In the first two posts of our five-part series on impactful case studies, we looked at how to identify stories worth pursuing and capture the factual content. In part three, we look at keys to capturing imagery.
We’ve all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and that can be true with case studies as well. While your writing may tell the story, it’s often the imagery that leaves a lasting memory in the minds of your potential customers. So, as you capture case study content, be on the lookout for imagery that helps tell the story and keep the following best practices in mind.
- Start with the end in mind: Determine which medium(s) will be used to tell the story. For instance, is this going to be a written case study, a video case study or both? Would a video clip of the customer be helpful in supporting a written online case study or as part of a trade show video?
- Company Imagery: Always check with your customer to see what imagery they have available before deciding to do a photo or video shoot. They may have video or photography of your project, their facility, signage, executives, etc. This could minimize the need for new imagery. Also, ask your customer for a high-resolution file of their company logo (you will want this for final production).
- Consistency: While absolute uniformity will be impossible, seek as much visual consistency as possible across your case studies. This means it is important to capture a similar quality level of photography and/or video.
- Photography: For most case study uses (website, social media, presentations, flyers), high-quality iPhone photography is appropriate. If case studies are going to be used in marketing materials where higher production value is needed (print ads, large trade show graphics, posters), you should enlist a professional photographer to shoot and potentially retouch high-resolution images. When shooting case study photography, be mindful of the following items:
- Content: Capture photography of whatever you have created/accomplished for the customer, the customer themselves and something that shows the name of the company (usually the front of the building, external sign or lobby).
- Lighting: Pay attention to lighting and try to ensure good light. Inside, this may mean turning on additional lights or using the flash on your camera. Outside, this may mean shooting early or late in the day to get the best light.
- Background and Clutter: Pay attention to everything around your image. You may need to pick some things up, move some things, get people out of the background or even clean some things. A little housekeeping can make a big difference.
- Angles: Photograph from multiple angles, giving you options later. Also take both vertical and horizontal photographs, again for options later.
- Videography: Video is more complicated than photography. For some case study uses (social media, internal presentations), high-quality iPhone video can be appropriate. However, if case studies are going to be used in marketing materials where higher production value is needed (website, trade show screens, customer meetings, television), you may need higher-level equipment or a professional videographer and editor. When shooting case study videography, be mindful of the following items:
- Content: Capture video of whatever you have created/accomplished for the customer, the customer themselves and something that shows the name of the company (usually the front of the facility, external sign or lobby).
- Sound: Poor sound quality is the quickest way to ruin a video case study. To help ensure sound quality, always use a microphone (wireless, connected to your iPhone or as part of your camera system). In addition, take steps to minimize background noise, including shutting doors, limiting access, turning off machinery and posting “Quiet please, videotaping in process” signs.
- Video Style: Prior to shooting, determine the video style you desire. Are you seeking a “handheld, man-on-the-street style” or a more professional style? For most amateur-shot case studies, we recommend using a tripod/monopod and limiting camera movement.
- Lighting: Pay attention to lighting and try to ensure good light. Inside, this may mean turning on additional lights or adding extra lights. Outside, this may mean shooting early or late in the day to get the best light.
- Background and Clutter: Pay attention to everything around what you are shooting. You may need to pick some things up, move some things, get people out of the background or even clean some things.
- Multiple Takes: Be sure to capture multiple video takes. This is especially important with on-camera interviews, where you may need to piece together different versions of the same conversation. In an ideal world, shoot with two cameras or reshoot from a different angle, making it cleaner to edit different perspectives.
- Staffing: When possible, have at least two staff at all video shoots. This allows one person to focus on the shooting, while the second can manage on-screen talent, ask questions/interview, adjust things, clean up, control interruptions, etc.
Next up in the series: part four in our series on case study best practices, when we dive into the actual writing of the story.