Expert Interview: Landscaping Portfolio Photo Tips for Great Marketing Images

If someone would ask you the question, "What's the best work that you've done?", what are the landscaping projects or lawns you care for that come to mind? These are the locations that you would want to include in your portfolio or an image gallery on your website. However, when choosing properties, it's important to:

  • pick the right locations to attract your ideal customer
  • shoot them in the best lighting to make your images not appear average
  • and hire a photographer that understands how you'll use these in your landscaping marketing

Today, we're going to show you how to do just that. Stay tuned.



(Check out the video with description, resources, comments, etc. on YouTube)


Video Transcription

Chad:  Hey, it's Chad with Landscape Leadership. Today I am here with my friend, Mike Miville, who does a lot of photography for our clients. We're going to be talking a little bit today about picking locations and how you get really, really great shots.

So most lawn care or landscaping companies don't want to be common. I get a chance to look at dozens of lawn care and landscaping websites each week. We often go through their portfolios to see if they are...well...hacks or if they are doing really good work.

Unfortunately, even when they do really good work, sometimes the photography is well...really bad. I know that most people, myself included, aren't photography experts. I could tell you like a feeling I get when I'd see a bad picture and the feeling I get when I see a really good picture. But I still am learning what makes those great pictures and that's why you're here to help me today.

First, let's talk about the locations. The thing that I often see, which is really frustrating, is a project that was just done. I mean the grass seed hasn't even sprouted yet. Good grief, I've seen pallets of pavers off to the side. They didn't even shoot it until they got the stuff off of the property.

Mike:  Or there are still lines in the grass where the new sod was just laid.

Chad:  It's terrible. These are the images that landscaping companies are leading with to their prospective clients as the best stuff that they do. So new properties are sometimes not the best to shoot, right?

Mike:  Yeah. I mean you have to kind of let things settle in a bit. I know fresh and new sounds great but...

Chad:  A lot of times there's still a lot of dust on the pavers so it's better to give some time for them to weather. It may look a little better if they could wait and then go back and seal it.

The big concern that I often hear from landscape company owners is that they built it but they're not maintaining it. They have no idea what it's going to look like a year from now if they try to go back. So that's a challenge. It's a legitimate concern. But we've had luck with going back six or eight months out, right?

Mike:  Yeah. I think you've got to give it a little bit of time to breathe. Six, eight months, maybe even a year. And if you are concerned about the fact that you haven't maintained it, maybe going back to the homeowner before the shoot is good. Maybe it's one of the things that you offer to them to get permission to photograph their property.

Chad:  Yeah, I mean if it's just a small area around the back patio, you could go out there and say, listen, we will mulch your backyard for you. Of course it's an expense, but it might be worth it if you have a fresh coat of mulch, all the leaves are cleaned up, and the patio is swept off.

For one client, I remember there was a front walkway that they did, where they actually went out and pressure washed it and sealed it the week before you went on a shoot. That way it looked pristine. We liked the fact that all the plants were mature and they had grown in over three, four years. But there was some moss and debris in the joints so this really helped.

So let's talk about up just a couple of these sites and why they photographed so well.

Mike:  When you're picking a location, what you've done may look great. But maybe sometimes the project wasn't huge though and the home itself looks beautiful. Every little piece that's put in around a property is there to enhance the overall beauty of the location. So sometimes it's about the location.

Chad:  Yeah. You might have created the best fire pit and patio in the backyard, but the house really isn't that impressive. It's not your ideal customer. So that probably might not be the best project to shoot.

Mike:  Exactly.

Chad:  Let's talk about a couple of these. A couple come to mind, like the one in Florida that we shot for Ground Source Landscaping. Tell us a little bit about this project and why you feel like this was a really great location.

Mike:  This was a large, beautiful house, had been there for a while. I would say that what they did with the property was, was a pretty big project.

