View Full Version : Designing around substandard photographs
08-24-2006, 07:16 AM
A new client has requested a brochure to represent a line of high-end, built-in, custom cabinetry. The target audience is primarily professional interior designers, but the end users must be considered as well.
This company is very well established in their home city. Over the past few decades they have secured an excellent reputation, and rely on customer referrals for nearly all new business. They have a large showroom to reel in whatever new leads come their way.
However, they are now branching out into a nearby city where they are almost completely unknown. The rep who hired me will be their only presence in this city, and the nearest showroom is 4 hours away. So, clearly, this will have to be a hard working brochure.
I've advised high-end (almost decadent) production across the board...best quality paper, halftone varnishes in matte, gloss, and satin, hand binding, etc. To express all it must, it has to itself be luxurious and well crafted. However, the product photos they have given me are to work with are just unacceptable. They are basically digital snapshots of past jobs...often with tools, masking tape, and workers still in view. I am good with Photoshop, but there is only so much one can do with a bad image.
Has anyone ever faced this situation before? Normally, I would design away from the photos and create the required mood with other design elements. But this is a product brochure for an unknown brand...without clear focus on their product line, there's little point to any of it. I am meeting him with late today or tomorrow, and I am tempted to tell him that without better photos, the lux production we have planned will market my design skills more than his cabinetry.
I would like to offer him some options. Does anyone know a clever way to mask crappy photos? I'm considering doing most of the brochure in black and white...cropping in close for drama. But when I do that, the product looses much of it's definition...it could be almost any wooden thing.
Sorry to ramble, but I am frustrated. I really like this client and it kills me that his boss sent him out here but won't back him up with a few thousand in product photos to help him get started.
All suggestions are welcome...Photoshop tips, interpersonal guidance, marketing angles...I'm open to everything at this point.
08-24-2006, 07:36 AM
A crappy photo will always look like a crappy photo, no matter what you do to it!
As it is custom built stuff they don't need lots of photos, but a couple of great ones and you could select parts of those to show the quality of the workmanship (or something to that effect).
It seems to be a common occurance (supplying graphic designers with crappy photos, that is), I've been pointed to clients web sites as a source of suitable photos more than a few times! Sometime it is ignorance as they simply don't know what's required.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to locate a decent photographer in their local area and point them in that direction.
08-24-2006, 07:53 AM
The same issue arises with web design, too. A good design, good advertising copy, and the client wants to use their own digital photos, with poor quality, bad angles, objectionable objects included, you name it, and a poor result is coming.
If the rest of this print job is to be high quality, you need to convince the client that high quality photos are also required. Beyond just the individual cabinets, maybe actual installations would help sell the product.
Tell the client that their photos have shown you the cabinets, but not in their best light, and high quality digital photos are needed.
08-24-2006, 08:15 AM
I've tried, believe me. He has been pretty agreeable throughout the whole process, but for some reason decided to draw the line at a professional photographer. He's convinced it's not necessary. I even offered to cut back on some other costs to make room in the budget but he has his heart set on the original design plan. It's like he's ordering a $300 bottle of wine to eat with a Big Mac.
08-24-2006, 08:42 AM
Even an amateur digital photographer can do better than what you have described so far. Could you take the photos? Perhaps he could?
Lots can be done with Photoshop, but the kinds of problems you describe are not going to be fixed by Photoshop techniques.
I take house photos for a real estate web site. I can erase some weeds, make the photo lighter, crop off houses next door, etc., but if a truck is in the way, I can't remove it and put in the house instead.
If you were doing a web site, the photos could be changed in the future. With print, the photos are on the paper for however long the stock lasts.
08-24-2006, 09:42 AM
For amateur photos, they are competent enough. If you saw them in a neighbor's "Before and After Remodel" photo album you wouldn't think there was anything wrong with them.
But if someone plans to spend $100,000+ on kitchen cabinets, she expects more professionalism...and something beyond the purely pragmatic.
I can crop and zoom and such to avoid the undesierable elements of the photos...but that doesn't bring them in line with the general aesthetic they hope to sell, and thus first be...
I'll attach an example...
08-24-2006, 11:51 AM
I would like to offer him some options. Does anyone know a clever way to mask crappy photos? I'm considering doing most of the brochure in black and white...cropping in close for drama. But when I do that, the product looses much of it's definition...it could be almost any wooden thing.Sounds like a serious design opportunity! :(
I wonder if you could focus on craftsmanship rather than glossy high quality. Print on uncoated stock, keep the photos small, don’t worry about the tools lying around unless really gross, and use copy, type, and design — and maybe some line drawings — to sell the cabinets.
From sad experience I know that if the quality is out of whack in one area (and photos are, unfortunately, often the culprit — there ought to be a law against clients having digital cameras!) that doing a bang-up job on glossy stock will emphasize the problems, not hide them.
Do you have enough of these snapshots to tell a story? Maybe that would work.
08-24-2006, 12:36 PM
there ought to be a law against clients having digital cameras!
It seems to me that the type of camera isn't the problem, but the lighting. A professional photographer would be ashamed to produce a photograph with so many unwanted reflexions.
08-24-2006, 12:52 PM
I might try and persuade them to get two or three pics shot professionaly so that u can use them as full page shots - as you said gloss them up on matt stock and then perhaps try and montage the rest - even knocking some of them back and use them as background - you could do as KT said use line drawings - but if the furniture is available it is most likely as cheap to photograph them .
You could also include the cost of the two or three pics in your design cost - and tell them you are throwing them in for nothing - or put the cost on the print job
08-24-2006, 07:33 PM
Does the company use the popular cabinet design software 20-20 Design (http://www.2020technologies.com/us-eng/20-20design/index.aspx) by any chance? If so, it can export TIFF images of designs. My husband is a kitchen and bath designer and we wanted to save out views of his designs for his portfolio, so he exported the views he wanted as TIFF files. They're renderings, not photos, but they'll probably be higher resolution and much more impressive than the photos you describe being stuck with. You can export the 3D, virtual tour (I think they call them "fly through") renderings in full, gorgeous color, as well as export blueprint/floorplan views. Might be rather interesting to show both plan and 3D fly-through views.
I recommend asking.
08-25-2006, 12:43 PM
Thanks for your input, everyone. I just got good news though. Apparently, he had some professional photos taken a few years ago that he had forgotten about (!). They are not exactly what I would hope for either but they are usable.
I will check out that 20/20 website anyway...maybe I can find some nice line drawings or something if he uses them.
08-25-2006, 04:48 PM
Apparently, he had some professional photos taken a few years ago that he had forgotten about (!). They are not exactly what I would hope for either but they are usable.Oh, good grief! ;)
Glad it appears to be working out.
08-26-2006, 12:45 PM
I will check out that 20/20 website anyway...maybe I can find some nice line drawings or something if he uses them.Well, you won't find line drawings at the 20/20 company website -- I only gave the link so you could see what software I'm talking about. If your client uses 20/20 they will have renderings and floorplans of the kitchens they've designed. All they have to do is call them up on their computer and export TIFF images of the plans and/or renderings.
If they use some other K&B/cabinet design software they'll have to see if it, too, exports TIFFs. 20/20 is considered the premiere software for the K&B industry, but there are others as well.
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