1. Get Your HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) Certification
It’s not everyday that you wake up and realize how awesome a birds-eye-view of the world really is until you’ve seen it for yourself. I guess you could say this perspective is addicting (if you could only imagine the view from space) and that there’s no wonder why so many pilots enjoy their office 40,000 feet in the air.
But not all is bright when you put your faith in just a few blades spinning at 500 RPM and there has already been 20 helicopter accidents in the first quarter of 2014. However, compared to the number of helicopters flying, these stats are not intimidating. Especially considering the fact that we are terrestrial creatures and shouldn’t be doing this in the first place!
The HUET course is designed for “Personnel who are required to regularly travel by helicopter over water” and it takes just one day to complete.
As most industrial photographers know there are a few laws to obey and this one should not be ignored. Essentially, the HUET certification is a photographers gateway to “explore a new angle”.
What are the opportunities out there for industrial photographers with the HUET certification?
Let’s first define the two types of aerial photography; oblique and vertical.
Oblique aerial photography is the process of taking pictures from an angle to provide a sense of definition and depth while vertical as the name implies, includes photographs from a direct birds eye view looking straight down on the subject.
Oblique photography is often used for advertising and promotion work, aerial construction progress reports and for commercial and residential property land up for sale. On the contrary, vertical photography fits in for mapping projects, farm evaluation and scientific studies such a flood risk assessment and so on.
Although I have done aerial photography over land, the main reasons to obtain the HUET certification is to allow me to do offshore work. Personally, I am not HUET certified but it’s definitely in the pipeline.
2. Join Various Oil and Gas Groups and Other Industry Related Organizations
Industrial photographers in the midwest region have access to a growing number of oil and gas groups that are just starting to realize their full potential. Oil and gas groups such as the Illinois based Midwest Energy Partners are constantly seeking available minerals and geological zones with the ability to produce commercial levels of oil and gas. These new ventures raise the demand for professional industrial photography, especially specific types such as aerial. Refining natural oil and gas is a long process which presents photographers with more chances to get in on the action. It’s important to understand the production cycle of the various gas and oil products such as methanol, solvents, greases, diesel fuel and more. There’s a time and place to capture everything behind the scenes and that’s the job of an industrial photographer.
3. Attend Trade Shows Related To Industrial Manufacturing Per Year
Even though social media has become a popular and useful method of networking, trade shows payoff of in the short run and are much more fun. Trade shows are the perfect platform for engaging in face to face communication and staying up to date on new technology and industry standards.
When I attend a trade show I always wear a safety green shirt with a QR code on the back that directs people to my website. Following the trade show I dive into my site analytics to see how much website activity I receive.
During the trade show I’ll also upload images to instagram and then repurpose them on my other social media accounts. Curating this content is a great way to reach out to everybody involved in the trade show and it’s a great way to stay in touch with new contacts.
I am planning on attending The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in September which is one of the largest industrial trade shows in the world, featuring 1,900 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors. The event is held every two years at McCormick Place, Chicago.
4. Show Off On Social Media, Don’t Just Show Up
Creating your accounts and inviting all your friends to like your pages is the easy part. The challenge is maintaining a consistent presence and engaging with thought leaders and industrial manufacturing related groups. Hashtags have proved to be the best way to turn leads into likes by pushing out photos and blog posts with #industrialmanufcaturing and #photography related tags.
- Use hashtags to connect with your industry by tagging your content with hashtags that are trending and related to your field.
- I usually add new images to Flickr and Pinterest 2 to 3 times a month. And repin other peoples pins 2 times a month.
- I spend time on Twitter each day posting 3 tweets.
Of course I’m on instagram and here is my first selfie.
In the end, the most important part of being an industrial photographer is to remind myself why I started this profession in the first place. Never lose sight of why you started something and always look for ways to be better at what you love doing.
As an industrial photographer I enjoy capturing everyday life and communicating the way in which society sustains itself.
I live by the philosophy that’s it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. However, this philosophy only turns out for the better when you know your rights and boundaries as a photographer. Take for example the time I reached out to the staff of an industrial manufacturing trade show and was declined to photograph the event although the event was public.