Chad:  Yes, it was the whole front yard driveway, all the landscaping around all of that. One of the things I remember was that there was multiple things to take pictures of. A lot of times when we get clients to select these properties, we want them to get the most for their money. So with this location, we had some pictures for landscape lighting marketing. You got pictures of pavers with the driveway and some for planting. There was some sod they installed there. Multi-purpose shoots, not just one type of feature.

Let's talk a little bit about some of the pool work that we do. Some of our design build contractors do pool installations or at least do all the surrounding areas around the pools.

Mike:  So this first property, it was pretty amazing because it was just a great setting. It had so many things going on with a fireplace and a seating area, and the double-edge and infinity pool which was cool. I'd never seen one before.

Chad:  It's pretty amazing. It also had a built-in lighting in the walls and steps...

Mike:  Colorful lighting that they could change with an app on a phone. So there was just a lot going on. It was great to be able to photograph it this in the evening and get some interesting different skies and things like that.

Chad: Yeah, we got different colors based on what they did with the pool with the lights, but then also as the light changed outside, we got different colors as well. And that reminds me, we've done a lot of shoots and we've been blessed with really good sunrises or sunsets...which I know we can't control that...but it's really amazing. It reminds me of this other pool that we shot where the sun was just going down. How quick do you have to be to get that?

Mike:  Well, you have to plan it out way in advance. I have apps that I use nowadays, which is great to be able to figure out what time specifically sunrise or sunset is going to be. I have to be on location about 45 minutes before that sunrise or sunset.

I have to have all my equipment out and be ready to go a half hour before because that's usually the best color in the sky is a 20-30 minutes before the sun actually comes up and 15-20 minutes after the sun goes down. That's how you get the best color in the sky.

Chad:  That's why I love working with you because these are things that a professional thinks about that we may not have ever thought of.

Mike:  It's all I think about. I mean this is what I do for a living (laughter).

Chad:  Just like you could teach him a ton of things about lawns and landscapes which he has no clue of (laughter). That's one of the things that's great about working with professional. Hopefully, you're at the point where you're way past the amateur and you realize it's worth spending the money for professional.

But even within using professionals, there are grades of photographers. You know, okay, better, and best. So I really appreciate working with you.

Mike:  Well, I mean that is just experience. I've been doing this for a really long time. Some people just starting out are good at seeing certain things with photos. But they just haven't had the experience to be able to know what goes into finding the right light or taking the time to really care about taking that garden hose out of the back of the photo. And that's why one of my price point is because it goes along with experience (laughter). But you know, it also goes along to getting a lot of great images quickly.

Chad:  Yeah, you're right. So let's talk a little bit about how photography is an art. You're an artist. I've noticed, just being on a dozen different photo shoots with you, that I now see things now that I never would have seen before and they drive me crazy. So what are some of the things that, when you're looking at someone else's photos that really bug you artistically, or how do you make sure you line up a good shot? I know those are really loaded questions.

Mike:  I've done photography since I was in like middle school, but I actually went to school for graphic design. So I constantly have that thought in my head of what can this photo be used for? Is it going to be used on a website? Is it gonna be used for a print ad or go on social media? If this is being used for landscaping marketing purposes, could there be a logo or a text added to it? Is there space to do that?

So artistically I have to think about those things in addition to the photo just actually being composed well to begin with. I think, artistically, those things drive what I do on top of lighting and color and that type of thing.

Chad:  Yeah. Well, I appreciate you taking the time and talking a little bit about this.

As you think about putting your best foot forward and showing off your best work with your photography, whether it's on a portfolio, on your landscaping website, or in some sort of print material, it's imperative that you...just like you tell your clients, pay for what you want to get. Sometimes that mean spaying a premium, or at least if you're paying a premium, doing some research to find out if the photographer that you're using can really deliver.

I hope you've learned a lot today. I hope this inspires you to get even better pictures and land more landscaping clients. Thanks a lot. Have a really great day.


Want regular, practical tips like these to take your lawn care or landscaping business to the next level? Then consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. Or if you'd rather read our in-depth articles on Landscape Leadership's website, you can also subscribe to our blog   

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