Photo Finishes

by WOHe

Photo Finishes

Because the kitchen and bath industry is visual by nature,
professional photography and styling can be among the most
worthwhile investments you can make.

By Nicole Hogarty

Nothing can sell your products or services like a photo. The
kitchen and bath industry is, above all, a visual business. Kitchen
and bath designers, remodeling contractors, appliance dealers,
cabinet manufacturers, hardware dealers basically, anyone who works
in the kitchen and bath industry needs to understand this.

For that reason, getting a photo of your project should be a top
priority. Once you’re convinced of the value of getting a photo,
then getting a good photo should be your focus.

Getting a photo. A photo of your product or project is essential
because it not only sells your “stuff” to prospective clients, it
can also be your ticket into a magazine, a television program, a
book or a vendor brochure.

In the kitchen and bath industry, everyone is looking to see
what you have to offer. There are those unique salespeople who can
talk a dog off a meat wagon, but most folks won’t buy until they
actually see the product. Therefore, a few photos of your best
products or projects are the key to getting publicity for your
company and getting more business in the end. As you plan out next
year’s budget, add a line for photography. It’s a worthwhile

Getting a good photo. With the advent of digital cameras, many
contractors, designers, and salespeople think they are professional
photographers. They aren’t. The camera equipment does not make you
a professional. And, while getting a photo is your first priority,
and a digital snapshot for your Web site is a good start, there’s
nothing that compares to a professional photographer’s efforts when
you want to stand out visually.

Unless you’re independently wealthy, you probably won’t be able to
afford to hire a professional photographer to chronicle every
project or product, but if you pick those that you consider your
best, the investment in professional photography can be invaluable
to your business.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000 per day for
a professional photographer, depending on where your business
resides and where the project is located.

The best way to go about finding a professional photographer is
to call photographers in your area. Interview them. Ask to see
portfolios. Ask for their day rates. Ask if they shoot on an hourly
rate or half-day rate, as well. Most times, you’ll need a full day
to shoot a room or a selection of hardware or faucets or flooring.
Sometimes you’ll need more than one day. Discuss this with the
photographers, and call more than one so that you can compare work
and prices.

Selecting a photographer is a very personal decision. Don’t just
choose the cheapest day rate. A more expensive photographer may
give you a far better product in the end, so make sure you
scrutinize his or her portfolio and ask for references.

You have to feel comfortable with the person. You should ask if
you own the photos, if you are buying certain rights (for instance,
use in a brochure or on a Web site), or whether you need to pay a
usage fee every time you use the image.

There are many considerations, but don’t let it dissuade you
from finding a professional photographer to capture your work. This
is essential as the market tightens and you want to differentiate
yourself from the competition.

Styling is essential to good photography. Once you are committed
to photography and you find a photographer in whom you feel
confident, you have one more hurdle. You must consider styling the
products/projects so that they are photographed to sell, sell,

Try this exercise. Pick up three shelter magazines. Go through
the magazines and look at each photograph that is portraying
something similar to your product or service. Look at the editorial
photography. Look at advertising photography. And, as you go,
imagine taking away all of the fresh flowers and food. How do they
look now? Pretty blah, huh? Take away the stacks of books, the
pillows on the beds, the copper pots hanging in the kitchens. Wow!
Very different, huh?

Some of you might say, well, what’s left is my product. My
beautiful cabinetry or my handcrafted hardware or my exquisite
floor plan or layout. That, you may say, is what you want the
viewer to see. But that’s not what sells. Look at the catalog or
magazine that you drool over. The one in which you wish you were
featured. Chances are, it doesn’t have just stark shots of
products. It’s more likely that it creates a mood, a slice of life,
a lifestyle.

What sells is the dream. You need to create the dream for the
viewer of the photograph. The well-stocked refrigerator without a
hint of leftovers. The large center island for all the entertaining
we envision ourselves doing if only we had that island. The
freshest ingredients we’d use, if only we had that new kitchen.

Your photographs must turn brick and mortar, tile and wood,
stainless steel and water into a room where children are never
fighting, husbands are never late for dinner and there’s no junk
mail or papers to clutter our lives.

This is all about props. If you’re in the kitchen and bath
industry, you should fill your photographs with fresh flowers,
luscious food, fluffy towels and steaming pots. Even if you’re
selling a drawer pull, it’s the life that your drawer pull will
bring the customers that will make them select your product.

That’s not to say that the drawer pull or your cabinetry or your
faucet shouldn’t be prominent in the shot. It should. It should
never be overtaken by the props, but appropriate accents will
create a photograph that will make the viewer believe that such a
livable room could not exist without your products or design

So, how do you achieve this? Well, you can do it yourself, if
you have a keen sense of what I’m talking about and the time to
make it happen. Or, you can partner with interior designers. Pay
them to transform the room you want to photograph. Perhaps you can
barter finished photos for their portfolio in return for their time
styling for you.

Another option is to hire a professional stylist. This is a
person who makes his or her living helping the photographer create
just the photograph you imagine. This could cost you an additional
$400 to $800, but it’s what will get you that great photo that will
get the editor interested in doing an article, the manufacturer
interested in featuring you in the next catalog, or the customer
dedicated to using your firm.

You must learn to think of photography and styling as an
investment, not an expense. The initial cash outlay will often
sting, especially if you’re a small firm, but the reward for
big-picture thinking will be huge.

In this bear market, the surest investment you can make is in
great photography of your best projects and installations. If a
customer is making a choice between two resources and there must be
a deciding factor, it will be a photo finish. The one with the
better photography will win.

Nicole Hogarty is an interior designer and photographic stylist
based in Providence, RI. In addition to her design work with
homeowners throughout New England, she has assisted builders in
designing spec homes and decorating model homes, and she works with
several professional photographers on styling residential and
architectural photography. She can be reached at

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