Photography – without it, our kitchen design/remodeling world would be a drab and dull place indeed.
Think how closely aligned our business is to the fashion industry. We use the same lingo: we’re kitchen designers, they’re fashion designers. We create and follow trends, as does the fashion world. Our work is called style, we probably “borrowed” it from fashion. Entire websites and magazines are devoted to our work and to their work. And we both sell the same things: beauty, glamour, luxury, romance, sex. And all of us would be lost without photography.
Yet, unlike the world of fashion, many kitchen designers do not appreciate or understand the power of photography. They think a quick snap with their cell phone and they’re good. Not so fast. As a business, you have to showcase images that help you stand out from the crowd.
Good photography can mean the difference between “just ok” and “great”. In fact, it can make or break your marketing efforts. Think how you come across to your prospects. If your photos look cheap, expect people to start out with you by asking “how much”? If your photos convey quality, you will attract customers who value quality and are willing to pay for it. Low quality photos translate to low quality workmanship. And vice versa.
You want your photographs to capture images that will help support and grow your brand and tell a visual story of who you are. People shopping for a new kitchen need to see photos to stir their imagination. Most people do not have the ability to visualize what their new space will look like. That’s why Houzz.com exploded when it appeared – it fulfills the need of homeowners who want to SEE what their remodels will look like.
What goes into making a kitchen photograph good or not-so-good?
Let’s illustrate with some pictures. We’ll start with a good photo. What makes it good?
This is a long, narrow, galley kitchen and yet from the angle chosen by the photographer, you can clearly see all elements of the room – sink, stove and fridge, industrial-style faucet, even a section of the hood.
You are invited into the scene to explore the rooms beyond. You’re enticed and intrigued. The lighting is kept basic to add drama.
The simplicity of the design is further enhanced by the minimal styling; two colored vases provide a contrast to the white of the cabinets, countertops and backsplash.
Everything is balanced and in proportion; no one element overpowers the shot.
This is a great photo, the kind that tells a story, invites you in and makes you want to see more. Your response to it is immediate and emotional.
Your prospects don’t need to analyze a great photo like we just did. It speaks to them and charms them, and they don’t know why. It just does. That’s a good photo.
Now let’s look at a few “bad” photos.
We probably don’t even have to say why this one at left is bad. This is a beautiful kitchen! Look at all the things that make it desirable: two different finishes on perimeter cabinets and the island, stainless steel appliances, stone floor, subway tiles backsplash.
And yet, we look at this and think: “I don’t want a kitchen designer whose work is shown like this. Do they even know what level and square is?”
Think of the quality = value equation. Does this photo say “value” to you?
How could this be fixed? A tripod will hold your camera steady and help to square up the shot.
Here’s another fabulous kitchen shown in a bad way. What color is this room? Is it white? Is it gray? How can we tell when the lighting is so poor.
How to fix this? Either Photoshop or other digital editing software or get some lights at a photo supply store that bounce light off the ceiling.
One more example of “bad” that could have been “good.” Poor lighting and fuzzy focus do not show this nice kitchen to any advantage.
In our design world, there are other factors to consider when photographing finished jobs to show to potential customers.
Staging the shot shows how a kitchen will look when it’s lived in. A staged photo helps people visualize how they could live there.
Here’s a lovely kitchen (at left), completely bare. Wouldn’t bar stools, flowers, possibly a bowl of fruit make it look more appealing? The photo (below) is the ideal to which all photos should aspire.
Not only is this kitchen fabulous in all its white glory, the photo is staged perfectly. Note how the accessories complement the completed kitchen in a way that looks “real.” They fill in empty spaces, but don’t overpower the overall room design. Photo staging doesn’t get any better than this.
And then there’s this. (Left) Whoever took this photograph was looking over the sink filled with dishes at the lovely cabinets and counter and appliances beyond.
This is where a professional photographer would save your shot. You would not get a photo like this if a professional was involved.
Truly this photo is unusable because of the poor staging and layout. And that’s a shame because there are features that are worth showcasing.
Something else to consider when setting up shots is whether you want a horizontal or vertical layout. You will get more of the room in a horizontal shot, but vertical gives a different perspective. Compare these two photos below. Same room, one vertical and one horizontal. Which one is “better”? There is no correct answer. It just depends on how you want to use the photo.
As every business tries to market themselves to attract customers, the quality of their photos becomes increasingly more important. You have to produce photos of your work that help you stand out from the competition. The trained eye of a professional photographer can capture your work in the right way.
When your marketing photos are professional, they will (1) attract cusomers, (2) create value in the eyes of your prospects, and (3) build your brand.
Think of all the different ways you can use photos:
Kitchen Design Partner will assist you in placing your photos where you will get the most bang for your buck.
The photo at left is a dark and fuzzy and out-of-focus cell phone shot of a lovely kitchen. (In defense of the photographer, this was a scouting shot taken before a professional shoot. Seeing the scouting shots allows the pro to know what to expect when he arrives with his equipment.)
The quality of photos from cell phones has come a long way, but the quality they provide is still inferior to a professional shoot.
Below is the same room, shot by a professional. What a difference!
Details are crisp, and lighting creates an appealing glow on the hardwood floor. Compare the backsplash behind the range in both photos and see which one you want representing your work. Yes, professional photography can be pricey, but it is so so so worth it.
In addition to superior equipment, the professional has a trained “eye.” He or she knows how to frame the shot to best capture the spirit of the space. The pro knows how to light the scene, something amateurs struggle with. And the professional knows just where to place the fruit and the wine and the plates to complement the shot. What he sees in the camera is completely different from what you see looking at the same thing.
In today’s digital world, you get to see what your photo will look like on the computer screen before the camera shutter clicks. Don’t like the way the light reflects off the backsplash? Move the camera up or down. Don’t like the cupcakes in the shot? Take them out.
The photo at right shows the photographer, his assistant and the designer looking at shots on the laptop. Gone are the days of agonizing over a shot and then having to decide if you like it after looking at Polaroids.
Kitchen Design Partner recommends forming a working relationship with a professional photographer so they get to know what you want in your photos to best showcase your work. You get to know how they work and what they charge. It’s a win-win for both of you.
Our industry is highly visual. People are highly visual. We all require photographs to help us experience our world, market our products and sell our services. As the old saying goes: sell the sizzle, not the steak. And your photos provide that necessary sizzle.
We’ll leave you with one more picture that illustrates a perfect photo. Although not a kitchen, it was taken to show cabinetry in a family room. Notice the artfully placed accessories. You just want to snuggle up in that chair with the luxurious throw, don’t you? The shot is well lit, the framing is square and level, and the cabinets create a strong background and are shown to their best advantage. And most importantly, you want to know more about how you can achieve that look in your own home.