NEW YORK, United States — A global leader in the event photography, videography and social media services business, with headquarters in New York and Los Angeles, BFA was founded by photographer Billy Farrell, along with photographers Joe Schildhorn, David X Prutting and Neil Rasmus, in 2010.
Throughout the image agency’s existence, it has consistently adapted its offering to answer industry needs and the demands of a varied and prestigious client base. Quick to meet demand for new forms of content, BFA offers social media support and videography services to complement existing image assets, as well as product shots for e-commerce and Custom Visual Effects (VFX).
In addition to its roster of New York fashion brands, BFA is building meaningful partnerships with fashion adjacent companies including Instagram, the CFDA and The New York Times. Other longstanding partnerships range from The Metropolitan Museum of Art & Brooklyn Museum to The Standard Hotels, New York Public Library and The Armory Show.
While the current climate presents considerable operational constraints, BFA has reassessed its offering to ensure creative output continues, albeit reimagined. The agency was quick to pivot in 2020 to facilitate packages and pricing architecture for a new menu of content solutions to ensure that its clients’ creative output remained constant within the new restricted global parameters. This has provided an opportunity to showcase its content abilities to existing and new clients.
Now, BoF sits down with Vice President of Business Development Stephanie Ketty to understand how BFA has evolved in its scope and strategy, the importance of innovation in the sphere of creative content, and the benefits to be found in creative collaboration.
What content offering has proved to be the most effective during the pandemic?
What people are responding to now is content with a clear objective — whether it be a combination of still images, video or experiential projects. Quickly, we have learned that the scheduled content that used to resonate pre-Covid-19 is no longer as impactful. Content needs to be purpose-driven.
Video and multimedia offerings have proven to be most important to our clients. However, what has proved really popular is the ability to customise various types of content. We’re discussing the specific challenges with each brand and curating a specific content calendar that will include the types of content most helpful to reach consumers. This has allowed us to diversify and cultivate relationships within the brands we work with. On BFA.com, we have also seen a lot of interest in our 10-year archive. Everyone from publishers to brands to documentaries have been licensing our photos to fill the gap in content needs across web, print, social and beyond.
With the new constraints in mind, we developed an accessible, Instagram-focused license for clients looking to download and post photos fully from their iPhone. We have actually found this to be a great time to work hand-in-hand with editors and content teams, laying the groundwork for larger partnerships post-Covid once things ramp back up
How can brands use smartphones to create content while staying true to premium positioning?
We have worked closely with Apple on best practices for utilising the tools available with each new iPhone release, and our team has leveraged that insight on iPhone-specific projects ranging from BMW at Frieze London to a remotely produced social media series with Don Julio and shooting behind-the-scenes videos for Lanvin.
The key is still the creator behind the lens.
It is incredible how far smartphone camera technology has evolved over the years. The quality of photos and videos that smartphones can produce almost rivals those taken with DSLR and HD cameras, and the editing apps available allow for a quicker turnaround time.
However, the key is still the creator behind the lens. It is important for brands to work with the right creators when using smartphones — their unique perspectives, skills and techniques will ensure content still feels elevated, while setting itself apart from the average smartphone user.
How can brands create content that can stand in for in-person events?
By amplifying the content so the entire experience tells a story cohesively and consistently. This is an opportunity to create something that aligns with the brand’s goals and really resonates with their consumers while also having the ability to reach a much larger audience. Whether that is through a beautiful film, a digital gala, or even a more digestible re-edit of a panel discussion to make it engaging for the audience.
At BFA, we want to help brands create multiple moments, as we begin to integrate these types of activations into long-term planning, it has been important for brands to build and host their own platforms. The digital content has proven to be a tool that aids with customer engagement, so we expect it will continue to be a relevant aspect even as we bring back in-person events..
How had BFA’s creative offering evolved prior to the pandemic?
We have evolved and expanded over the past ten years alongside our clients. We meet with them frequently to make sure we understand what their objectives and strategies are. As a result, we had been working with new mediums to create content, outside of the normal event scene. We were already collaborating with our talented team of photographers and videographers to integrate their creative input and skills into our offering and develop cost-efficient and adaptable workflows that would meet the growing need for content on multiple social media platforms, e-commerce platforms and paid media.
What were the biggest changes to BFA’s business model in the wake of Covid-19?
Prior to the pandemic, we were focused on market expansion. For the last two years, I was travelling to Europe each quarter and working closely with our operations team to ensure we had the ability to scale our service offering internationally, specifically in Paris, London and Milan.
We want to help brands leverage more value out of their content.
Our business model was reshaped the moment Covid-19 hit, with in-person events vanishing overnight. Our larger client base was still trying to figure out what the next few weeks or months would look like. The first challenge we had was accelerating the “non-event” type of photography offering we were already working on. We saw this as an opportunity to expand our relationships and bring value to teams that were in need of alternatives to events.
How did you grow new content verticals?
In those early days of the pandemic, we probably made over 400 client calls. They needed content to reach their consumer base and they needed to make sure it was done consistently, professionally and — most importantly — safely. For us, that meant helping them create content that would aid in maintaining customer engagement in the first few months and eventually evolve into supporting their needs for store reopenings, video projects or even considering what virtual experiences we could help produce.
What element of content creation will BFA prioritise over the medium term?
Growing our geographic network with content teams remains a focus, especially with travel being limited, this is just another way of helping brands tell their story. This past quarter alone, we have worked with contacts in Houston, Denver, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Aspen and Chicago, primarily because brands are focusing on reopening their stores and need to showcase them opening safely. Being able to utilise the BFA service globally and regionally is something our clients can always rely on.
We look forward to developing small footprint, in-person productions that follow all Covid-19 guidelines and safety precautions which will allow us to create those traditional pieces that remain meaningful.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by BFA as part of a BoF partnership.