Photography – without it, our kitchen design world would be a drab and dull place indeed.
Think how closely aligned our business is to the fashion industry. We use the same lingo: we’re kitchen designers, they’re fashion designers. Our work is called style, we probably “borrowed” it from fashion. Entire websites, magazines and tv shows are devoted to both our work and to their work. We create and follow trends, as does the fashion world. And we both sell the same things: beauty, glamour, luxury, romance, sex.
And all of us would be lost without photography. Yet, unlike the world of fashion, many kitchen designers think a quick snap with their cell phone and they’re good. These designers do not appreciate or understand the power of photography.
The Difference Between Just OK and Great
As a business owner, you have to showcase images that help you stand out from the crowd.
Good photography can mean the difference between “just ok” and “great”. Think how you come across to your prospects. If your photos look cheap, expect people to start out with you by asking “how much”? Low quality photos translate to low quality workmanship. And vice versa. If your photos convey gracious living and luxury, you will attract customers who value quality and are willing to pay for it.
You want your photographs to capture images that will support and grow your brand and tell a visual story of who you are. People shopping for a new kitchen need to see photos to stir their imagination. Most people do not have the ability to visualize what their new space will look like. That’s why Houzz exploded when it appeared – it fulfills the need of homeowners who want to SEE what their remodels will look like.
What Makes a Photo Good?
What goes into making a kitchen photo good or not-so-good? Let’s let some photos illustrate. We'll start with a good photo.
What makes it good?
This kitchen is a long, narrow, galley-style space and yet from the angle chosen by the photographer, you can clearly see all elements of the room - sink, stove and fridge, industrial-style faucet, even a section of the hood.
You are invited into the scene to explore the rooms beyond. You’re enticed and intrigued. The lighting is kept basic to add drama.
The simplicity of the design is further enhanced by the minimal styling; two colored vases provide a contrast to the white of the cabinets, countertops and backsplash. Everything is balanced and in proportion; no one element overpowers the shot. Your response to it is immediate and emotional.
Your prospects don’t need to analyze a great photo like we just did. It speaks to them and charms them, and they don’t know why. It just does. That’s a good photo.
Kitchen Photo "No-no's"
Now let’s look at a few “bad” photos.
We probably don’t have to say why this one is bad. This is a beautiful kitchen! Look at all the things that make it desirable:
- two different finishes on the cabinets
- soapstone countertop
- industrial-style pendant lights
- glass fronts on the wall cabinets
- stainless steel appliances
- stone floor
- subway tile backsplash.
And yet, we look at this and think: I don’t want a kitchen designer whose work is shown like this. Do they even know what level and square is?
How could this be fixed? A tripod will hold your camera steady and help to square up the shot. Spend $22 for one from Amazon and improve your photos by 100%.
Here’s another fabulous kitchen shown in a bad way. What color is this room? Is it white? Is it gray? How can we tell when the lighting is so poor?
Or you can get some lights at a photo supply store that provide indirect lighting that won't create "hot spots" and that will bounce light off the ceiling.
One more example of “bad” that could have been “good.” Poor lighting and fuzzy focus do not show this nice kitchen to any advantage. Again, Photoshop or other digital photo-editing software could revive this photo that is now D.O.A.
Proper Staging Can Make or Break Your Photos
In our design world, factors other than lighting and leveling must be considered when photographing finished jobs. Staging the shot shows how a kitchen will look when it’s lived in. And your prospects imagine themselves stepping into a room just like this.
Here’s a lovely kitchen, completely bare. The shining hardwood floors, beadboard sides on the island, custom wood hood with mantel, furniture feet on the sink base, turned post accents – all fabulous custom kitchen features worth looking at.
Yet wouldn’t bar stools, flowers, possibly a bowl of fruit make it look more appealing and inviting?
And then there’s this (below). Whoever took this photograph was looking over the cabinet-wrap blankets to the lovely cabinets and counter and appliances beyond. This is where a professional photographer would save your shot. You would not get a photo like this if a professional was involved.
Truly this photo is unusable because of the poor staging and layout. And that’s a shame because there are features that are worth showcasing:
- granite countertops on the perimeter
- wood top on the island with a second prep sink
- staggered height wall cabinets topped with molding stacks
- double ovens
- professional grade cooktop
- pot filler
- custom hood
- fabulous faucet set on the farm sink
Every feature in this kitchen makes it photo-worthy. And yet, no potential customers will see it.
The photo below is the ideal to which all photo staging should aspire. Not only is this kitchen fabulous in all its white glory, the photo is staged perfectly. Note how the accessories complement the completed kitchen in a way that looks “real.” They fill in empty spaces, but don’t overpower the overall room design. Photo staging doesn’t get any better than this. Couldn’t you imagine living your life with this room at its center?
The Pros are Your New Best Friends
As a business tries to market itself to attract customers, the quality of their photos becomes increasingly more important. You have to produce photos of your work that help you stand out from the competition.
When your marketing photos are professional, they will attract customers, create value in the eyes of your prospects, and build your brand. Think of all the different ways you can use photos: Pinterest, Houzz, your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, news releases, articles for local publications, design contest entries, email marketing, and more.
The photo below is a dark and fuzzy and out of focus cell phone shot of a very nice kitchen.
This was a scouting shot taken before a professional shoot. Having the scouting shots in advance of arrival allows the pro to know what to expect and the equipment he will need.
The quality of photos from cell phones has come a long way, but they are still far inferior to a professional shoot.
Below is the same room, shot by a professional. What a difference! Details are crisp, and lighting creates an appealing glow on the hardwood floor. Compare the backsplash behind the range in both photos and see which one you want representing your work. Yes, professional photography can be pricey, but it is so so so worth it.
In addition to superior equipment, the professional has a trained “eye.” He or she knows how to frame the shot to best capture the essence of the space.
The pro knows how to light the scene, something amateurs struggle with. And the professional knows just where to place the fruit and the wine to fill any blank spaces. What he sees in the camera is completely different from what you see looking at the same thing with your "naked eye".
Approve the Shot Before You Shoot
In today’s digital world, you get to see what your photo will look like on the computer screen before the camera shutter clicks. Don’t like the way the light reflects off the backsplash? Move the camera up or down, adjust the lighting. Don’t like the cupcakes in the shot? Take them out. Gone are the days of agonizing over a shot and then having to decide if you like it after looking at Polaroids.
When you form a working relationship with a professional photographer, he or she can get to know what you want in your photos to best showcase your work. You get to know how they work and what they charge. It’s a win-win for both of you.
Photographs create instant reactions. In the first few seconds, photography conveys your message in a powerful way, compelling people to take a closer look.
Our industry is highly visual. People are highly visual. We all require photographs to help us experience our world, market our products and sell our services.
As the old saying goes: sell the sizzle, not the steak. And your photos provide that sizzle.