010 - Storytelling Through Photography
Join the Marketing Essentials Team as they discuss storytelling through photography with resident photographer, Steve Mason! Imagery is more than just a pretty picture, it gives clients a chance to see the genuine and authentic story of your business. (Hint: think about why you started and the work you do within your community).
Stuff we mentioned during the podcast:
Steve Mason Photography
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Justin: Hi, and welcome to the Marketing Essentials Podcast. Today we're going to be talking about the essentials of visual storytelling.
Justin: Hi welcome to the Marketing Essentials Podcast. Our unique team exists to help small businesses improve their marketing through providing essential marketing expertise.
Bill: And I'm Bill Parmentier, owner of W. Parmentier Photography.
Alicia: I'm Alicia Piazza with Custom Marketing Solutions.
Justin: And I'm Justin Kerr of Justin Kerr Design.
Bill: And together we make up the…
Everyone: …Marketing Essentials Team!
Justin: We got in sync that time.
Bill: Yeah, you know.
Justin: Pretty good.
Bill: Once in a while we get it right you know.
Justin: So, you may have noticed we have a fourth person with us here today, and we have the honor of having as our guest, Steve Mason. He is a professional commercial photographer and he's agreed to join us today to talk about visual storytelling, so I'm gonna turn things over to Bill now.
Bill: Before we get started, I wanted to kind of give everybody a background. I've known Steve for a while now, and I just want to read his bio real quick.
Bill: Steve Mason is an award-winning photographer of Providence Rhode Island. He's based in commercial and fine art photography, specializing in environmental portraits, military, technology, and manufacturing. Easy for me to say… and architecture, sorry. His fine art photography can be seen in many local galleries and he has over 30 years in the industry working all over the United States. He is dedicated to creating visual branding solutions and Steve is as equally skilled on location or in studio. So, at the end we'll will post a link for Steve's address, so anybody that wants to see some more of his work…but we will be showing… showcasing some of it today. So first off, welcome Steve. Thank you for joining us today.
Steve: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
Bill: So, storytelling, tell me a little bit about what you do when it comes to thinking about storytelling when taking images for a client.
Steve: Well, Justin brought up a great point because he started off with your mission statement, and I'm a big fan of a mission statement, because it gives me a guideline, as a visual guy, to work from.
Steve: I can get a sense of how you feel about your company and what it purports to do both within the community of the company itself and also the outside community. I can have at least a starting point to work from and I use that as a good reference. Ahh… for major corporations, that can be fairly easy to do. They have a good sense and have actually put a lot of time and effort in putting together a mission statement, but smaller companies it's a lot harder. They may have worked within their company for a long period of time but don't have a sense of what that mission statement is. They have a deep understanding of their company, but it's often very hard to get them to verbalize that in a way that I can take that and use it visually.
Steve: So, there's a lot of questions, a lot of sit down time, a discussion, a tour… I'll find out about their company, whether it's a family-owned company or how many generations the family may have had it. That not just the generational part of it but there's the technology how much money if they put into their technology or they are about to put more money into it and a lot of this stems from I'm often getting a call because they're redoing their website, redoing their branding and they may not know exactly how they want to approach it, they just know they have to make a change.
Bill: So, so what I think you're saying Steve, is basically you take a lot of things into account when it comes to telling your story of a company.
Steve: I do.
Bill: It's not just the branding, it's not just the taking pretty images so to speak, it's more about how do you convey properly the essence of what that…what your client is.
Steve: Exactly. I… pretty images don't necessarily help the client.
Steve: Especially, if you know a lot of times, especially in manufacturing situations, because as a commercial photographer that is just basically a nice way of saying of a business-to-business photographer.
Steve: I don't shoot weddings or bar mitzvahs or any of those kinds of things. I work with businesses.
Steve: But a lot of those businesses are not very good-looking. As an example of manufacturing in New England has basically three different kind of subcategories this high-tech, low-tech, but the majority of businesses I go into or manufacturers that I go into are a combination of the two. So, you can have a high-tech machine like a computer-driven CNC machine but next to it as a guy who's boiling something that he's going to pour into a mold, and two hours later pull it out and cut off all the extra pieces that are on it. So, in you know, within 20 feet you've got extremely high tech and then extremely…
Bill & Steve: …low tech…
Steve: …and that's pretty common in New England. There's also in New England… you'll find manufacturers that have machines that are 50, 70, 80 years old, but then they may use them only once or twice a year. But when they need them, they need them in the machines. Those types of machines just don't break down. They're made really well. There's a cost-benefit kind of analysis, at some point they may get rid of the machines, but if they use it twice a year, they need it twice a year.
