by Woody Welch
Shining the best light on your renewable energy projects is imperative when trying to convey an effective marketing message. Investing in professional, creative photography and video will pay for itself many times over in the highly visual world we live in today. Here are some tips on how to create visual assets with great ROI from our talented partner and friend, Woody Welch, who has traveled far and wide shooting some of the most stunning solar photos and videos in the industry.
The word photography comes from Latin, with photo meaning light and graph meaning to write or draw. What we are doing when we take a photo is writing with light. When it comes to marketing your clean energy company, it pays to ask yourself, “Am I shining the best light on my projects?”
There are many variables when shooting photos of any renewable energy project. Here are my top 10 tips for getting the best return on investment from your photography and video assets.
1.) Photograph your solar energy projects in the best light. Shooting at mid-day can actually work well because of the connection with the sun (what I call the “plug-in” moment) or the “angle of incidence.” This plug-in message can often be conveyed throughout the day instead of just at the golden hour at the beginning and end of the day. The angle of incidence is captured when the sun is at a 45-degree angle to your project, casting the sun’s reflection directly into the lens, whether it be an aerial photo, on a rooftop or on the ground.
2.) Use the golden hour to create drama and emotion in your projects. This one is simple: Wake up early and shoot the hour starting at sunrise or shoot the hour before sunset and a little after. Additionally you can photograph mid-morning or late afternoon to get shadows to help create depth perception.
3.) Hire a professional, not a hobbyist. It seems today that everyone is a drone photographer and there are as many fly-by-night shooters as there are raindrops in a thunderstorm. Take the time to look at the professionals’ work. Make certain that their BODY of work is not just a few images they got lucky with but rather multiple groups of great images of many projects that show they have consistently produced value for their clients. A great photographer will produce excellent work for EVERY client. They may cost more up front but your ROI will be vastly better in the short and long run.
Quick story to highlight this point: I had a client in the high-cost market of LA try a low-cost photographer once instead of paying my team market rate to do the job right the first time. The client was back in less than six months and more than willing to pay my professional prices because he understood the value my photos brought to a sales situation. Here’s what he said to me:
“Your images speak for me. I don’t have to talk when I use your images in my decks. They speak a thousand words and allow me to do what I do best instead of spending hours explaining what it is I do.”
He is still my client 15 years later.
4.) Make sure your photographer is using the highest quality and best camera and/or drone possible. You’ll want to be able to use your visual assets in all situations, from full-screen websites to trade show displays. If you expect your company to grow, as most solar companies today do, prepare for growth with high-ROI digital assets.
5.) Have a plan for campaign-based media placement and a schedule. Don’t invest in high-quality, high-ROI assets unless your plan is in place. If you don’t have an in-house marketing team, hire one like CPMG to help maximize your return on investment.
6.) Plan plan plan! Dot all your I’s and cross your T’s. Make all contacts with property managers, and get advance clearance for properties and permissions from the FAA for drone flights (where applicable). All properties around airports will not be able to be documented with a drone. Also cities like DC have no-fly zones and you will have to get permission sometimes months in advance. If you hire a reputable photographer, they will do the heavy lifting for you.
7.) Have backup plans for your backup plans and a thorough rain contingency plan. For obvious reasons, you cannot shoot solar projects in the rain. Additionally your message will be diluted if you shoot in cloudy or overcast weather. Please don’t make me explain this one.
8.) Be prepared for high-resolution file workflow and build a DAM (Digital Asset Management system) to double or triple archive your visual assets. This is literally an insurance expense and an investment in efficiency that will pay dividends over the life of the images.
9.) Eliminate variables. Much of photography is about eliminating what is not important in any given image. Many of our clients have sections in their brand standards manuals for visual asset creation to make sure all of their photographers and videographers are “on the same page” and capture assets that feel and look the same creating consistency throughout their assets. This is a much bigger deal than most folks think it is.
10.) Budget for high-quality assets and plan and prepare for success! Great photography and video can go viral, create more traffic to your website (especially with the right visual SEO), and even win clients. Yes, even that. The right emotional tone in one video or a single photo can create a powerful connection to a customer, even in the commercial solar world.
There are so many factors involved in creating great photography and videos that deliver short- and long-term ROI. When photography is on message, technically precise and of the highest quality possible, your ROI will be many times greater than if you go the cheap and easy route.
Woody Welch, founder and CEO of Earth Repairian Media and owner of Wood E. Photography, has been in the trenches in the energy industry for over 25 years, documenting some of the world’s largest renewable energy projects, directing commercials and video stories and creating high-ROI, on-message imagery for Fortune 500 clients on time and on budget every time. Get in touch today to transform your solar marketing with powerful visual assets.