When you read an article or case study about industrial technology in the trade press it’s fair to assume that a great deal of time, effort and money has gone into crafting the text, so that its message is properly conveyed. Yet it’s often apparent that less care and attention has been taken over the images that accompany the words. Marketing budgets are of course always tight, so when anyone can take a picture on their mobile device, is it still worth investing in a professional photoshoot?

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is how the popular saying goes and even wordsmiths like myself have to admit that it’s true. When a reader flicks through a magazine or views an article on a website, it’s almost certain that their eyes will initially be drawn to an image before they read the title and then begin focusing on the body text. According to various sources, articles with images attract 94% more views than those without. If the right picture has been selected, it has the power to convey information much faster and more effectively than reams of words could do. Your eyes are still being drawn to the accompanying image to this article aren’t they? See what I mean? If that power can be harnessed appropriately it creates a great opportunity.

Producing images to support articles about industrial technology might not be the most glamorous of assignments. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that these images are unimportant or that there’s any excuse for producing them poorly. For a technical article or case study to fulfil its aim of being noticed and received in a positive way, then both the writing and images must be of the highest possible quality.

The photographer needs to put the same amount of thought and planning into their pictures as they would if they were doing a fashion shoot. They should consider the same guiding principles that are used to maximise the impact of any image, such as its focal point and background, the angle from which it is taken and the most effective way of lighting it and framing the shot.

On a budget

Despite the obvious advantages of supplying top quality images to support editorial pitches, it’s easy to see why many companies might be tempted to take photographs themselves rather than employ a professional. For photographs taken of equipment installed at a customer site it’s certainly much cheaper and saves both time and effort for their own employee to take the photograph. It’s much easier for these people to gain access to the site and the ubiquity of mobile devices means that they can take pictures quickly and easily. However, there are pitfalls as well as advantages to this approach and sometimes the end results are not of the desired standard.

All too often we see industrial technology articles supported by images that are, quite frankly, doing the words a disservice. Sometimes a picture is let down not only by its composition but also by its quality in terms of clarity. You wouldn’t believe how regularly we still see grainy, low-res pictures in the industrial technology genre. A picture that appears fine on an iPhone might look much less impressive when reproduced in a magazine.

If you are going to go down this route, there are some simple things to consider. First of all, allow a reasonable amount of time to take the photographs and ensure that the customer is aware in advance that a reasonable amount of time will be needed. Don’t treat the task as an afterthought, perhaps on the end of the next sales call. If you are taking photos of installed products don’t just take a close-up of the product. Think about the background and perhaps encourage the customer to appear in the shot, perhaps examining the product or maybe just appearing in the background. Ensure that anyone appearing in the shot is wearing the correct safety equipment. Consider the article and what message it’s trying to convey. If for example the subject matter is equipment or rooms that are for human interaction, then make sure there are humans using them. New training centres often don’t look terribly impressive without people in them. Try to use a decent camera, even if you have a mobile device, and check the shots as they are taken, not when you get home. Last but not least, charge those camera batteries.

A professional approach

There are good reasons to consider using a photographer with relevant experience, especially shoots within industrial facilities. First and foremost, you are guaranteed high quality and often beautifully taken images that illustrate the subject matter in the best possible way. There almost certainly won’t be the need to come back a few weeks later to reshoot something that was done poorly first time around. Despite the additional equipment a professional often uses and the extra time spent setting up shots, the process is usually very efficient with limited impact on the normal workings of the office, plant or factory.

Experienced industrial technology photographers understand the constraints and potential pitfalls. They can spot compositions and ways of illustrating the subjects that us mere mortals won’t ever see. They also have a way of eking out just that little bit more from the subject. I recently witnessed a photographer talk a plant manager into allowing a shot to be taken from the top of a fire truck crane, which created an excellent image. I am not sure a visiting sales engineer or marketing manager would have had the vision or the gumption to make that happen.

Whether you are using a professional or performing the task in-house it is a good idea to have someone with an understanding of the industry, subject matter and aims of the article to direct the shot. HHC Lewis often takes on that role and we help by liaising with the customer and ensuring that the relevant safety approvals are in place (especially for shots in hazardous areas). We also are quite adept at identifying when a competitor’s product might be in the background and preventing it from appearing in the shot, as is possible at a facility that uses multi vendors.

If you are looking for a PR agency that not only will provide expertly-written copy, but also has a wealth of experience directing industrial technology photoshoots, drop us a line. We will ensure that you get the high-calibre photographs to support the words and make sure that the maximum impact you were looking for is achieved.

Written by Ian

Ian is the leading PR writer at HHC Lewis, equally comfortable explaining the need for proof testing of measurement devices used in safety systems as he is outlining the ‘Warrington Wolves’ continued struggle for Super League supremacy.
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