Bill: So… I… you have a really interesting story as far as how you get your start in photography. Can you take just a minute…just kind of explain, you know…you're… where you started?
Steve: So as a kid I just like any other kid got a camera and took pictures, but my dad pretty much was looking (a smart guy that he was), was looking for our interests, and how to nurture that, so he would bring home books of photographers that kind of made a difference in the world. More social justice type photographers. Lewis Hine: his work influenced getting the child labor laws changed. There’s a guy, a gentleman, Jacob Riis, who shot pictures in the ghettos in in New York City which got a lot of those laws changed, so he nurtured that and that developed my interest and slowly went on from there and from that I decided to go to school. I went to a place called Brooks Institute of Photography in California, which is now defunct. It went away. They…
Bill: That was last year wasn’t it?
Steve: …they made… yeah, they made false claims about how many people are actually making a living doing photography.
Bill: Tough business to be.
Steve: They got called on it…
Steve: …there's a lot of schools who won't do that now. I think because of this situation. And then from there I went on to Manhattan and I worked there for three and a half/four years as a photo assistant doing all sorts of great jobs with well-known photographers. That's actually where I met my wife because she was a stylist. If you remember the old Virginia Slims ads, you've come a long way baby, she did some of those…
Steve: …and some other things, and that's how we met. It was… there's a great story… where we met on one particular shoot. It was for IBM. We were photographing a chamber quartet in a chicken coop in New Jersey.
Bill: It sounds like a bad joke.
Justin: Now wait a minute, there’s a story right there. Why were you in a chicken coop?
Steve: I don't remember the tagline. I'll actually dig it up and send it to you…
Bill: Yeah that’d be great.
Steve: …and you can put it on the website. They were sitting down playing, and it was just a dirty smelly chicken coop, and my wife (not my wife at the time, but she became my wife) was styling all of this and we were setting up the lights and orchestrating the photograph. The fun part of this… we were running around trying to pick up the chickens and there was this 80 year old guy there, Al, and he says he's watching us and he's laughing at the New York City kids and he says, where do you want the chickens, so we tell him and he just scoops up two chickens in the blink of an eye…
Steve: …grabs him by the feet and spins them around. So apparently when chickens get dizzy, they stay still, so he slapped him on the ground. These two, then he grabs two more. We had four chickens…
Steve: …I believe. You know… and they stayed still for about five minutes, and then they started wobbling and they'd get out of their dizziness and start walking around. He grabbed them again, and he did this three or four times…
Steve: …while we were shooting, and he gave us “statue” chickens.
Alicia: What goes into this behind the scenes work.
Steve: Behind the scenes
Justin: I wonder if that would work on my kids if spun them around…
Bill: Ya, no.
Justin: …if they would sit still for 5 minutes?
Bill: They’d just get sick. I’ve tried it.
Bill: So basically, Steve, you've…you've got a real background in storytelling. Just outside of just the photography part of it, it seems like everything I've ever spoken to you about, as far as shoots you've been on, things along that line, all have a specific story. Is that something that you gravitate towards, as far as when you do your photography?
Steve: It's the hook that I'm looking for. So, if I approach it as just a job it's gonna look like a job. If I approach it as just something to do it's gonna look like that. I can remember when we first moved up here, I actually got a job as a staff photographer for GTE, which ultimately became General Dynamics, and the first shoot I went on I looked at the images and I thought these are awful. I would never hire me. And I realized I had to figure out a way to insinuate myself; to find a hook; a way in emotionally to these people… to what was going on, so I just started asking myself a series of questions… You know, what's going on here? Who is in charge? What they're doing? If it's a… if it's an event for instance, there might be three people talking… you know, what are they talking about? is it a joke? Is there gonna be a punchline, and just watch and watch the body language as well, because that's a dead giveaway as to what's going to happen… and pretty soon, if you get you know you might get people exploding with laughter, or you know, pointing at each other or sometimes you know, pressing their fingers into each other's chest, or whatever it may be… some moment that gives it a real uh…real moment. You know, something that's genuine…
Steve: …authentic, I guess.
Bill: So why is it… why is this important to one of your clients? That you… you bring out that story of their business.
