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Backstage Pass to a Great Photo Shoot

October 11, 2012

“Voice from the Trenches” is written by Karen Euler, director of marketing at TRO Jung|Brannen. A past board member of SMPS Boston, Karen always enjoys conversing with readers via Twitter [@karen_e] or LinkedIn.

I grew up in a performing arts household: my mother has 40 years of successful choral direction under her belt and my sister writes notoriously clever and racy songs to perform in after-hours cabarets in Los Angeles. They both learned early on to be wary of artistic divas. In my mother’s rulebook, for example, a brilliant soprano is very much welcome in the group setting if she can keep her ego in check. The same goes for working with photographers. We marketers want to hire top talent at a price we can afford – and no divas, please. Assuming you have gotten lucky and hired the right photographer for the job, what are the next steps to ensure a great shoot?

First, the storyline has to be clear. Before any scouting mission, it is important for the scouts to know what they are looking for. The principals of the project should take some time with marketing staff to talk about constraints and opportunities of the project and its strong and weak areas as a finished product. They may also have some favorite aspects of the project. Marketing can be helpful by looking beyond the architecture, landscape architecture, or interior design and imagining the end user placed in the site as if it were a stage. How does a patient use this waiting room? How does a group of students use the stone wall on this campus?

Scouting and planning can happen simultaneously. The scouting team shoots the pre-planned shot list for marketing and principals to revise. Those planning the finished shoot might budget for flowers, borrow artwork, and cajole friends and relatives to bring along to the shoot to pose as students, receptionists, or bystanders. This is called activating the space by the architecture critics, and it is a wondrous thing. Spaces certainly do come to life with people in them. A great photographer directs the people like a movie director; if the photographer does not possess this skill set, then marketing staff must rise to the challenge.

Of course a successful shoot requires full support of the facility staff on location. At a recent shoot at Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Outpatient Surgery Center, the facilities team ensured that an aide fully geared up in scrubs was available to participate in our shoot for several hours. That limited the number of marketing and interior design staff who had to playact in the shoot and gave the finished photos added authenticity. A successful shoot is born from careful planning, the right people at the helm, and many tricks borrowed from theater. Break a leg!

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