Contractor’s Corner: Showcase your flooring successes with pictures – Oct 2023

By Dave Stafford

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is sage advice-that is, if the picture is in focus, technically balanced and illustrates the point you’re trying to make. Nothing sells something like a good picture, especially when those candid shots are of work you’ve performed. Before-and-after pictures are especially effective in showing the transformation from awful to outstanding, or how an installation technique was used to make the most painful aspects of the job seem easy.

I once had a talented associate named Lou who was a camera buff and had a good eye for symmetry. She used to visit jobs to capture the great moments of product installation. One job in particular sticks out. The client had assured us that the project was ready for installation; however, Lou’s pictures showed our project manager gazing sadly at the huge mound of drywall debris, piles of trash and other trades still working in the area. That paved the way for me to send the image along to the client with a note that we would be happy to start work when we could access the area. Pictures, even bad ones, can save you thousands of dollars when there is a dispute with a client.

Many of Lou’s finest pictures made their way into our brochures and case studies. From her, I learned to take lots of pictures to get just the right one. A few that come to mind: a large corridor project at a huge federal complex; a theater renovation that involved extensive floor prep; a poured floor for leveling; and our vertical-lift crew in action, carefully lifting workstations, removing old carpet and installing carpet tile. These types of pictures showed our expertise and answered many client questions.

We tried to get a good mix within the photo library of all the product types we sold and installed. Once we became adept, our goal was to create a photo history of each project from beginning to end and include it with our files. That saved us more than once in change-order scenarios. What’s more, we ended up with a superb library of photos for advertising and presentations. With the commonality of the smartphone and ease of picture taking, there is no reason not to chronicle the various stages of projects, installation issues and scheduling challenges. Maintain a project index of pictures to document completion and sign-off.

Plan your shots for online and print presentations, because it’s rare that usable shots just happen to present themselves when you have a camera. And as your advertising executive will tell you, a low-resolution picture or one slightly out of focus reflects poorly on you. Reserve the services of a professional only when you need something special for advertising, a design contest, a website or a brand makeover where the highest quality is needed.

For high-quality pictures for a brochure when a particular theme is part of a long-term advertising or branding campaign, the key is finding the right project, securing permission from your client and setting a specific time in advance so that the area can be clean, free of people and the views unobstructed. Professional photographers know what will work visually, and he or she will usually request a walk-through in advance to make notes on the equipment needed for those shots. While this may be an expensive option, remember that you’ll be judged by the story your pictures tell. That knowledge and experience is what you’re paying for with a pro-how to use angles and lighting for the best effect, color mix, shadows, time of day, on-site furnishings and new flooring types.

When previewing the site with the pro, they may have great suggestions, particularly when the photographer is part of the advertising team planning your theme. Do make sure the photographer knows the theme so they can shoot to maximize this. They may also offer tips like, “All windows should be open wide (or closed), clutter removed from desktops, aisleways freshly mopped, vacuumed and minor debris removed; workstations, file cabinets, plants, electronic equipment set up as symmetrically as possible; installation supplies removed from sight and work finished,” including punch lists. Yes, the photographer may be able to color adjust, block, crop or fix some things, but it is always better to minimize this.

If you attend while picture-taking is being done, stay out of the way. It was always amazing to me the amount of ancillary equipment the professional photographer employed: special lighting, filters or reflectors, different lenses and camera bodies.

The agreement should include a reshoot if necessary and a review of the pictures by you or a designated associate. Ideally, you should “own” the pictures; otherwise, you may be paying again for their use. Make sure that is established up front. Spell out the terms of payment and what constitutes final acceptance. Also be sure to indicate the specific site location, date and time of day for shooting, the extent of work to be done, and the format for proofs of the final product: resolution, file type and file size (larger is better).