Steve: Because I think it tells their story. I mean, I'm a big “infer” guy so I… if you look at it… as a for instance, I did a job for a company in in Woonsocket actually, called Energy Geeks, and in the discussion with the owner of the company he was telling me that his guys were going to work on a local park. They were gonna help clean it up, so I said, we should be talking about that for your social media. So, I went and photographed that and what I noticed from his guys is they were relentless. There was a tree that had grown through a refrigerator from, I don't know the 1930s or 40s, and they wanted that refrigerator out and they were just pulling shards of it and you could see the determination…
Steve: … on their face. And that's what I was looking to get. Because if I can show the determinate… determination on their face, just pulling a refrigerator out of the ground, not even for pay… as a volunteer thing, then it's very easy to infer that his guys are very dedicated, very disciplined and hardworking people. So, I'm always looking for something that you… that may have no meaning now, but it infers something greater in the long run.
Justin: Yeah, we've talked before in a previous podcast about storytelling. That that emotional element is very important.
Bill: Sure, yeah.
Justin: Because people make decisions based on emotion.
Justin: So, whether they're you know being persuaded to donate to that charitable organization, or purchase a service or something, they need to have that emotional connection. So, it's interesting that you know… you're looking at it from okay, what can I pull out of this to tell a good story and create that emotional hook so that the person on the other end feels something similar? You know… it's a real equation. It's not just okay, is it framed right? How's the composition? How's the lighting? There's… there's a lot more to it…
Justin: …than just lit the technical aspects of it.
Steve: Well the technical aspects, after a certain amount of time in your life almost becomes secondarily… secondary. So, you can start really paying attention to the content of what you're doing and that's… that's what I try to do. In the… the technical aspects of it, if once you especially with digital, once you understand the parameters pretty well, you can deal with in that easily and nicely. I mean there's a lot of tools that help you get what you want… umm…I forgot what I was going to say…
Bill: Actually that… that's I think a good segway to talk a little bit about something that you've just done recently, which is your Leavers Lace Project.
Steve: Yeah, um…so part of what I guess keeps me sane is not only the business aspect of what I do, which I enjoy, but I'm always looking for something on the side to keep sharpening my skills; to keep me interested… what's the story…
Steve: …and one of those stories came about... and actually was 2011. I was putting it together. A photography show with two friends and we very cleverly entitled it “Three Friends”…ahh…and I'd noted I walked away from the area we were hanging from in the downtown Pawtucket….Ahh… has a place where you can hang a gallery show for Samuel Slater Museum and they had a little 7 inch monitor going with a lace machine, and I thought oh this thing's really cool. I got to find out more about this. So, it took me a few months to track it down. I went into the facility and got a tour and I was hooked. And they were unbelievably gracious. There's a gentleman by the name of York Roberts who runs the place, and I think I was there twice. And on the third time, I called him up and said hey, I've got a day off. I want to come in and shoot…yeah, I'm not gonna be here… but come on in go do your thing…
Steve: …don't worry about it, just go for it. The only thing I couldn't do, was light. I did like the portraits, but I couldn't light any of the machines or any of those kinds of things…
Steve: …so, I figured out a strategy for combining images from different exposures to get what I wanted.
Steve: But what the Leavers Lace book is about is the last lace manufacturing company in America.
Bill: Ok, I'm gonna actually… before we get too… far I'm gonna throw up on the screen here, so our viewers can actually see this… this is the book and I will actually, you know what? Let me back…
Justin: Actually, I was gonna “Vanna White” it.
Bill: Ok, go ahead Justin, go ahead.
Justin: Yep, we have Steve's book here. Leavers Lace. You can pull it up on the monitor:
Bill: Yeah, I'm gonna pull it up on the monitor. We will, in the show notes, put a way, that if you're interested, how you can purchase this book directly from Steve. But, Steve, let's talk about this a little bit. So, obviously, there's a big story behind this whole thing so I'm gonna run you through a couple of pictures and maybe you can kind of tell the story of what you saw.
Bill: Or as you were doing… it…let's do this one first.
Steve: So again, it's the last lace manufacturing company in America. They make some of the best lace in the world and they do it with machines from 1890/1900. They’re just grimy, greasy, smelly, dirty machines. To me the contradiction was those machines producing some of the finest lace in the world.
Bill: Sure, sure.
Steve: It’s so dainty and fragile; that's what I thought anyway when I first went in. And then I watched them. And they're dragging it across the floor and it's greasy and dirty but the lace goes from there to a company that washes and dyes it so everything that comes out of the machines is white, but it could be red, it could be green, it could be blue…
Bill: So, this is a really interesting machine contraption. Whatever you want to call it. Do you actually know the names of it or the history of these machines or…?
Steve: I don't. I know a little bit about some of them. In fact, I’m probably gonna be giving a presentation at some point, and it will be… I believe at Stillwater Books…
Bill: Oh nice.
Steve: …newly opened in Pawtucket. And I will hopefully bring in York Roberts, who is the manager of the place, (he's a fourth generation weaver) and can tell you everything about the entire history of these machines.
