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Improving your Construction Brand with Professional Photography: An Interview with Will Austin

March 25, 2014

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Beautiful, well-framed construction photographs aren’t taken with a foreman’s iPhone. When you are trying to showcase your company and the work you’ve done to prospective owners or future employees, it is usually best to hire a pro.

Will Austin is an award-winning and well-published commercial photographer based in Seattle, with clients that include National Geographic Books, and Microsoft Corporation. He’s also one of the top photographers in the construction industry. Will’s photograph of a welder deepinside a 48-inch diameter pipe taken for IMCO General Construction was chosen as the winner of the ENR’s 2012 “The Year in Construction” photography contest. Other accolades include two runner up awards for ENR the same year, both images also taken for IMCO.

“Our brand is bold, strong, sophisticated and modern; Will's style of photos are an important part of our brand“ said Ashley Kimberley, Director of Marketing for IMCO General Construction. The value his photographs bring to IMCO General Construction “helps show our capabilities and how impressive and interesting our construction projects are, “ continued Kimberley. “His photography is striking. I love the use of light and the drama that it creates. He can make our dirty (often ugly) job sites look beautiful.”

We recently conducted an interview with Will to learn more about his process in achieving some of the best construction stock photographs out there today.

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Will Austin was on assignment for IMCO General Construction in Everett, Washington, to cover a $6.2 million dollar, 4,000 ft water line replacement project when he came upon this shot of a welder deep inside a 48 inch diameter pipe. The welding torch provided the lighting as it reflected off the glossy epoxy lining of the pipe’s interior, creating a stunning halo of color.

How did you end up shooting construction photography? What led you there?

I have had a camera in my hands since I was a kid and I worked in construction for more than 10 years. I guess it took me that long to realize I was better with a camera than a framing hammer.

 

What is it you enjoy about construction photography?

I love photography of course, but I also really love heavy construction and the built environment.  I am always in awe of the big projects I photograph. I don’t think most people realize what all goes into getting these jobs done.

 

Does the work in the field require using special equipment?

The photo gear is pretty standard but I always have a few tricks of the trade ready in case I need them. The thing that is different from other photo work is the safety equipment needed.  Not only using it but knowing how to stay safe on a jobsite.  I have a good feel for the flow of a job and I’m able to stay out of the way while still getting the shots.  Because of safety concerns I sometimes set up a remote camera for POV shots.

Do you work as an individual or with a team?

I usually work alone but I am engaging with the entire crew onsite. Sometimes I use an assistant as well, or get help from a worker.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

This is a tough question because I love doing this work.  I suppose the weather can be a challenge sometimes.  And I challenge myself to continually get better and improve my work on every shoot.

Are you ever placed in dangerous situations?

I just trust the crew to let me know all of the safety issues on a particular site and I always comply with the rules/procedures.  I’ve been in helicopters, airplanes, up on cranes and in tunnels under the ground and never felt like I was in danger.  

How do the workers respond to you and to being photographed?

Working with the crew is one of the best aspects of my job.  Most have been very open to helping me get great shots and are really into having their project documented.  I have so much respect for anybody who does this work. I wouldn’t last long doing heavy construction!

Do you have to ‘direct’ your subjects or is it more of a documentary approach, capturing what happens?

I can usually get what I need in the moment. I love capturing people in action and while using tools and heavy equipment. Sometimes I anticipate action though and set up lights and get into position ahead of time. Occasionally I will set up a shot but only if it doesn’t impede the jobs progress.

Do you scout locations before you arrive or do they present themselves to you?

Scouting is really helpful but weather, lighting and job schedule are also important. I usually try for a day when there is a good amount of action onsite. But I can always find interesting photo subjects. I’ve made wastewater ponds, ditches and freeway off-ramps look good.

Has photography in the digital age made it easier to work or do you bounce back and forth between digital and film?

I am all digital now for my work but I still shoot film occasionally, especially when I travel. The digital technology just allows me to do so much more with the images, and more quickly.

If there is one thing you’d want us to know about you what is it?

I want you to know that it isn’t about me - it is about the project and capturing it the best way possible.  These projects are important and so are the people who build them and I love to capture this for others to see.  And… I am a big football fan and my childhood dream was realized when my team won the Super Bowl this year!

 

View More of Will Austin's Work 

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Enhance your brand and take your construction photographs to the next level by contacting Will Austin at (206) 271-7406 or email him at will@willaustin.com. To see more of his portfolio visit www.willaustin.com

Will Austin Construction Photographer 

BIO

Will Austin is a Seattle-based photographer specializing in architectural, industrial, editorial and location photography.

Will’s photographic journeys have taken him to Mexico, Brazil, India, Europe, Korea, Canada and across the United States. His client list includes National Geographic Books, Microsoft Corporation and numerous magazines, architects, designers and contractors.

Among Will’s favorite pastimes are going on adventures with his wife and son, and uncovering family lore about his Texas ancestors. He lives in the Seattle area with his family.  Will is an ASMP Seattle/Northwest board member. 
 

 

 

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