Imaging Procurement – How to value the intangible

Procuring photography and imaging suppliers isn’t simple. Unlike products with a specification, quality imaging is driven by creativity. This blog post is designed to help procurement managers and those involved in the selection of suppliers of photography, video, time-lapse and drone imaging content. It discusses methods for effectively assessing the array of tangible and intangible aspects of creative imaging.

The challenge

Most procurement managers in business and government are familiar with the challenges of procuring creative suppliers for their business. While many aspects are tangible and therefore measurable, many others are intangible.

  • How can good ideas be measured?
  • How can aesthetic quality be assessed?
  • How can buying images be undertaken with an appropriate standard of procurement rigour, while keeping the process efficient and consistent with its typically low total cost compared to major business investments?

Understanding the cost dimensions

The process of delivering visual imaging, whether it be still photography, video, or time-lapse occurs in four main steps:

  • Brief and scope alignment
    • Why are we commissioning imaging? The images may have broad use across a range of communications, marketing and internal use. Or they may be intended for a particular purpose. Agreeing to a base shot list and project duration helps to accurately define the supplier’s cost of delivery and therefore minimise contingency fees.
  • Pre-production planning
    • This is the first creative response and critical to an effective and efficient result. The photographer should be able to add value to the project by recommending the best locations, angles of view, time of day and talent required. It also requires planning of any access permits, contacts and OH&S requirements.
  • The shoot
    • This is the most visible part of the production process. In simple terms it is executing the pre-production plan. In practise, this step requires a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience.
    • First of all is the quality of execution. This is driven by creativity and technical competency. The ability to make the image look great or interesting along with technical know-how across lighting and full control of the right equipment for the job
    • Next is the ability to operate safely in the given environment. Construction and infrastructure in particular requires permits, the proven ability to work safely on site, and the ability to minimise disruption to the business
    • It is important to recognise that while the shoot is where the images are made, it is often not the most time-consuming part of the process
    • Last, but not least, is possessing the communication and negotiation skills to keep things moving when challenges occur.
  • Editing and post-production
    • Editing and post-production is the process of delivering the highest quality images that meet the needs of the project along with adherence to the brand’s visual guidelines
    • The ability to deliver to and beyond the requirements of the brief first time, adds tremendously to project management efficiencies
    • Editing and post production is often the most time-consuming component of an imaging project – particularly for video and time-lapse.

Two further aspects that impact supplier cost, client price and the quality of the results are:

  • The standard of equipment used. In perfect conditions, many consumer grade cameras can deliver reasonable results. However, conditions are rarely perfect or consistent. Environments can be hostile, which can in turn affect equipment reliability. It is, therefore, important to understand the range of specialised equipment used by the imaging supplier and whether or not the equipment is owned. Equipment rental can add significantly to project pricing, while ownership of lower quality equipment can produce poor quality or unreliable results
  • The imaging supplier’s processes for managing complex stakeholder relationships in large business or government entities. The supplier’s existing knowledge, experience and flexibility in dealing with a business’ process demands can reduce the speed of response and lead to non-compliance. All procurement managers know too well the experience of being contractually protected from poor supplier perspective – while at the same time wearing the inconvenience, time blow-outs and internal aggravation when things need to be fixed.

Assessing the intangible aspects of creative imagery

This can be the hard bit, yet it matters most of all. When producing imaging content for business, the results can be the difference between effectiveness and brand damage. Great quality images can be used in so many ways:

  • Online – website
  • Social media
  • Customer, investor and stakeholder communications
  • Advertising
  • Public relations and media packs
  • Business collateral materials
  • Internal documents
  • The decoration of premises

The best quality images enhance the brand image, increase the visual value of products and projects and make everyone that views them, feel inspired in some way. Poor quality images will either add little value, or worse still reduce value.

Managed well from both the supplier and procurement perspective, assessment of quality can be made effectively. Here are some tips:

  • What is the photographer’s reputation amongst business stakeholders
  • If the users of images in marketing, communications and project management know of the photographer, their work and their professional reputation, this is a great place to start. 
  • How easy is the photographer to deal with – from brief to delivery and management of procurement and business administration processes?
  • Seek an assessment of the work by people that are experienced in working with creatives, such as:
    • Internal marketing and communications people
    • External marketing and communications people – use your business network
    • The business’ internal or external graphic designer or communications agency

Assessing value for money

Assessing the value for money of creative imaging suppliers should be weighted against these metrics:

  • Creative results: Are all stakeholders satisfied with the results? What stakeholder validation can be sourced to provide a leading indicator of performance?
  • Business competency: Does the business possess the necessary commercial insight and skills to be able to manage relationships and consistently deliver according to procurement and business process requirements? Are all stakeholders satisfied with the standard of their experience as a client?
  • Risk: Is the supplier safe, financially robust and have the capacity to deliver results consistently? Can the supplier be relied upon to respect non-disclosure agreements?
  • Price: Can the supplier deliver the required results for the budget? While hourly rates, day rates and all other fees must be defined, delivery of results against a defined budget is the ultimate test. Periodic assessment of invoices should be undertaken to ensure there is no price-creep.

In summary

In today’s competitive media landscape, high-quality still, video and time-lapse imaging helps businesses to stand out and above their competitors.

To achieve quality imaging is a creative process, which is challenging to assess through direct and tangible metrics.

By developing a process for assessing creative imaging capability, procurement managers can measure the supplier’s contribution and potential. This then allows a measure of value, balanced across all important aspects of delivery – creative, business competency, risk and price.

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Images for Business are professional image makers that specialise in infrastructure and construction imaging. We exist to visually inspire people through perfectly crafted visual content. We cover still, motion, aerial and time-lapse photography for businesses. We offer quality, creativity and solutions, an easy to deal with approach and results that add financial value to our clients.