Of course everyone there was tappy happy on their smart phones capturing everything and the chances were slim that I would’ve been detained for bringing my camera. So I decided to grab a few video clips. Did I make the right choice to ask the staff prior to the event?
It’s important for industrial photographers to understand the basic laws that impact our work and I understand if you fell asleep in ethics class. We’d rather take pictures than read books about law, right?
Cops and cameras are a suspicious combination and 90% of the time photographers aren’t out there to break laws while on the job but sometimes we skirt the boundaries in order to capture those atypical images.
Here’s a look at the laws through my lens told from personal experience.
There’s No Stopping Me On Public Property
I was once threatened by a police officer while doing street photography when I lived in Pittsburg. This was even prior to 9/11 and I was shocked. Although you have the right to photograph anything in plain view when standing in a public space, you may be confronted.
- Federal Buildings, Railroad Stations, Airports and other transportation facilities can be photographed from a distance while standing in public property.
- Telephoto lenses may attract attention from law enforcement and if ever confronted, be polite and understanding.
- Police may not confiscate your camera, SD cards or film in any circumstance without court order, on public or private property.
- Your right to take pictures in public spaces is protected under the first amendment. Big Brother is watching the public, but the public is able to watch Big Brother.
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. ~ Benjamin Franklin
Moving Beyond Public Spaces
There has been a recent widespread phenomenon about revealing the truth behind what we eat. Documentary filmmakers are going behind the scenes of some of the largest factories and manufacturing plants in the United States to tell their stories.
There is a balance between the stories we want to tell and the laws we must obey and the magic happens somewhere in the middle.
On the industrial manufacturing side, I’m usually asked to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA). Even though I usually retain the copyright, I need permission to publicly show some of the work. Manufactures are always worried about disclosing trade secrets and reverse engineering.
Did you know?… British and American forces noticed that the Germans had gasoline cans with an excellent design. They reverse-engineered copies of those cans which were popularly known as “Jerry cans”.
Once on a shoot in Toledo the client needed images to show the facility capabilities but without revealing machines in action. In response to this dilemma, we took an inventive approach and ended up shooting abstract and detailed images.
Photographers are entitled to express their opinions and share their stories to educate, communicate and fuel business endeavors. There are laws that impact every choice we make in some way or another and we live within a constructed and developed society that embraces freedom of speech.
If you haven’t learned yet, I am an industrial photographer working in a town called Lewis Center. This area sits right outside the capital city of Ohio, Columbus. I never go a day without hearing the tracks of the railroad rumble and I will always be mesmerized by the endless surrounding rows of corn fields.
Here’s a quick glimpse at these scenes!
It’s a solid location for any industrial photographer to stake out a studio. Cleveland, the industrial hub and nationwide ranking city is on one end and Akron, the rubber capital of the country sits right below. I am about three hours from the primary industrial cities such as Indianapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
There’s a lot to get my hands (lens) on in this area and no matter what working conditions I find myself shooting in, I strive to produce powerful visual images designed to educated, communicate and sell.
But just where do my pictures go? What are they used for? Who and what do I take pictures of? The list of questions goes on and on so let’s reveal some answers.
Hard Work, Hard Work, Read All About It
Pictures that reflect the environment and hard work of employees in action are just a part of industrial photography. I also capture images of groups and teams for companies to show their appreciation for a work in progress or a job well done. These pictures will be published in news articles and company brochures and come in the form of group shots.
A point and shoot camera can rarely capture the appreciation and glamour surrounding such teams. Certain lighting techniques, props and themes are what separates the photos I take from those captured with smartphones or point and shoot cameras. The picture used to show the pride of a team are just as important as the pride itself.
Shine A Light On Me
You have a new product that you are bringing to the market soon and your company needs pictures for brochures, catalogues, websites and marketing materials. This is when I take your product to my studio and execute lighting techniques to capture every angle possible.
Product photography can be captured outside of the studio and inside the environment it’s used.
Progress Shots on Facility Projects
There’s something special about watching home videos. We see ourselves at a certain point in time looking and acting differently and we can reflect on our past times. These videos essentially capture the progress of our lives. In the manufacturing industry, it’s no different but the focus transfers to machinery, facilities and gigantic industrial plants.
