RIBA Insight Monthly Briefing

How to build a library of construction photos (that people will actually want to view)

Images are emotive, images are persuasive, and images sell. In a time-poor world where you have little over eight seconds to grab the attention of a potential customer, you can't afford to overlook images as a super-quick way to convey a message. Building a library of compelling images though, takes a little time and thought.

  • Think about photo opportunities. Think about how you might best present your business visually and what images you'll need to do so. Brainstorm ideas for photo opportunities. As you go about your day-to-day activities be mindful of anything that may make an attractive photo.
  • Be practical. A few well-composed shots on your phone can be fine for a quick tweet, but an image of a new product for a glossy brochure may require a professional. Remember that print images need to have a resolution of at least 300dpi (dots per inch), and digital images may need to be saved in a certain size (measured in pixels) to fit a specific space on a website.
  • Recruit others to take photos for you. If you're a manufacturer or fabricator, encourage your installers and users to take photos of their projects or installations (before and after shots are particularly powerful). Perhaps you could provide an incentive, such as a prize or money off their next order (if they buy direct).
  • Use images wisely. You may have commissioned that great shot for a brochure, but that needn't stop you from using it in advertising, on your website, in social media feeds, in a video, or with a piece of PR too.
  • Make your photos accessible. Be sure to gather all your photos in a central library, clearly labelled in well-organised folders so that you can easily locate them later.

Thanks to smartphones with ever-improving cameras, it's never been easier to take a decent photograph. Here are my tips for taking construction photos that are more 'ta-da!' than 'blah'...

  • Get the lighting right. If you're outside, keep the sun behind you so that the subject gets the maximum light available. Avoid shooting in the middle of the day though, as the sunlight can be very 'hard', casting shadows that can distract or distort. Indoors, open windows and doors to maximise natural light and switch on electric lights wherever possible.
  • Capture people. The human element helps and an image of a product in use says a lot more than a shot of the product in isolation.
  • Take stunning portraits. Focus on your subject's eyes and use your camera's portrait setting to automatically capture the right skin tone.
  • Avoid wonky perspectives. When shooting a building, try to get to a higher position so that you are shooting straight-on rather than up.
  • Focus on details. Even the plainest piece of hardware can be interesting if you focus in on its features. Also, try looking for interesting patterns or an unusual juxtaposition.
  • Capture the action. Machinery is generally more interesting in action than static and 'candid' photos of people who don't know the camera is on them make for more natural, authentic images than the usual posed shots.
  • Try a different viewpoint. Try taking photos from different heights: a higher angle will make the subject look smaller and allow you to easily capture background detail; face-to-face or straight-on makes an engaging shot; low angle is great for emphasising toughness or making things look epic; and a really low or 'bug's eye view' adds a unique perspective.
  • De-clutter the scene. The subject of your photo should be the star of the show – cast a critical eye over your surroundings: have all unnecessary materials, tools, and rubbish been cleared away?
  • Get close. Make sure you zoom in close enough to ensure the viewer focuses on the right area. When using a phone camera, move physically as close to your subject if you can, as using the zoom can degrade the image quality.
  • Use post-production tools to make your images pop. Inexpensive or free software such as Canva and PicMonkey allow you to change the exposure, tone and crop of a photo to make it more powerful. You can use filters too, so if colour is not important to an image, why not try a black-and-white filter to add drama?

Author Jane Evans is a director of construction specialist agency MRA Marketing and a CIMCIG committee member.


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