I'm trying to better understand marketing to help me work better with my business clients. The one thing that I guess I always knew but never really noticed until it was pointed out to me was that it's not always about selling a product, but more about getting people to desire a lifestyle that they associate with your product. It's not literal, it's about ideas. If you want to sell a truck, you don't show the truck, you show the guy walking across the job site getting shit done, and I'm one of those guys, so that must be the truck for me. Viagra isn't for limp noodles, Viagra is for couples in love. Mac n' cheese commercials spend a little bit of time showing Mac n' cheese and a lot of time showing a smiling mom calmly wrangling her happy kids to an easy to make meal that will provide the happiness their family deserves. When you figure out how to put these ideas into a photo, let me know. I imagine if I knew how to do that I'd become a wildly successful commercial photographer.
So when my friend Matt contracted me to do a few portraits for his company, I had this idea in mind. I still probably had no real idea how to pull it off. We were going to do a group shot of his crew, and some individual portraits of some select crew members. I had talked to Matt about having someone pose along with one of their trucks to give a "working man" context and to incorporate their branding. I really didn't know how well that idea would turn out, but then something happened. That something was a nice cloudy sky. I know that if I light up my subject with even 1 light, I can make them brighter, which makes the sky darker and more dramatic by comparison. In order to get the amazing sky in the background, I shot from below, which gives a powerful look to Matt. When it comes together well, the picture isn't about radon, or about heating oil tanks, what the photo says to me is "I'm here to work, and you can trust me because I've got this."
Environmental works has come a long way in the last few years. Matt and Joel started with almost nothing. Whenever they got work they had to rent any equipment they needed to even perform basic jobs. Now they have a small fleet of trucks, a small fleet of equipment, and a growing crew of full time employees. They have reached a point where they now get to decide how fast they grow. Lucky for them they have seen the lessons learned by large companies during the last big recession about smartly managing growth and staying in a position to survive the inevitable lean times.
There are quite a few lessons I can learn from Matt and Joel about business. My hope is to stick around long enough that those lessons apply. In the mean time I learned a bit about photography. The 20 person group shot? I wasn't able to hit it out of the park. The problem was that the only time of day they could get everybody together (and still not everybody, unfortunately two of their key people are a husband and wife team that had her taking care of him post surgery for colon cancer, and I hope you don't mind me speaking for you when I say we all hope he gets better soon) was first thing in the morning, while it was still dark. Well, the mark of a professional is the ability to make images in spite of the difficulties, so it was studio lights blasting 1,000 watt-seconds of light into the darkness to light everybody up. It wasn't an artistic masterpiece, but you can see everybody's faces, eyes open and smiling. Not a home run, but for sure a base hit. Total that up with more base hits from the individual shots, and a home run hit off of a partly cloudy sky, and I feel it was a good game. A win for team awesome!
Check out Environmental Works here: http://www.eworksnw.com/ If you need what they do, I can't recommend them enough. I know, I'm not entirely sure exactly what they do, but I've gotten to know enough people there to know that they do it with integrity and skill. If you don't believe me, just look at Matt's face, you can see that he's got this handled!