Bill: Ok, let's go to the next photo. Ok, this is obviously a Loom of some sort.
Steve: It is. So, there's threads that come in from three different sources on these machines. There is about twelve thousand threads that come up at any given time and you're looking at all, or a section of those threads, that come in to make the lace, but it's just the patina of everything that I noticed. It's just so worn down and smooth that has its own kind of quality…
Steve: …also coloration.
Justin: You were… (we were) talking about this the other day. About the book, and you were telling me a story about how the guy that runs this particular machine… ahh…. you know there's all this noise of the machine and all the noise from the other machines and there's like what like three thousand strands here and he can pick out if one of the strands has snapped.
Steve: There's one gentleman who told me. And he's… he's a third generation weaver, in fact, I took him… when I asked him where he wanted to be photographed… he showed me a machine …he said come over here, let's do this one. He said, I've worked on that machine for over 25 years, and I said, ok… and my father worked on that machine for over 40 years and his father worked on that machine… him, that's it. Ok, Bobby Grundy is his name.
Bill: Nobody can see it, so hang on second, let me pull it up here, because I was just kind of jumping through here… okay so this is the picture you took, whoops, try again, this is the picture talking about.
Steve: Right. He's worked on that machine for over 25 years. He grew up next to that machine because his dad worked on it for over 40 years and his grandfather worked on it for over 40 years, so ever since it came into this country in 1890 there's been a Grundy working on that machine.
Steve: It made me think of the the Malcolm Gladwel -l 10,000 Hours - he's got a hundred times that really.
Bill: Sure, sure.
Steve: But he's the guy who actually said that he's working… he can hear a thread break…
Steve: …which I found hard to believe and I brought it up to a couple of the other weaver's and said nah, there’s no way, but that's what he says so I can’t argue with him.
Justin: You got… you gotta trust him on that one.
Bill: This is another cool photo here.
Justin: Yeah, that's actually my favorite.
Bill: Yes, your favorite.
Steve: So, this, as I said before, there's three different areas that are sources that the thread comes from. What she's doing is loading thread on 150 bobbins. They're small; about two and a half inch to diameter, brass uhh…they did to two brass pieces and put them together and the thread gets wound in between them. She drops the thread into the middle of each one; breathtaking speed. I can't believe how fast she does it, and then she has a foot pedal and she just rolls about anywhere from 90 to 120 yards worth of thread, depending on the thickness of the thread…
Steve: …and it's…it's just blisteringly fast. And if there's a religious aspect of this here too, she's got the cross we’re seeing…
Bill: Oh wait, let me go back to it. Oh yeah, the cross. The…the slightly blurred cross there.
Steve: The other thing I'll point out… in the background, you can see a green rag, and when I first thought of this project, I thought it was because the machines are so monochromatic. I thought it was going to be a black and white project but after a while as we see the pictures, you'll notice that those rags come in red, green, blue, orange… and to me they became a metaphor for hope, so I left it as a color project, because that's part of it. But also, because there's so many different light sources and everything that the palette became kind of muted and interesting, so I just kept it as a color project.
Justin: What I ahh…Can you go back to that one Bill?
Bill: Oh yeah, sorry.
Justin: What I like about this photo, and I just love these kind of photo essays matter of fact, I went… I came to your gallery opening when you first presented these and I just found that each one told a very interesting story, but I think the reason I like this one is you know there's obviously the…the focus on the machine and there's the interaction between her and the machine and her focus on what she's doing and the hands are involved but the element… I mean you talked about the rag but I'm looking at the crucifix that's hanging there…
Steve: Oh, absolutely.
Justin: …that to me, that… that adds a whole other layer to the story. It's like this is her space; this is where she is every day.
Justin: And she's personalized it…
Justin: …and you get the sense that she's been there for a while, and has a lot of experience working with this, and as… and she’s almost working with this machine in a very sort of loving an almost maternal manner, and just the juxtaposition between the crucifix and her and the machine… I think just tells, not only is it a fascinating composition, but it just… I think it tells a very interesting story. Honestly, I could stand in front of this thing for hours and just find… just look at the detail that's in it, and think about like you were saying earlier Steve, it's like what's the story behind this? How long has she been at this machine? You know, what kind of family is she from? What are her… what is she thinking about? if she works on this every day, because obviously she's gotten so good at this she's probably like making a grocery list in her head, while she's doing this right? Thinking… you know?
