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Understanding the  value and benefits of architectural photography and its role in a design firm’s marketing and branding strategy is key in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Established design firms invest 8-10% of their annual budget in marketing, of which architectural photography forms a significant portion. It’s important for designers to understand the potential of the investment and its impact on future income and branding of a design firm.

Here are some hypothetical examples that demonstrate the potential return of investment of architectural photography for a variety of typical projects.

  Typical Residence Apartment Interior Commercial
Floor area in SF 2,500 2,000 20,000
Cost in TT$/SF 1,000 750 2,200
Project cost in TT$ 2.5M 1.5M 61M
Designer’s fee in TT$ 200K 225K 3.6M
Fee over period in years 2.0 1.0 4.0
Design fee per annum in TT$ 100K 225K 900K
Photography investment in TT$ $7,000 $7,000 $25,000
Potential annual ROI 1,400% 3,200% 3,600%

The potential return on investment will be fully realised when it forms part of a well-considered and executed communication and marketing strategy. This is crucial to understand: architectural photography is an investment decision that can enhance the designer’s market position and lead directly to new architectural or interior commissions. Thus, a design firm can now make an investment decision about architectural photography as a key part of their firm’s marketing strategy.

Although it is difficult to predict exactly what triggers a prospective client to be attracted to an image, it is clear that a well-executed eye-catching architectural photograph alongside beguiling text has a better chance to attract the attention of a prospect to further research a design firm. Most clients do not decide on commissioning an architect alone. Usually the prospect, having been attracted to the architectural photographs on the designer’s website will look for other information so all this needs to be available and form part of the designer’s marking strategy.

To add value to the initial investment of architectural photography there are a number of important adjuncts to consider that will add to a more effective marketing strategy. .  Let us consider how the value of architectural photography can be enhanced:

  1. Office Brochure: these are often collected by developers, so it’s useful for key prospects to have a copy. To reduce the initial cost of printing a four-colour brochure you you may consider, for example, a print-on-demand brochure based on a PDF that can also be downloadable on the designer’s website. Prospects can then quickly and easily download a pdf brochure of your work to review. You might also consider a professional writer to ensure the text is both appealing and simple to understand.
  2. Project Booklets: designers can present their client with a print on demand project booklet that is a memorable and professional gift to a client that expresses the designer’s pride and thanks for the commission.
  3. Proposals & Website: keeping an active archive of architectural photographs lends itself to submitting project proposals at short notice and simplifies updating the firm’s website.
  4. Publicity: whether free magazine and newspaper articles or paid advertisements all require excellent architectural photographs.
  5. Lectures: are another form of social interaction that benefit from the use of architectural photographs.
  6. Awards: Excellent photography will ensure a design firm has the best chance of professional recognition, which in turn become a topic publicise in all media.

Most designers have an appreciation of composition and are capable of taking reasonable photos of their work, but they lack the correct equipment, refinements and training to create really high-resolution images necessary for architectural photography. Architectural photography is a very specialised area of photography that requires specific digital camera equipment to deliver high-resolution images. Interior photography also demands experience in managing lighting and mastery of Photoshop software to correct colour contamination. If a client can tell the difference between an amateur photographer and a professional architectural photographer, chances are they will also tell the difference in the designers.

In summary designers who commission architectural photography and make full use of the images in a well-considered marketing strategy will enjoy the benefits of a profitable return on their investment.