You’ve got two events to promote, an upcoming sale on six-pack annuals and a company blog or website that needs updating. The employee who does your Facebook posts wants to highlight the nursery stock and a request has come in from a regional magazine for photos that feature roses. Suddenly, you find yourself wondering if you work at a garden center or a stock photo service.
These days, the answer is both. To be in business in the 21st century requires an ever-growing steady stream of photographs. It’s a digital, visual world and whether you’re writing your newsletter, promoting your store through social media or supplying images for event listings, you need pictures.
Faced with this ever-growing need for images, many businesses turn to commercial stock photo sources. These can temporarily fill this need, but even with a free service, the use of such images comes at a cost. When you use stock photography, your promotions and communications are generic. Stock photography can make you look just like everyone else and the opportunity to market your store, your region and your brand is lost.
It’s far better to jump off the commercial photography bland wagon and start creating your own photo library. Pictures of your events, plants that thrive in your region and portraits of your company’s staff will tell the true story of your garden center in a way customers can relate to.
Charge specific employees with taking a few photos every week. The cameras on smart phones keep getting better and better, so many staff members might be able to contribute. Have them take pictures of your stock, attractive displays and happy employees. Be sure that they have the resolution settings on their phones set as high as possible so that the pictures can be used for print if needed.
Create images that promote your events by assembling plants or products that relate to the topic. For example, a talk on pruning can be illustrated with a pair of pruners and a branch from a plant that’s popular in your region.
A white foam core presentation board from an office supply store will provide an easy and inexpensive blank background for close-ups of products and projects. White poster board or another sheet of foam core can be used as a base to surround the entire object with a plain backdrop.
Take your time
A business photo library needs a variety of images, and it might be worthwhile to have the employees who will be building your bank of pictures take a short class on photography basics. Consider having a professional photographer come in for an hour before the store opens to give your staff a few tips.In general, instruct people not to rush when taking pictures. A shot that’s out of focus, has an overly busy background or is poorly framed won’t be of much use.
Store and organize
The easiest way to keep photos is with online picture storage. Several people can upload images as they are taken. Be sure to find a storage service that will keep your pictures at their full resolution instead of compressing them. It should offer you enough storage so that you can keep images for 10 years or more, and they should be easy to find and organize. Popular sites such as Flickr, 500px, and SmugMug are free for a certain number of photos but require payment for larger libraries.
Photos can also be kept on a store computer, but these should be regularly backed up onto a hard drive. Many decide to use a combination of computer, hard drive and “in the cloud” storage. If your photos are placed into named folders when they are uploaded for storage it will make them easier to find later. For example, create separate folders for events, projects, popular plants, gardens, products and employees.
Finally, make sure that hard drive backups are clearly labeled and that any online storage passwords are kept where those who might need access images can easily find them.