visual images designed to educate, communicate, and sell.

photography

The History Of Industrial Photography

HOW HARVARD USED INDUSTRIAL PHOTOGRAPHY TO TEACH THEIR STUDENTS

When writing a “History of…” about any topic it’s important to focus in on certain aspects of what made the greatest impact during a specific period of time. This could be a person, event or even an innovation of some sort. The history of industrial photography can arguably date back to the birth of photography and the amount of information from this period is endless.

I could discuss photos that captured the development of the transcontinental railroad or even dive into the industrial revolution but lets zoom in to what I believe to be most fascinating about the history of my career!

This angle takes a look at a time when labor was visible – as the activity of work but also, and more importantly, as a force. Whether it is a force to defend a nation during wartime or a force used to produce consumable goods, the collection of photographs at the Harvard Business School has successfully brought to our attention the impact that industrial photography made on our understanding of the relationship between the “Human and the machine”.

After all, industrial photography has become so significant for that exact reason. This field of photography takes us beyond what meets the ordinary eyes and it delivers us a final product that lasts practically forever.

I’ll explain the relationship between the industrial photography research carried out by the Harvard Business School and the works of Margaret Bourke White.

In the 1930’s, two Harvard colleagues Donald Davenport and Frank Ayres requested photographs for classroom instruction with the purpose to “reveal the courage, industry and intelligence required of the American working man”. All of these 2,100 photographs were used to help aspiring corporate managers gain insights into how industrial progress was made.

In between world wars, industrial photography had evolved into an art form that shined a light on America’s industrial might. The photography in the 1930’s depicted factory workers as a commodity rather than mere bodies part of a mundane production chain.

One of the main reasons that the Harvard Business School sought these photos were to help students solve problems by studying real-life business situations.

Professor Ayres was particularly interested in documentary records that illustrated action and labor-saving devices. For all their faithful rendering of detail, however, the publicity images donated by businesses depicted workers and machines within the conventions of a highly refined art form. From the simple expository illustrations of early industrial photography, the genre had evolved by the 1930s into a stylized medium of iconic imagery that celebrated America’s industrial might.

Margaret Bourke-White

The thoroughly cleaned nickel silver spoons or forks are placed in the plating tanks on racks that revolve.

industrial photography

Chrysler: Gears, 1929

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As seen in the picture above (left), one of Bourke-White’s clients was the Otis Steel Company. She played at major role influencing the Cubist movement through her machine age photography and her work set a standard for the future of industrial photography. Both her people skills and her technique opened up opportunities one after the other and she romanticized the power of industry by “capturing beauty in a world not usually considered beautiful”.

The use of photography in education allows students to better understand the subjects in which they study. Industrial photography gave students at the Harvard Business School a better representation of what was really going on in the factories and Bourke-White is credited to have bridged the gap. The Otis Steel Company commissioned Margaret during a time when steel making was a defense industry. It was in the best interest for Otis to protect national security, making it difficult for Bourke-White to simply carry her camera in to do her job. Furthermore, in the eyes of the pubic, people wondered if a lady with a camera could withstand the hazard, heat and grimy conditions inside a steel mill.

When she got permission, the technical problems began. Black and white film in that era was sensitive to blue light, not the reds and oranges of hot steel—she could see the beauty, but the pictures were coming out all black. She solved this problem by bringing along a new style of magnesium flare (which produces white light) and having assistants hold them to light her scenes. Her abilities resulted in some of the best steel factory pictures of that era, and these earned her national attention

But Margaret was not the only photographer to reveal these times from a different perspective. Photographer Lewis Hine set out to “dispel the notion of the soulless corporation and at the same time encourage workers to view themselves as vital parts of a meaningful whole.”

A Finisher_Lewis Hine

A finisher – Lewis Hine 1933

The more you see of modern machines, the more
may you, too, respect the men who make and manipulate them. ~ Lewis Hine 1932

The Harvard Business School archive of industrial photographs taken during a time when economic climate was high between the two world wars is strikingly similar to my approach to create visual images to educate, communicate and sell.

How do you think industrial photography has changed over the years? Drop a line in the comments below and lets talk about it!

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4 Ways Industrial Photographers Can Take Their Careers To New Heights

Lightbox Imaging

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”.

Lightbox Imaging

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.

#industrialPhotographerFC

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.


The Industrial Photography Safety Guide

Industrial Photography

5 Ways Industrial Photographers Can Get A Piece of Mind and Stay Safe On The Job.

IndustrialPhotographer (1)

Don’t be scared?

Scared about what?

Standing at what seems like a few yards from a 300 tonne ladle full of scalding hot molten steel with $4,000 worth of camera gear strapped around your waist?

Or

Reading a safety guide about industrial photography for which you already know all the answers to?

Both, you may have replied.

Even though the first option is much more frightening, this safety guide is everything but boring. It’s more of snap shot of my personal experience working for industrial clients in some of the most insecure and dangerous environments.

As you know, the best pictures are those that capture life in the most realistic way possible. Spontaneous but planned. Candid but professional. I have my opinions on stock photography but that’s another story.

