Industrial Strength

Sixty percent of world trade is comprised of heavy industry and businesses in the engineering sector. Images of oil and gas industries, shipbuilding, power plants, mining, and others such as steel, cement and iron fabrication are required for news and editorial uses especially now that the cost of raw materials is in the headlines daily. Annual reports are another final use of images of heavy industry. Every complex process involves hundreds of supplier of component parts and these companies need images too.

© Fred11

Part of the value of industrial images is in their dramatic impact. The vast acres that an oil refinery covers is awesome while a close up of a pattern of pipes or stamped metal in a precise design makes interesting backgrounds, with an industrial touch, as design elements in brochures and on corporate websites.

Show the excitement of a freight train hurling down the track rather than a static image. Liquid steel is more interesting than the final product. Robotics on an assembly line are still fresh images that make contemporary statements about manufacturing and industry.

© Mihej

People add interest to the images and provide a comparison for scale. Here's where the enterprising photographer can add significant images to the collection. Dreamstime has a small number of images of the interior of a hydroelectric plant, for example, but woeful few with workers. Searching on ‘molten metal’ with people yields only (Ooops) a heavy metal band guy. A good opportunity for a photographer with access to a steel mill is to photograph steel workers. Lighting a coal mine is challenging as is getting permission to get into a mine but as the return to coal is being touted as an alternative to oil and gas, it could be worth the trouble.

Two mistakes to avoid when photographing large manufacturing, assembly, construction or mining operations: don’t get so far away that it is impossible to see the scale of the operation or if you do, ensure that there are people or other recognizable objects like pickup trucks in the image to give relationship to scale comparisons. Alternatively don’t zoom in so close that the process or activity isn’t identifiable unless you wish to create industrial abstracts.

Other subcategories that can use more strong images: interior of nuclear plants, aerospace manufacturing, and large assembly lines with people at work on the line. And please no hardhat still lifes!

Heavy industry contributes a great deal of pollution as an offshoot of the manufacturing and mining processes. Companies are realizing that they have to clean up their acts both for legal and PR reasons. Factories are installing solar or converting their waste products to energy to reuse in heating or cooling their buildings. This is all very new at least in the US but stories about 'sustainable' factories are starting to show up on the web and on TV. These images will be very useful in the months/years to come.

© Seesea

Keywording tips for industrial photography:

Correctly identify the process or product

Describe the specific action taking place

Think of adjectives/adverbs such as ‘powerful’, ‘skilled’ or precise’ to add to the images in order to convert them to concept images

Photo credits: Darrin Aldridge, Christian Lagereek, Igor Marx, Imagecom, Darko Hristov, Mihails Jershovs, Mmac72, Seesea.

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Thanks for the blog!!! Good information!!!


As part of the big industrials and resource giants doing well, they are mostly upgrading their ERP systems and adding value to their assets.

Considering the size of some of these Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) projects around ($200 million plus) I am surprised their is little call for images to suit the likes of SAP, Peoplesoft, Oracle, Mincom etc..

Large resource companies like Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton etc. are screaming out for ERP people to help them with their corporate services reforms.


Since 9/11 it has been even more difficult to gain access for these shots. In the past photographers could often re-use images they had shot for their clients in the industrial sector but now more and more, restrictions are being imposed. All the more reason that those with access and permission and, as you have indicated, knowledge of the processes should attempt to get the shots.


Industrial photography is sometimes tough and risky; you need special permissions and some knowledge about the process you are shooting.

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