engineers the way your firm can plan for architectural photography. The project milestone in your Gantt for the location shoot itself, along with set aside money in advance, ensures your firm is poised to capture new projects that lead to more work and more exposure — with the deliverables that go along with it.