Utilitylight

Pre Plot Your Exit Route

Believe it or not, the way you entered may not be the best way to exit in the case of an emergency, especially during facility operations. Many industrial facilities are obliged by law to implement safety exits and you need to know them.

  • Prior to your shoot, walk the facility with the plant manager to cover all ground for safety.
  • Although safety exit signs are lit up and salient, they may be hard to spot if they are hidden behind machinery or out of power.
  • Confirm with the plant manager that all exits are safe and secure.

You don’t need to have a fire drill, but when danger strikes, follow the lead of the workers!

Dress Accordingly

You’ve already made your professional impression at the pre production meeting but the work zone is no place for fashion, unless your taste in fashion is hard hats and steel toe boots.

I have my own hard hat and keep it on me for all industrial photography shoots but safety gear that is required by facilities must be provided for visitors. Grab a hat that has a small front brim and fastens tightly on your head to prevent obstructing your view and moving while you kneel and crouch.

I always wear a bright yellow shirt to make it easy for workers to spot me; “Caution, photographer on site, but lets pretend I’m not here!”

Steel toed boots. Strap em’ on, double tie the laces and tuck them inside the boots.

MilesLumber

Pack Only What You Need

Once I flew to Louisiana for a shoot and had two checked bags full of gear and my carry on with my essential gear. (I’ve lost my bags a few times and recommend to keep your essentials by your side). I arrived on the jobsite and decided I only needed my carry on kit! The lesson to be learned is to always bring the whole kitchen sink to the job site and only use what you need. I need to be light on my feet.

For a peace of mind the next time you need to check bags full of expensive photography gear, place some kids stickers on the luggage and make it look as cheap as possible. 

Know The Work Schedule of Your Environment

Typical operations of complex industrial facilities can include anything from gigantic equipment installations to normal day-to-day routines but when I’m hired to shoot specific operations like the installation of a new machine or the progress of a renovation project, the risk of danger is much higher.

Getting into the middle of ongoing operations can be extremely hazardous to your health — there is moving equipment that can easily crush people to death, potential chemical exposure, extremely high pressure, swinging crane loads, and so forth.

Once on a shoot at a sawmill I positioned myself four or five feet from a conveyor belt not realizing my shin was in front of an air pressure release valve. It released and startled me half to death but I carried on unharmed.

The industrial world follows strict maintenance schedules at precise times. You need to know where you can be at what time and for how long. Take a wind turbine field for example. I may climb the ladder of one turbine to capture an aerial view with a wide lens. In this situation, it’s good to know that turbines are programmed to begin generating electricity when the hub-height weight reaches 8 miles per hour and it’s better to know exactly where to read the wind speed.

InstalingSawBlade

Protect Your Gear!

My number one rule about my gear at industrial photo shoots is to not change lenses. Even though there may be a ventilation system in place, debris and dust are everywhere and I’d rather not take the risk of damaging my sensor.

If I have to change my lens I use a light tight film changing bag I still have from my large format film days.

WeldingItems and parts may appear harmless but they can be hot or toxic. there maybe Infrared / Ultraviolet Hazards. Catwalks and stairs can be uneven and I always check handrails for stability and avoid leaning on them. Always keep your gear as close to you as possible.

As an industrial photography there are no limits to what I can capture and my favorite part is learning about new and emerging industries. I’m looking forward to attend the Ohio Valley Regional Oil & Gas Expo at the end of April where I will be one of many guests eager to discover new opportunities for America’s energy independence.

Curious to what’s going on at this expo? Check out the video below!


What I learned At The Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show in Dayton, Ohio

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.

#industrialphotographyInstagram

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.



Manufacturing Day 2013: Behind The Scenes & Inside The Machines

An ‘Infographic Interview’ with Industrial Manufacturers

Well that was fast! The annual Manufacturing Day came, saw and conquered its’ objective to help educate our society and spark the curiosity of the youth on industrial manufacturing. On October 4th, 832 manufacturing facilities across the country opened their doors in an effort to address the skilled labor shortage they face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry.

Manufacturing Day_Lightbox Imaging

Cameras and photography were prohibited during my tour of the EWI facility so I had to think of another way to visually reveal the inner workings of the companies on Manufacturing Day. I created an infographic to bring you inside Manufacturing Day that you can view below, but first lets recap the event.

EWI along with various other industrial manufacturing companies that participated in Manufacturing Day were kind enough to answer a few questions of mine. This is a good way to reflect on the success, outcome and perspective of Manufacturing Day from the business’s that eat, breath and sleep manufacturing!

What makes this holiday so unique is that just about every type of manufacturer participates.

From an aerospace products manufacturer to a leading manufacturer of bearing technology, each company provided insight into their specialty.

Isaiah Industries showcased  stamping, roll forming, and powder coating operations, all of which go into creating amazing metal and steel roof top solutions. Over at EWI, we got to check out the ultrasonic nondestructive evaluation of spot welds, which can be used to test the strength of a welded or joined piece without having to break it apart. Ever wonder about machine tool spindle manufacturing, custom seal manufacturing and power transmission services. A visit to SKF Solution Factory-Cleveland would’ve showed you how it’s done!