These images become great reminders to reflect on the past and serve to show appreciation for your company. The reason top notch photography provides the best outcome in these situations is because people want to see the best part of what happened and it takes a special eye to document these events.
Catch My Attention!
Professional photographers aim to portray the most real life aspects of your business. Rather than choosing a picture of a model that is striking a pose that’s been done a thousand times, I will understand your vision and bring the uniqueness of your company to life.
Stock photography does not reveal professionalism of a company in todays visual driven media world. Anyone can bust out an iphone and snap a picture of their new machine and products but there is a higher demand on quality images in order to break out from the crowd and be noticed.
This is the most common type of work I do and I enjoy it most. These pictures go in marketing materials, product catalogs and business websites. Therefore, they will have the highest viewership among my published work.
These pictures can either be taken in my studio or on the location at your companies facility. It depends on the medium where you will be publishing your portraits but I am flexible enough to travel on site or work from the comfort of my studio.
3 Concepts To Improve Your Industrial Manufacturing Strategy
In October, I strolled through the annual Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show in Dayton. Each time I visit here I am reassured that the future of industrial manufacturing is bright. It remains the Ohio hub for manufacturers, suppliers and shippers. Furthermore, the Dayton area has led to many technological innovations. It’s no surprise that the AMTS is hosted in this region over 30,000 square feet of exhibition space showcasing the latest products and technologies shaping the future of manufacturing.
Good photography shows the product in its best light
This is the reoccurring theme that stands out to me each time I visit an industrial manufacturing trade show. The AMTS was no different. The theme revolves around the idea that the images you choose to showcase your new products make a gigantic impact on the reputation, initial response and overall company image you work so hard at perfecting.
Whether your business is developing new machines and technology or expanding its factory to maximize production, it’s vital to showcase these ‘upgrades’ in a way that adds value to your company. As you develop new technology you must showcase it in the best way possible.
Technology photography plays an important role to connect the buyer to supplier and vice versa. The real machines may not always be available but powerful industrial images allow industry professionals to gain a better understanding of equipment, faster.
Excuse my bias as an industrial photographer but it’s true
I believe mediocre images tend to make a company look like they are small and that they don’t care about their image. There is nothing wrong with a small company by any means. In fact they’ve been the foundation for many aspects of innovation since our industrial revolution.
On the other hand, notice I mentioned “Don’t care about their image”. If you let your image wither down how can you expect anything to grow. Especially given the fact that your business photography is most commonly the first impression you give off when obtaining new business. There was a lot of nice photography at the AMTS but I was surprised to see many companies with subpar images.
Industrial photography techniques for the low budget
Updating your database of high quality product photos may not be the most economical decision at this point and time in the year. With that said, there are various others methods to get the most out of your current photography arsenal.
1. Pictures are powerful for SEO: Check out my recent post about the usage of pictures in industrial marketing to dive deeper into the concept but for starters you must correctly tag your photos with the most information as possible.
- Use ALT text to describe your product. Search engines find your photos by searching the text, not the image. ALT text is the primary text that Google uses to identify images in search results. ALT texts are usually the product name, i.e. 30 ft. horizontal car loading vacuum furnace, or Model MP1200 Melt Indexer.
2. Take advantage of free and powerful social photography tools: You may be timid to implement a social media tool such as Instagram into your industrial marketing strategy but believe or not, this platform can help you immensely. For your next trade show, call on the employee with the best eye to take snapshots of your new technology and equipment. These product photos can be tagged in Instagram and be shared within your community of followers. In the meantime feel free to follow me for a dose of industrial photos each week. What you see is what you get!
Industrial equipment is large, complex and shiny. Whenever I’m taking photos of technology in action or in my studio I replay the single most important part of picture taking:
The word photography comes from two ancient Greek words: photo, for “light,” and graph, for “drawing.” “Drawing with light”.
Good photography combines texture, tone and shadow with dimensional character. This is different with every subject. Through experience I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t and I’m always looking for new ways to light different subjects. The biggest NO NO is on camera flash. Subjects should be lit with directional light. Photos taken with on camera flash tend to look flat and absent of mood and character. This is also known as ‘unnatural’ and most often, the background will be dark.
Good Industrial photography translates the technical language of your engineering and marketing team by producing powerful visual images designed to educate, communicate, and sell.