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Business Curiosity Exposure Making Art Making Pictures Marketing Philosophy Richard Kelly Experience

Thinking Ahead

Last week in two separate conversations, I used the words “thinking ahead.” Conceptually we like to think we do this well, but most of us fail even with our best new ideas. Big thinkers take a small concept that exponentially expands. They gather interest, investors, partners, and collaborators to take that small idea to an extravagant completion. I hear from big thinkers almost every day asking me to help them create imagery. Though, some of them wait too long even after their project is already underway or practically completed.  

These conversations with filmmakers, real estate developers, technology entrepreneurs, and other innovative businesses making transformational changes all have stories that I want to help them tell if they had just thought ahead. They want photographs that they can now use to tell the story of their big idea. But there is no way to re-visualize their process measuring what they have accomplished because no photographs were made with that intention—not thinking ahead what images they will need in the end to tell the story. 

While living in New York City in the early ’90s, I thought I might want to make motion pictures. Not knowing that much about filmmaking, I offered to work on small indie films. I was working with many talented individuals. I learned that one of the many required “assets” film festivals ask for are publicity stills to assist in “promoting” the movies. As a photographer, I was a valuable asset on these indie productions and taught myself how to package these with other materials for festivals. One evening at a wrap party, a young filmmaker approached me. He had heard through a colleague that I created festival packets. And he needed some help with his festival proposal. So we went through my mental checklist – script, application, list of cast and crew, synopsis, check, check, and check he said – still photos? (cue the sound of film breaking in a projector). Ahhh! He said someone did make some snapshots with their camera, but no one was responsible for making those still photos. He asked if I could help. I shook my head and said, look, we could recreate a scene or two if you have access to the location and the actors, but it is not the same. 

I was preparing, before the pandemic, to deliver a “lunch and learn” session about documenting your startup story. I planned to say that good visual storytelling is critical to rising above the startup competition. Thinking ahead for visual stories requires commitment, discipline, and money. Yes, money! A business school leader reminded me that seed money is for the core purpose of startup culture. My reply, without planning for storytelling (READ marketing) images, no one will visualize the value you are building. Indeed, I am sure that some early-stage funders will disagree with me and point to examples of startups that prove themselves without marketing imagery. But in a global conversation of visual media, pictures and videos matter. Without visual images, you are only as good as your best textual metaphors with bullet points on a pitch deck. 

Once in a conversation with a client over a project launch. I told the story of being commissioned by a financial institution to create artwork for their new office. Their ask was for images of the city from their skyscraper point of view – not postcard-style photos but images that reflected their unique worldview. He loved this idea, and then I revealed that often the “process photographs” that I make for long-term projects also end up as artwork on the walls of their company Headquarters. These images can rise above the initial purpose and can be aesthetically beautiful as well. We closed the deal on the spot.

Learning about future-forward projects and the people who put these into action is my favorite part of my storytelling. Thinking ahead to craft a visual story for publicity, fundraising, and memorializing history is what I do. 

If your organization has an emerging story to tell and wants my visual point of view, email me at richard@richardkelly.com.

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Business Curiosity Marketing Philosophy Photography Richard Kelly Experience

Humans with cameras.

The camera allows us to see things we otherwise could never see as humans. However, the camera alone is not very useful. Ansel Adams, the famous American Landscape photographer, once quipped, “The single most important component of a camera is the 12 inches behind it.” without a human purpose, the camera is of no use.

Suppose you are a visionary chief executive wanting to illustrate to your potential investors that your leadership team is polishing the antique industrial company into a shiny new modern technology brand—the most efficient method is to contract with a professional photographer creating those transformational stories. Otherwise, you risk not telling this critical story because the cameras are still sitting in the box.

A professional photographer’s job is to make photographs that inform, educate, or emotionally connect with the viewer. Whether journalistically, for marketing, or advertising, a photographer with intention, skill and focus will use their camera to communicate the essence effectively to create compelling visual storytelling.

I love using photography to tell stories. I get to combine my curiosity and lifelong learning and translate those experiences into visual compositions that, when combined with crafted words and elegant design, moves someone to feel something, take action, or stay informed.

I create visual experiences. 

My team and I are available to produce your organization’s unique story and share it with the world. 

Richard Kelly is the President of the Richard Kelly Experience based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He and his team create visual stories for organizations just like yours.

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Business Making Pictures Marketing Philosophy Photography Richard Kelly Experience Uncategorized

The one about the CEO who bought professional digital cameras for his managers… a parable.

