Harnessing the Power of a Great Portfolio to Grow Your Landscaping Business – Part 1: Getting Great Project Photos

Harnessing the Power of a Great Portfolio to Grow Your Landscaping Business

Part 1: Getting Great Project Photos

In any industry, a professional’s portfolio is key to successfully acquiring new customers. Photographic portfolios are particularly helpful for landscape construction professionals. This collection of photographs displays prior projects, so potential customers get a real-life impression of what they can expect from your work. Whether you’re a landscape professional striving to create a portfolio for the first time, or just looking to refresh your current one, investing time, money, and effort into your photographs can pay dividends. The right photograph can help potential customers and homeowners envision the kind of happiness and enjoyment your well executed project will provide. Ultimately, you’re helping them embrace the potential for enjoyment of their home by giving them the tools to envision the lifestyle and experience possible within their outdoor space.

Choosing Your Subject Matter

Incorporating photos of projects “in-process” is useful for potential customers to have an appreciation of what to expect during construction. However, this approach probably interests you far more than it will interest homeowners. Property owners are far more likely to react positively to photographs that let them anticipate the finished product rather than the process it takes to get there. As you consider how to structure your new portfolio, keep in mind that you aren’t simply selling a hardscape, you’re selling the potential experiences to be enjoyed within the new space.
As a professional in the landscape industry, you may find it difficult to separate yourself from the process side of things and embrace the potential lifestyle use of the design. In short, you’re selling the idea of a lifestyle, a lifestyle that your customer can only achieve once they’ve hired you. Not surprisingly, this struggle is common among contractors attempting to build an effective portfolio. By making a few adjustments to how and when you photograph your finished projects, you’ll have the impactful portfolio photos that you need for all your critical marketing efforts.

Schedule It

The busy landscaping season places demands on your time and schedule so it’s no surprise that photographing your finished projects is often put on the backburner. By scheduling a time to physically drive out and take the photos, you’re more likely to ensure that you get them. To use your time efficiently, make arrangements with several customers over the course of one day to get as many different projects photographed as possible, making sure to try to capture the multiple services you offer.
Identifying the right projects to photograph and allowing enough time to pass after their completion, is an important consideration. Select customers who have a workable budget and an appreciation for quality and longevity. You won’t want to return to your project only to be disappointed in the way that the outdoor spaces have been treated. In addition, waiting until around six months after completion will give the homeowners time to purchase outdoor furniture, plantings to mature, and the landscape design to really develop into part of the home. The ideal homeowners will be thrilled with the prospect of showing off their home, and they’ll appreciate your consideration in asking them for the privilege of being featured in your portfolio. Not only will waiting a bit of time reflect well on the project, it will also go far in developing a deeper customer relationship with the property owners. Getting back in touch with them to request permission to take photographs is a great way to stay in touch with your best customers.

Stage It

As you embark on taking pictures for your portfolio, invest time and effort into staging the area. Take a tip from the pros and recognize that customers are seeking an experience; sometimes they need some visual assistance to see the potential of their own property. Browse a few magazines and go for similar looks when you stage the projects by adding fabrics, color, and accessories. Remember, that if you give property owners sufficient time, much of this work will be done for you.

Shoot It

Depending on the size of your company and the budget available, you can either delegate the task of photography to an outside professional or do it yourself with your smart phone. The right photographer can certainly make a huge difference in the finished product. Either way, make sure that the pictures selected reflect a natural sense of lifestyle and experience rather than typically dry photographs of hardscape installations. You’ll find that potential customers connect to the images in a more powerful and enthusiastic fashion when they can picture the lives led within the space.
Using a few professional tricks and browsing the Unilock catalog for a touch of inspiration will guide you in improving your project photography. Use the photo angles, setups, and viewpoints used within the folds of the Unilock catalog as a standard guideline. Next, remember to take some of the pictures from slightly lower than eye level. While many landscape contractors will take the shots from up high looking downward, this perspective lessens the intimacy of your work. From this higher perspective, the project will seem smaller and less dynamic than it would using a perspective that is closer and from a lower angle. Your aim should be to make the construction feel as personal as possible. The potential customers viewing the picture should feel as though they would enjoy the area, which won’t happen if the images feel removed and impersonal.
Another element to consider, in addition to the overall scope of your photographs, is the amount and variety. Instead of trying to get the entire area into one image, take many close up images to achieve a more powerful impact. You should also take shots from a variety of angles. One of the many advantages of digital photography is that you can take as many as you’d like and cull the lot to create an excellent selection in the end. Most importantly, as you frame your image, ensure that you have three textures within the shot. For example, avoid pictures with only stone and pavers; incorporate at least one other texture, such as plantings, fabric, or pillows, to create an aesthetically pleasing photograph.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series which will address using this photo portfolio to market and grow your hardscaping business.