Steve: There's an amazing pride there. They… they have a good sense of what they're doing, because when I first went there I thought lace; so its doilies and curtains, but I was wrong, it's all about fashion and it's high fashion, so the… the.. It's you know, in the old days somebody may have come in and ordered from Kmart for two hundred thousand square yards of something but now it's much smaller runs much faster runs and much more complicated runs. Very often they'll work on patterns that the computer driven machines can't do because computer driven machines like consistency of pattern. They don't like interruptions and changes that make sure more complicated and that's part of what they do.
Bill: Let’s take one more photo, cuz I really like this one myself, and you Steve, you were saying there's a story behind this photo.
Steve: There is… so this guy makes the spare parts. He's actually passed away now, but when I first went there… okay of course I had no idea of any of this. I walked into his workshop area and I saw a train. A scale steam train. It was about three and a half/four feet long and that was, I thought, a good conversation started with him. He has a very thick or had a very thick cockney accent. Turns out it was a to-scale steam train that he had built from scratch that worked…
Steve: …He showed me the little pellets, that actually went in the working furnace.
Steve: The pellets would catch fire, or create steam, and make the wheels…
Bill: It was a working steam engine?
Steve: It was to scale in every way!
Steve: In perfect scale this guy was absolutely amazing. He was a genius, and there were a lot of geniuses there, but he just captivated me.
Bill: Yeah, he's in this picture… he did this image… he looks like he's just in contemplative thought about, okay, what am I gonna build next?
Steve: George is very pensive, he is not a talker, he's a doer. Was a doer. He would solve any problem for anybody. He would make the spare parts they needed from scratch, and they'd all be perfect. It's just an amazing guy. It’s sad to see him no longer with us.
Justin: Well that's fascinating in itself that you know you have somebody in house who making the spare parts cuz these are a hundred and ten/hundred and twenty year old machines. You're not just gonna run down to the store and pick up…
Bill: You don’t carry those at Walmart.
Justin: …a Walmart part. No, so, the fact that you know he's there to make sure that all of this keeps running… is… that's just fascinating!
Steve: I think even more amazing than that to me was after Joyce had passed away, I went and saw York Roberts, the guy who runs the company, and I said what are you gonna do now? He said, I don't know, we'll figure it out… and I laughed, because that is the general attitude there. There's a machine that's… granted the machine is big and heavy and most of the parts don't wear out… the same parts have been running for a hundred years, but the smaller finer parts do wear out and they have to be replaced so it's just an attitude of I don't know, we'll figure it out. Yeah, and they do.
Bill: So, you got some incredible work here Steve thanks for sharing that with us.
Steve: Yeah, you're welcome.
Bill: Another question that comes to mind is, we're obviously reaching out to people that are trying to figure out how to market their business.
Steve: Well anybody really… I'm go… I'll have a cup of coffee with anybody. I'll sit and talk with anybody and discuss how they're doing… where they want to go… A lot of what I do comes from people who are graphic designers, website builders, companies where they may have gotten some sort of a company who's looking to rebrand; start off as a branding and not sure a way to go and visuals is a part of that. One of the things I like to do is if I get a call from a company to go in and photograph, whether it's manufacturing or technology or a construction company or any anything like that, I wanted to know who their website builder/design slash designer is, because I want to have a conversation with them. Many times a web person has spent hours and days and weeks with that company and has a pretty thorough understanding of where they are, where they want to go, where as I may go in for a couple hours and sit with them and there's gonna be holes in the conversation… things that you know maybe the web guy has picked up on and is trying to inculcate into the branding of the website; and I'm big on having that conversation; working that in.
Bill: So, say for instance, you're devoid of that designer and you're going into a client for the first time, and say you know we really don't have a story what…what do you do to try to encourage them to get that story out of them?
Steve: I'll ask for a tour, and if I get a tour, I'll ask about the machines. I'll ask about how they got into the business. How long they've been doing it? Did they start off were they one of the workers? Is it a family business? So, as I'm slowly getting to put the pieces together… by the time we walk back to his office, I'm basically saying, yeah, you do have a story… you just haven't thought about it...
Steve: …why don't we sit down and talk about this?...
Steve: …and there’s a way you should be talking about this. The other thing that's interesting… New England is probably more puritanical. There's a lot of companies out there. I've got a new website coming out in the next few weeks and one of the areas that I have on the website is corporate social responsibility. It's a big thing now and I try to have that conversation with clients because clients often do something in the community, but they don't necessarily want to talk about it. So, if I can get them to open up, maybe even have me come and photograph it and put that out and use that from a social media perspective, then that is huge for them and I’m sure Alicia you would want to talk about that…
Alicia: Absolutely, yeah.
Steve: …that because it's a great way to get your name out. It's a great way to get you involved in the community, known in the community, elevated in the community… and get some respect.