Apart from the diversity among the companies, there is a common connection between them that can be summed up by the words of Lynn Vaughn of FC Industries.

The tours through the plant which showcase our employees doing the excellent work that they do every day while proudly showing others “how it’s made” was the highlight of Manufacturing Day for us.

I want thank the following companies for the time they spent helping me with this post and for their contribution to Manufacturing Day 2013.

  • EWI
  • Isaiah Industries
  • SKF Solution Factory
  • FC Industries INC.

Did you get the opportunity to pay a visit to a company of your choice on Manufacturing Day or did you open up your doors for tours? I’d like to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Manufacturing Day Infographic


Boost Your Online Industrial Marketing with Optimized Product Photos

The goal of industrial marketing is to bring your products and services to the people who need them and this has become a bigger challenge in the digital world of endless information. When you boost your products and company with search engine optimized content, you will be more successful at connecting with your consumers.

Industrial-Product-photography

Organization and consistency are key elements for establishing and maintaining an effective online presence. Search engines want to connect their searchers to the most relevant content so your online strategy must be based on quality content tailored for people, not robots and spiders. In other words, “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines”.

There are simple ways to implement SEO into every channel from social media platforms to the photographs you choose to showcase your company and products.

Do Not Underestimate The Power Of Pictures For SEO

Pictures are nothing but a bunch of pixels and after all this is what Google thinks of them too.

In order to bring the pixels to life on search engines, you need to follow these simple steps. To get the most out of your product photography each image should be appropriately named, sized and described. This works wonders for industrial companies that offer online product catalogs.

  • 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.
  • Use Title Tags to provide additional information to the visitor. This is the text displayed when a cursor hovers over the image.
  • Adjust image file size. No one likes to wait for photos to load and page load time effects SEO rankings. To preserve the quality of your image and to ensure quick loading, use the free Image Optimizer tool. This will enable your photos to shine across all browsers and mobile devices.
  • Add a File Name. Pick a descriptive name for your photo and I recommend including a link to your online catalog. You want to choose a file name that you want the image to rank for. Look at these search results as an example to see how the top results are linked to a site.
  • All of your line items should have an accompanying image with them. The more pictures you have of your products, the higher ranking your catalog will be.

Over the years  I have seen industrial manufacturing photography change from a basic professional service into a digital powerhouse that can bring any industry to life on the web. Search engines are a great tool to help consumers find what they need and they work together with social media to connect your brand to your audience.


4 Reasons Customized Industrial Photography Is More Powerful Than Stock

UNIQUE INDUSTRIAL PHOTOGRAPHY IS MORE POWERFUL THAN STOCK

Professional photography has rapidly progressed since the days of dark room development. New technology has enhanced the overall process and changed the way photographers do business. The combined force of digital photography with the Internet has increased the presence of stock photography agencies but stock photos are more likely to weaken your brand than strengthen it. The best way to communicate the unique qualities of your business is with powerful images that grab attention and stand out from the rest.

Banner-For-Stock-blog

In your house, you want to frame a picture of your children, not the picture of the children the frame came with. Marketing your company with unique images is a good way to personalize your message, humanize your brand and connect with your audience.

Here are  4 main reasons to use customized industrial photography over stock images to make a bigger impact on your audience

  1. Today’s marketplace is extremely competitive and overloaded with images. When you choose a stock image you run the risk of using the same picture that your competitor has chosen. How does this separate you from your competition?
  2. 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, a photographer will understand your vision and bring the uniqueness of your company to life.
  3. Stock photography isn’t made specifically for your product but for a very large category of products. They try to reach a bigger number of buyers, but these images are not unique or custom made for your product and service. Pictures make the first impression so it’s best to expose the true character and soul of your company on your website and marketing materials.
  4. The emergence of online social communities has paved a path toward honest and open dialogue between brands and their audience. Websites such as Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram have turned us into a visual society. For example, 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook each day. How does this effect your business? People are over exposed to pictures like never before and this raises the bar to produce images that stick in the viewer’s mind. You must embrace professional visual literacy and break through the picture clutter with powerful and vivid images.

Stock photography is generic are far from one-of-a-kind.

How many times have you left your dentist office with a free tooth brush and a tri-fold brochure covered with a bright sparkling smile? The market is saturated with these inexpensive images and they lose their significance every time they are published. The effective way to engage your clients is by showcasing the face of your company to reveal the truth. Use photos of your offices, employees and your services in action. Clients love to recognize people because it gives the sense of reality.

Photography is meant to tell something real about people and businesses, it’s not an industrial product. Indeed stock photography might seam appealing to small businesses because it’s cheap but it’s never powerful.

Your product is unique and your photographs must reflect what your brand represents. Next time your marketing efforts face a tight budget and are strapped for time you may find yourself browsing stock images and become intrigued by the quality and quantity. It is a deceiving platform because although you may find that perfect photo you had in mind, you run the risk of shrinking your brand image.

Photographs translate the technical language of your engineering and marketing team by producing powerful visual images designed to educate, communicate and expand your brand in every online and offline channel.