Show and Tell Your Project Stories

Photos paint the story of a journey.

How many of you have been excited to see one of your friends post photos on their Facebook page only to be completely disappointed because although the photos are beautiful, they don’t TELL you what you are looking at? The friend didn’t bother to put captions to the photos. He didn’t tell a story! And I bet if you are like me, you quickly lost interest in the photos and move onto something else. Am I right?

Showing is okay, but showing the photos while telling the story achieves a new, deeper level of interest. (I mean, you can only look at so many photos of vacation to Grandma’s house without getting bored because you don’t know what you are looking at.)

Let me tell you about my friend, Mike. Mike and I have known each other since the 7th grade. As it turns out, as adults we have a lot of common interests. For starters, Mike is a Washington Capitals fan (you can never go wrong with that), and just like Jason and me, Mike and his wife, Jen, spend a lot of their free time traveling to New England.

Mike loves conquering mountains and recently had the opportunity to check another mountain off his “must climb” list – Mt. Washington (home of the world’s worst weather). Since I spent part of my childhood living in New Hampshire, I took a particularly keen interest in Mike’s journey to climb Mt. Washington.

Mike also happens to be a top-rate “amateur” photographer (you can see his amazing photos here), so I wasn’t disappointed at all when I saw his photos of his climb. But what made the photos even more compelling was the STORY Mike told of his adventure with his photos.
Between the photos and the captions, I felt like I was on the journey with him – from his crack-of-dawn photo …

photo 1“I parked at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and started the hike around 6 am. On the way up the trail as I crossed over the Cutler River I was greeted by an awesome sunrise.”

… to his victory photo standing beside the wooden sign that announced Mt. Washington’s summit, 6,288 feet:

“And I am here!!! Cold, in the low 40s with a sustained wind of 55 mph and gusts to around 65 or so. I stayed here for quite a while though … It’s kinda mesmerizing. I should add that it was difficult to stand straight up, and I did get pushed around a bit by the wind. Actually, quite a lot. Some smaller people up here actually got knocked over by the wind.”top

Wow! Can you feel the wind hitting your face and the cold chilling your body?

So how do you use photos to tell the project story?

First off, get an easy-to-use pocket-sized digital camera for each of your job supervisors (if they won’t use their smartphone) so they can take photos every day. You never know when they’ll capture just the right photos for your use.

BEFORE PHOTOS: Before you start any project, take lots of “before” photos. These will give consumers a reference point of what life was like before you came in and solved the homeowner’s uncomfortable living conditions.

Remodelers, if you are starting a kitchen renovation, don’t worry about the dirty dishes in the sink or the cluttered counter space. In fact, dirty, messy, and dingy photos are perfect ones to have in your arsenal, because these shots make the transformation pop when the project is completed.

And if you are a builder starting a new construction project on a vacant lot, take “before photos” before one ounce of dirt is moved. This is a great point to begin telling your home building story – how you transformed a rocky, briar and weed-infested lot into a beautiful home and yard for a now happy family of four.

DURING PHOTOS: If you are new to taking photos on the job site, remember more is better. Sure, you’ll end up with a lot of photos that you’ll never use (and eventually delete), but this will get you into the habit of taking photos every day. Remember, you can’t tell the journey without “during photos.” As an unknown genius once said: “Life isn’t the destination; it’s the journey.”

AFTER PHOTOS: Once the project is complete, take time to capture GREAT “after photos.” Don’t send just anyone from your office to take these photos. If you can’t hire a professional photographer, make sure you assign the best photographer you have on staff to this task. Remember, these photos are going to showcase the final product of your work to future customers.

This is where gloss and shine matter. The kitchen can’t be cluttered, dusty, or un-staged. Make sure the kitchen table is set, place fresh flowers in a vase on the table, and strategically place a bowl of shiny apples on the counter. Understand when natural light will work to your advantage and time your photography session accordingly. You don’t want kitchen photos where sunlight is streaming in and blinding your work.

And finally, photos connect on a more personal level with your potential customers when there are people included in them. If your customer is willing, take a family photo in the new room. This serves as a face of the project, and you can also frame the photo and give to your client as a thank you.

Once you have all of your project photos, select the photos that BEST capture the journey. From there, begin telling the story. Don’t simply give construction details, but also get to the heart of why the customer wanted this project completed.

Want help writing your project success stories? Contact me.



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2 thoughts on “Show and Tell Your Project Stories”

  1. GREAT post Tess…I agree that a good photo diary of a project can help on many levels. The client wants to know that their contractor is involved at at very level and keeping good digital photo album would confirm that.

    I have a system where I can take a photo in the field with my Droid phone and email it right then and there to a secure site for only the client to view.

    Posting project photos on the web has also been good for potential clients to good feel for who we are and what we do.

    Look forward to seeing more on this.

  2. Dan – thanks for offering this great tip. You aren’t the first contractor that’s shared with me that they upload photos and project information into a secure site for their clients to view – but I didn’t know about uploading directly from your phone! Very cool!

    Please check out my blog post (Nov 18, 2010) – where I shared your great tip.

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