Bill: Can you give an example of one of the clients that you work with… that was… that along that social responsibility standpoint.
Steve: Well, I just finished photographing last week, a community day for Millipor Corporation. So, what happens is there are five different locations that I went to within a one-day shoot, and they have… let's see… there was an elementary school…there was a grade school… a couple other things…where they go in and they may be painting the sides, or you know, painting a building. They may be repairing a deck, they may be putting up… this has all happened in the past… putting up, you know, jungle gyms and in a daycare centers playground.All sorts of different things. This particular company is great in the sense that it dedicates every employee has two days PTO (paid time off) dedicated to volunteerism, so they can pick a charity and go and work there and be paid by the company to do it which I think is absolutely amazing and kudos to them. So, there's a lot does that some companies do… like a Christmas in July. The company, Energy Geeks, I was talking about, they went to a local park and they were cleaning up the park. So, anything along that line, that I think can elevate you within the community, and make yourself known within the community, is a great thing.
Alicia: Do you think businesses kind of shy away from showing that or they just don't think that that's something that, I mean, I think when businesses are like, oh, what am I gonna do for my photography and my visuals, they sometimes just forget to show not only who they are as a company, but like who they are as part of the community.
Steve: I think exactly that. That's definitely correct. I think there are a lot of companies that are uncomfortable with putting the spotlight on what they do from an altruistic point of view…
Steve: …because it makes them look mercenary by doing that. The opposite can be true, obviously, but at the same time you can't push it too much, because then it looks like you are taking advantage. But it's a good thing to do. I photographed a painting construction company that did a “build a bed”. You know, it's just a small thing… if they get all their guys together and they build beds for poor people and go out and deliver them. And it just is huge, I think for him, because this this particular guy wants to pay back the community and the community gets something out of it too…
Steve: …but he's smart enough to come in and hire me to photograph it. And put it out and use it for social media; possibly recognizing it has some value from a marketing or branding perspective, and that's a big thing too. And I'm sure Justin can help and talk about this as well, but branding is not necessarily just your logo or how your website looks, but it's everything; it's the work you do within the community, it's the how your people represent themselves when they're not at work. If they're wearing your t-shirts, which they often are. It's a lot of different things that people just don't think about.
Justin: Yeah, we actually did a podcast on that. Branding…yeah.
Bill: Third one, I think.
Justin: Yeah, third or fourth one, and you're right, your brand is not just your logo or your color palette. It's how people experience you as a organization. And I can see where… you know… what you've been talking about in storytelling through the photography definitely adds to that brand. You know, because it's…it's part of the voice of the company, and it can show some really interesting aspects of an organization. It can help tell their story and it’s how people experience them…
Justin: …you know it's definitely through the photography. I was sitting recently with a private high school Academy and looking at some of their marketing work, and what tells their story is the photographs. I mean, the students in the chemistry lab and the students on the athletic field, and the teachers working with students. I mean without that they wouldn't be able to tell their story, you know, and it has to be done well… and it has to like you were talking about earlier… it has to be done in a way that is natural and believable and not staged. And you know, really brings out that unique story that each organization has to tell.
Steve: Yeah, I think the word these days, the popular word, is “authentic”. Everybody's looking for that authentic moment and that's what we're all looking for.
Alicia: Do you think social media might have something to do with that? Where before we had brochures and we had websites and people maybe wanted to be super professional about stuff and now with social media we have the ability to like form relationships as business and actually add like a human element to it?
Steve: I do. I also think that social media can tend to put a spyglass on something that's false.
Steve: So, inauthenticity or unauthenticity (?), becomes more obvious through social media, but when it… you know if you go out and say I'm committed and I'm honest and I care… that's one thing, but to back it up, to show some of these deeds… how you act in the community; the things you do. It's a great way to…to kind of highlight that.
Alicia: Yeah, I definitely think consumers can pick up on when you're not sincere; when you're just…
Alicia: …marketing or whatever so…
Justin: Well, I mean, this sort of tangential to what Steve's talking about, but in social media, oftentimes you you'll want your audience or your customers to contribute to the conversation, so they're taking selfies or they're taking photographs and they're posting it up and that also can tell the story…
Justin: …on the organization from their point of view.