I am not a widget photographer, but I am interested in innovative people and how they make things. For a handful of years, I had been photographing a multinational corporation that made widgets. I had made some pictures for them, and we had been discussing a longer-term project to show their “new and improved process and people for shareholders.” Not that long ago, I would have called these annual report photographs, but now I think of them as “core mission stories” – and by the way – organizations should focus more on these to tell their unique story to stakeholders. 

But I digress. For several years the CEO who was brought in to sell a new corporate perspective to their Wall Street investors about how “an old gritty industrial company” was transforming as a “shiny new technology industry leader” and I discussed using photography and video to show these innovative talents and techniques that the company was implementing. He knew Wall Street had yet to grasp this new point of growth, and I was presenting him an opportunity to reframe the story visually before turning the leadership over to a new team. 

The following year, as he and I stepped aside to make his leadership portrait, he excitedly told me, “you know the concept you pitched for telling the stories of our workers and processes? well, I solved that by buying my plant managers D-SLR’s and instructing them to take pictures.” My photographer’s soul shriveled up and went up to my throat. I was planning to convince him to put this project on the calendar finally. Instead, I was learning that an “everyone with a camera” scenario was replacing my idea. I thought quickly on my feet and rebounded by saying, you know, Mr. CEO, I teach workshops, and I can put together a custom program to teach your managers how to use these cameras. He waved his hand and said these cameras are so sophisticated that they pretty much take the pictures themselves. I finished the session, and my assistant knew I was mentally defeated, and she suggested we stop for lunch to talk about the end of commercial photography as we knew it.

The following year I was a bit surprised they scheduled me to make the annual leadership photographs. Figuring that one of the plant managers would stop by and “snap a picture.” The CEO, I learned, was retiring soon – even though the company didn’t have the positive turnaround he desired. He was ready to move out of the day-to-day operations. As we stepped away to make his final CEO portrait, I asked him how the manager’s photography assignments had worked out? He chuckled and said, “would you believe it if I told you that they have never even taken the cameras out of their boxes.”

Although I wasn’t thrilled that the CEO retiring, the story of the cameras still in their boxes reminded me that I still have value as a visual storyteller. 

Everyone might have a camera with technology that makes taking pictures more accessible and of decent quality. The managers didn’t make the photographs because that is not what they do; they manage manufacturing. They didn’t have the intention. Photographers craft compelling visual stories because that is what we do. 

Richard Kelly is the President of The Richard Kelly Experience, Creating visual stories for mission-focused organizations, framing their unique perspectives with compelling imagery for their stakeholders. 

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Give your visuals a post-pandemic facelift. 

 Everything is changing fast.

Thanks to the miracle of science, we are emerging from the darkest cloud of the COVID 19 pandemic. The business reboot is this summer of 2021, and visual brands need a refresh too. For the last 16 months, we’ve been distancing, wearing masks, and doing business behind plexiglass – or in front of Zoom. Work fashion changed, our business priorities have even changed, We have all changed. Your customers are ready to see what our “new normal” looks like now. 

From Fortune 500 companies to the boutiques on Main Street for many, marketing visuals (photography and short-form video) have taken a backseat while we kept business running. 

Recently I have been talking with my clients about these four things to consider to refresh your organizations visual brand using photography.

  1. Identify the three things you want to illustrate to show your business is “thriving, not just surviving?” I work with my clients to determine the best way to illustrate these business messages in a series of photographs, well-designed web advertisements, or a short-form Instagram video. 
  2. As public health recommendations continue to evolve to the daily needs of your community, plan more frequent updates to your visual marketing package. You may now choose to spread your messaging and visuals budget over a longer time frame to reflect the recovery evolution over the next several months. Businesses have come to me to produce images for rapidly changing conditions to remain current for any situation. 
  3. Consider how your refreshed messaging will reflect the “new-new times?” Will you address the pandemic head-on? Will you show people wearing masks or no masks? Maybe a view of a busy storefront, a socially engaged campus, an in-person meeting. 
  4. Summer gives us the light and weather to showcase your brand message or products in the real world. Many organizations are still determining the working spaces for their people. This is the time to use all of the location assets your organization has to offer. As they say in real estate – “Location, Location, Location” – I am working with several clients who are doing everything from their headshots to experiential photos/videos on location, whether in their backyards, in the mountains, or on the seashore. 

I look forward to talking with you about your marketing refresh.