Annual Report photography is a discipline requiring a photographer with a wide skill set. The range of work can be anything from portraits of the CEO to case study work around the world to still life work either on site or in the studio.
As you can see this covers just about every discipline a photographer can master, the people person, the traveller and the introverted studio practitioner!
On top of this quite often the work with the input of design agencies or creative marketing departments can add a twist to all the images, sometimes a particular style, colour treatment or even theme related to the industry or particular company. So your annual report photographer really has to be a practitioner of many shades with the ability to apply a theme or creative thought process to any subject.
I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in quite a few annual reports over the years ranging from one for the Foreign Office with travel to China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Turkey to more home grown projects like the Metropolitan Police and Wickes DIY stores to name just a couple.
With the digital age and the recent recession there has been a change in the priorities of companies towards their annual report. The expense of a print run and physical distribution of bulky tombs have been shed in favour of downloadable PDFs and stripped down versions of the printed report with less photography for those on the margins with reduced profits. After all, the first thing to easily cut are budgets on extras like annual reports.
One of the most interesting pitches I had to do to win an annual report was for the Foreign Office. It started off reasonably traditionally having been approached with a brief from the client to give an estimate on a set number of days in the various locations worldwide.
Then it got really interesting when a phone call from the buyer confirmed it was down to just two of us for them to decide between and that to help them decide could I produce an A4 sheet with my proposed photographic handling of producing images for a particular page and subject of their web site. Also could they please have this within the next 4 hours!
When pressure is applied to the creative mind some rise to the occasion and others crumble. I’m glad to say I thrive on a bit of pressure and with an added time limit I was able to write a good enough plan to win the job.
For that particular job I then was asked to attend a briefing meeting, perfectly normal one might think but when I arrived in the Whitehall offices at the allotted time I was confronted with a large formal table full of 20 representatives of various departments who all wanted particular images to come out of the multi location shoot.
The old saying that too many cooks can spoil the broth was an apt comment here where too many bosses and only one worker became very apparent very soon. Luckily the skills needed to be a good annual report photographer also include organising people. So it wasn’t so difficult to listen to all of them and then précis back their requirements.
The hardest job in taking a brief in these sort of situations is when the brief giver is a wordsmith. This might be a PR or Marketing professional or someone who thinks in emotions. So when we come to the brief we end up with a stream of emotion words as a description of their image requirements. Sometimes this might include words like gritty, warm or invigorating without actually relating these moods to a particular subject to be captured.
It can be very difficult to get this sort of person to visualise pictures. Where I as a photographer probably think in pictures this sort of person has trouble visualising their concepts. When the scenario being offered is a very set location or sequence of locations that are going to be visited the brief can get sidelined by reality unless there is a clear visual style that has been agreed on before commencing. Obviously with a committee for direction that becomes almost impossible.
Other Annual Reports have been far more straight forward, from simple to camera portraits of the board creatively lit as with the FSA to reportage style coverage of a board meeting produced in black and white for the Land Registry.
Some of the more fun ones tend to include case study work, getting out in the field and shooting the sort of work the company does. Many times these sort of shoots require a photographer to be not only creative with both framing and lighting but also quick as we are often dealing with live situations .
Sometimes the theme of an annual report might be client commendations and recommendations. In that situation the photographer is doubly important to be the right man for the job as he is at your clients representing your company as far as the client is concerned.
So versatility is the name of the game for a good Annual Report photographer, good with people both direct to camera and catching people at their work. Being creative with landscape and architectural work as well as having the ability to produce good studio or product photography.
If you are looking for an annual report photographer make sure their folio covers the width and depth of subject that you need covering. Make sure that the person is socially adept and easy to talk to, happy to move in any circles. Make sure they understand your brief and concepts and above all give them the time and scope to bring back your chosen images.
If being a photographer generally is regarded as a privilege, then being an annual report photographer must be described as an honour. It’s great to love the work you do!