Steve: Right, and that that's huge. We were talking about this before we started. There's a company that I work for that does events for their employees, and I'll photograph that and there's another company I do that for as well that I'll photograph, but the one company brands the heck out of it. There's their logo everywhere, there's their mission statement everywhere… so every time I take a picture it's easy to get that in the background and the other company does not. I have a picture of seven people sitting on stage answering questions and is a black curtain behind them which to me is the perfect opportunity to at least hang a banner and there's nothing and these are both big multi-million dollar companies but it it's not so much about my photographs because my photographs for both of those companies are going to pretty much be internal. It's about the selfies. So the people walking around taking pictures of themselves with their friends and holding up the bags of, you know, swag, that they're getting for free… if they have that branding in the background, and people, their brothers, aunts, uncles mom and dad, see those pictures that they're sending out on Facebook, or what-have-you, they're gonna know who they're working for and they're going to see that those people care…
Steve: …The other company has nothing branded and people are looking at that… at those pictures, going, who are they? Where do they work? There's a whole different message and the other thing that comes through is the company that is branded, that's giving away the swag and everything, those pictures of the people seem more committed, more interested, more dedicated, and they're certainly having more fun.
Bill: Sure, plus it also… it also makes it easier on Alicia's end...
Bill: …when she’s tasked to put something up on social media. When that branding is in the background, it’s a lot easier…
Bill: …to…to showcase that.
Alicia: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that's very interesting. Okay, like at the perspective of a company that's committed. And it's just be a photo, you know, it's not like they're…they're putting their logo on the photos, it just happens to be part of the event it's part of…
Justin: …it's part of the story
Justin: It's part of the story the picture is telling.
Justin: And…and I think that's… that that's a more authentic way to do it, you know, whether they're wearing a t-shirt or whether they've got the swag bag or there's something in the background… um more I think that then if you were just stamping a logo on after the fact.
Alicia: Yeah, yeah…
Alicia: …because I see companies do that. And it's kind of like if you had just made the…the photo from the start. Brand it, or had a better experience or a company… I guess a company “presence” … then it would have worked out better.
Justin: Alicia was saying earlier, it's like we really need like Marketing Essentials coffee mugs because we need to start branding ourselves better.
Alicia: Yes, you were saying with the stage… that with that background…
Justin: Yeah, yeah.
Alicia: Like we don't have anything, but we’re not a multimillion dollar company yet.
Justin: It's the cobbler's kids that have no shoes, right?
Steve: Yeah, I like that idea.
Bill: Yeah, we're getting there, wait, a little bit at a time… So, um, I think we're just about towards the end here as far as wrapping up. Final thoughts Justin?
Justin: I really appreciate you telling us about this Levers Lace Project and I'm really happy to see the book out. I mean, I've been hearing about this for a while and I know you've been…
Steve: It’s taken a long time.
Justin: …anxiously waiting…. but it's a beautiful book. The photography is amazing, and I just really appreciate you coming in and sort of giving us a…an inside look… giving us an inside look on, ok, what you look for when you go in and do a photo shoot for an organization. What do, you …you know, you're really thinking about the end result.
Justin: You know that old saying of like, start with the end in mind or you…you really are thinking about that. You're not just going in and saying well I'm just gonna take some pictures and hand them my invoice and I'm done
Steve: Yeah, I know, my discussion I've had is if you want somebody to come in to take a picture of this machine, I'm generally not your guy, because I'm gonna ask you why this machine? What's important about this machine?...
Steve: …and through a series of questions, may actually come to find out that that machine isn't gonna do you any good because it's 40 years old and there's other companies that have 20 year old machines… and maybe the discussion ought to be what your biggest asset is. And it probably isn't the machine; it’s often your people.
Justin: Well like a lot of designers and other people that work in our profession, the ones that are really at the top of the game, are the ones that ask those questions…
Justin: …because they really want their customer, their client, to look good. You know they want to tell an effective story, so you know the difference between a hired gun, just to come in and take photos, and somebody who really is interested in what is your organization is about, because, I want to tell that story because there's a huge gap between those two.
Bill: And the reality is that's a lost art form nowadays…
Bill: …There are fewer and fewer photographers out there that will take the time to say, I want to know why you're doing this, what's the importance of this, yeah, like Steve said, you can hire anybody to come in and shoot a pretty picture…
Justin: Take photos, yeah.
Bill: …you know…of something…
Alicia: There’s the technical aspect and then there’s the…
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Alicia: …and then there's the deeper
Justin: And if you really need to connect this to an ROI…
Justin: …you know further for your customer, you can say, wel,l if we're able to make an emotional connection with your prospective clients…
Justin: …that is going to mean more revenues for your business, because people make purchasing decisions…
Justin: …based on emotion. And you've got a lot of competition, and you really need to have an advantage over your competition, so you need to make that emotional connection.
Bill: And that’s all a part of that differentiating yourself from your competition.
Aicia: And you said something interesting when you intro’d…and how you were you started out in photography…but history… photography has changed elements of history.