Of the 100 to 200 pictures the photographer may take, they will usually present to you and your advertising guru a selection insofar as quality and theme. Take your time and make your selections in concert with your team. It is likely that your advertising pro will not be a flooring expert, so it might be wise to have a member of your own sales team involved. If the picture results are “not quite there,” ask that the photographer go back to their files and review for more options. It is rare that a complete reshoot must be done.

Photos must be in high resolution, in focus and with superb lighting, and must capture the essence of your story. Nice bright colors with focus on the overall design theme is ideal. All photos don’t have to be “eye-popping,” but there should be a few in the mix. Aim for the “wow factor” that sells.

Make your final selections and then create the accompanying text, including any credits that must be shared. Consider captioning the building or project generically, such as “a library,” “a school,” “an auditorium” or “an office building.” You might have unnecessary problems with identifying The Kennedy Center or the Greenberg Library, for example. For the same reason, people are rarely identified. You are pointing out capabilities and accomplishments that denote your prowess in certain areas in a visual way, that’s it.

Adding well-crafted text to pictures for advertising media is where most need help. Matching up the visuals with the story and the layout and background is an art. If you have the money, use a graphic designer with experience and references to craft the look you’re after. The theme must be coordinated with your overall company image and make your company as unique as possible. Perhaps you have new branding or a logo like, “Building a better tomorrow” or “Making your vision a reality.”

The process is usually that you will receive a mock-up of what the designer thinks will sell your company story. That will include the pictures taken and where they are to be used, along with text. Here is where you’ll have the most input. An in-person meeting with you, a couple of trusted associates and the designer is ideal. Make the meeting count-if changes are extensive or some of those pictures are lacking, provide replacements.

Schedule another meeting and hammer out any final changes. Where possible, plan for a multi-step campaign with branding and brochures; perhaps three or four add-ons to the original concept. Start with building the company’s identity and then move on to fleshing out unusual product or services delivery, personnel skills, customer service and a commitment to excellence. Think of Geico’s gecko or Allstate’s inept, accident-prone mayhem spokesman as examples of building identity awareness.

Training personnel to take pictures versus hiring a professional will depend on several things. Chief among them is their interest, general aptitude (and yours), eye for color, balance and subject. It is rare that a professional photographer is also a flooring expert or that you have hired a salesperson or project manager with training in photography. If you are lucky enough to have talented people with an interest, then I suggest investing in one or more company-owned digital cameras and equipment. I’m not suggesting a $3,000+ setup; rather, the type of equipment that will accept different lenses and filters and is capable of enough resolution for high-quality shots. While I agree that many modern phones have sophisticated camera capabilities for good pictures and are easy to use, SLR digital cameras offer the most in terms of quality results and ease of use.

Discuss how to set up the download of pictures from the camera and establish file protocols and an index that works for you so that pictures can be easily found.

Ask your team to be on the lookout for projects that lend themselves to striking before-and-after pictures of site preparation and installed products. Pick those where you can get permission and where the client will work with you to accommodate “picture day(s)” when floors have been waxed, polished, prepared or vacuumed. In your training, visit these projects with your people and decide the focus areas within a specific project. It’s much better to zero in on that upfront rather than have a hundred pictures of a general nature. These pictures may work well for certain brochures, PowerPoint presentations, handouts and website case studies.

You might be looking for a specific type of installation in which you excel. I remember sending Lou out to capture the intricate nature of vertical-lift installation being done, starting with elevating workstations, removal of existing flooring, prep, cleaning, adhesive application, and placing and cutting in carpet tile. What I was after was a complete chronology that told a story in pictures that could then be assembled for print or visual images for presentations. In this case, she returned with over 100 pictures taken during the week, and we selected the best of the lot. The resulting pictures ended up in our new brochure as well as in presentations and on the website.

When it comes to using pictures on your website, building a written case study or a presentation, then a trained employee with a good eye for balance and color could be ideal. With a company’s rebranding or advertising campaign, a professional photographer might be worth the initial cost. Whatever you decide, the right pictures and text will sell your image. Make sure they’re great ones.

Copyright 2023 Floor Focus 

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