Trevor Sheehan owns and runs Defence Photography and is the principal in-house photographer of the company. He leads a team of four other photographers who have specialist expertise in air to air photograph, Events/VIP photography, High Security and Technology. Trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Trevor was commissioned in 1979. After serving in the British Army, Trevor began working for BAE Systems, in senior management positions in the UK, Europe, South East Asia and the Middle East.
We would like to know more about your company – how do you work? What is exactly that you do?
In Defence Photography we are 4 photographers and we work around the world mainly for defense companies. We photograph our clients’ products – either in the factory when being developed or in hands of the user – army, navy or air force. We also visit most of the key defence exhibitions to either support our clients or to support the exhibition organizers.
What is the value proposition of your business?
We are specialists – defence photographers. We know how to take good photographs, but of course many other photographers can do that.
The unique value proposition of our work is, first, that we understand the technology that is being made by our clients and that is being shown at exhibitions. We are able therefore to find the key features of the piece of technology that need to be highlighted in the photograph. For example, if a photograph of an armored vehicle needs to be taken, there is a big difference whether this is a tank or an armored personnel carrier. Most photographers don’t know the difference, but we do. When it comes to such photograph, we understand what the key element of an armored personnel carrier is the inside space and the fitting and the protection of the soldiers inside. While for a tank, the key element is the gun, and that is what we will highlight in the photograph.
The second unique value proposition of our business is that we also understand our clients’ customers. Our clients’ customers are soldiers, airmen or sailors – whether they are the senior general or a junior private soldier. Me and my other three collaborators are all ex-army or ex-air force, therefore we understand what message our clients want to convey. We are often asked for advice during the design phase of the stands, as we can find the right pictures and words in their graphics. It’s more than photography. It is an interesting mix of technical knowledge,about how to take photographs, technology knowledge of the defense equipment and marketing knowledge of the customer community.
What is your opinion the biggest added value for exhibitors of having professional pictures of their stand at exhibitions?
I’m going to exhibitions for already 30 years and I’ve noticed quite a lot of exhibitors, who spend a lot of money on a beautiful stand, AV equipment and catering facilities, but have bad, usually pixelated and badly composed photographs that spoil the overall impression of the stand.
When preparing their exhibition stand, companies should know that good quality photographs with great impact are key.
On most of the big exhibitions visitors pass by hundreds or thousands of stands and they will certainly stop by the most impressive ones – those with beautiful design, very well lit, attractive, and welcoming. The photographs on the graphics on the walls need to have equal impact. If they don’t – customers will not come to the stand, unless they have an appointment. Many exhibitors try to attract visitors also with videos, but in 30 years I have never seen a visitor at an exhibition to stop at a stand and look close at the video. Visitors do look at photographs though. Video at an exhibition stand is required only if it’s to brief the customer and to show specific product. If a company has a tank at the stand for example, a video is worth having close to it, showing the tank firing and hitting the target.
What can you tell about the industry, where can you see it going?
In the Defence Exhibition industry, what I’ve noticed lately is that the number of the defence exhibitions is growing. There are certainly many of them in the Middle East and a lot of new defence exhibitions are coming up – UМEX in Abu Dhabi, BIDEC in Bahrain and EDEX in Egypt.
Regarding the traditional big shows like DSEI, Eurosatory or Paris Airshow, many more visitors are tending to go there for just one day to meet the key people. Then they find all the news about the exhibition and the relevant information online, without having to attend the exhibition for more than a day. Nowadays there is a lot more information about exhibitions available in the media.
Most of the big companies put a lot of effort into developing good relationships with journalists long before the exhibition starts and they get more publicity about their products at exhibitions.
There is also a lot more use of social media – before, during and after the exhibition. Of course there are still some companies, even big players, that ignore social media, but in my opinion eventually they will take the decision to take it more seriously, as most of their competitors do.
Here I can add also the increased use of apps at exhibitions. Show organizers have apps for visitors for setting up meetings, providing additional information, finding all locations. Even some big companies make use of apps for their stand at big exhibitions, so visitors can go around and see the position of products and additional information.
How does the photography in the Defence industry differ from any other industries?
There are two main aspects that make photography in the defence industry different from any other industry.
First is the security – defence photographers have to be extremely careful what they show and how they show it in public, so that they don’t give away secrets to potential enemies. Security is a massive thing when it comes to defence photography.
The second difference is in the clients – people from the defence industry are very conservative, even a bit old fashioned. There is not much innovation and that is because of the equipment that they are producing. It’s serious stuff – ammunitions, explosions – and people in the industry are also very serious, mature and grown up.
At a typical defence exhibition, the average profile of the exhibitor is a white man, aged over 40. If you go to a cosmetic exhibition the average person may be female and may be 30 years old.
What is the advice that you would give to our clients in reference to their exhibition stand and the pictures, taken at exhibitions?
The best advice that I can give to exhibitors is to always make sure to have photographs with good impact. These are key in creating a good and impactful stand and impressive marketing materials. Good equipment, with photographers that know what they are doing, is worth paying for.