Steve: Oh, absolutely.
Alicia: You, mentioned the child labor…so if photography, if good photography, can change history, I think you can make a difference in your
Steve: Sure, sure. Well that was well said. The great probably; a good way to end this.
Bill: Yeah, we're gonna end it, but one thing that I do want to make mention, that we haven't mentioned yet, and unfortunately for a sake of brevity we're not going to attach it to the actual podcast, but Steve did create a YouTube video that is the story of Leavers Lace.
Bill: We're gonna attach that to the podcast notes.
Justin: Ya, it’ll be in the notes.
Alicia: Good stuff. Check it out.
Bill: Really need to take the time to watch it again. Steve Huck. If somebody wants to get your book, we'll put that in the notes too, but what's the easiest way to do it? through your website?
Steve: You can contact me through my website or Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, It's the same price, either way.
Steve: If you give me a call, we can have a cup of coffee and I'll sign it for you.
Justin: Oh, wow.
Bill: I'm waiting on my signed copy, so thank you again, Steve, for joining us today. We appreciate it, It's been a pleasure having you here.
Steve: It's good to be here. Thank you very much for having me.
Justin: And of course, now is the time for our shameless plug.
Bill: Yes, absolutely.
Justin: We appreciate you spending time with us today on the podcast. You can reach us through our website, marketingessentialsteam.com There's a…. our free webinar is there…
Justin: …as you can take a look at that. Was a one-hour webinar on marketing that covers photography, as well as social media and websites.
Bill: Yes, we…what would we did back in February
Justin: …yes, we did that back in February. That's available there. You can see all of our podcasts on our website, and you can contact us through the website, and if you have any questions for anybody here on the team or if you have a suggestion or an idea for a podcast topic or a suggestion for our next guest on our podcast, you can reach us through the website.
Bill: We would love to hear it.
Justin: Also, you can find us on Facebook at Marketing Essentials Team
Alicia: Team up.
Justin: And you can get updates there on what we're doing next. What's the latest thing that Alicia has tried to make her a true Rhode Islander…that's right.
Bill: Actually, the other… the other thing is, also, if you have an idea because we've already done a few things in the podcast we've done the Awful, Awful… we've done…
Justin: New York system.
Bill: New York systems.
Justin: Yacht club soda.
Bill: Yacht club soda.
Justin: There was one more thing…
Alicia: Union Brewery.
Bill: Union Brewery.
Justin: Oh yes, Union Station Brewery.
Bill: Right, yeah, we're also gonna be, at some point in time, doing the Rocky… Rocky Point chowder and clam cakes.
Alicia: I could go for some clam cakes right now.
Justin: Yeah, are you not… okay, so this is this is one of those things that if you go around Rhode Island… everybody has their opinion about where the best clam cakes are. I happen to like Iggy’s. A lot of people like Rocky Point… you have… I'm assuming you have a favorite.
Steve: I don't have a favorite. I'm still looking, but I pulled into the Rocky Point store.
Steve: You know in front of the Yen and Hope.
Steve: on Pulse Rd.
Steve: And I thought, oh this is so cool, and tried and the chowder. It was inedible.
Justin: Oh no.
Steve: And the clam cakes… were…
Bill: Some things have changed.
Steve: …barely acceptable. So, they weren't the Rocky Point chowder and clam cakes I remember as a kid.
Bill: Well yeah, they moved. They were further down the road in that little storefront for a while and they were fairly decent.
Steve: I'm remembering them from when I had a paper route.
Bill: Ya, me too.
Steve: Paper boys go to Rocky Point.
Bill: Well, the other place…
Justin: We, that we have to explain, Alicia, there used to be small children that would deliver newspapers to your front door… okay… this is getting away…
Bill: Okay, this is getting way…
Steve: If I may, before we finish, please support these people in any way you can. It's wonderful that they're taking the time, energy and there's a lot of work… than preparation that goes into doing this. To try to explain in a nice, interesting, cohesive manner what marketing is, and branding is to kind of answer your questions and I'm a big adherent of that.
Bill: We got to give up that. Check later for a gift card.
Justin: Yeah yeah we gotta give him that gift card to… to Rocky Point Chowder.
Bill: Somehow, I have a feeling that would be a giveaway later on.
Justin: Yeah, yeah.
Justin: Yeah, yeah.
Bill: Alright, so…
Justin: We got to wrap this.
Alica: Thank you guys for joining us.
Justin: Yes, absolutely.
Alicia: Thank you Steve for being our guest.
Steve: Thank You.
Bill: As we say, that's a wrap. We'll see you guys next time.