Off topic: spyphotos

Posting may be light over the next 48 hours due to a software upgrade and the associated backups that I have to do in order for it to happen.

The following is just a summary of my thoughts about the spyphotos that have been featured here in the last 6 weeks, which are as follows:

The facelifted Saab 9-5 – series 1, series 2, series 3, series 4

The Saab 9-6x – series 1.

Days banned from Saabnet: 30

I can well and truly understand why car companies don’t like spyshots being published. The images are usually rushed, the cars are usually under-prepared and there’s nothing to accentuate the positive, which is what the manufacturer wants to do with that first impression.

The interest among enthusiasts is so peaked around launch time that it’s way too hard to resist getting an advance look at a model. What’s interesting is firstly, to look at how people react to the shots when they see them, and secondly, to think about what the companies might do to to tap into the interest.

Like I said, when people know that a new model is close to release, the enthusiasts amongst them will look at anything offered in order to get a glimpse. It’s part of being an enthusiast. I’m one of them myself. I’ll readily admit that I have an emotional attachment to the Saab brand. I care about its future.

In that situation it’s easy to superimpose your hopes for a model onto the company. When I heard there was a facelifted 9-5 in the pipeline I naturally hoped that it would look a certain way and have a certain bag of features. I still do hope they’re considering the V6. I don’t quite understand why AWD isn’t available yet, but that’s my limited knowledge of automotive engineering and model development coming to the fore. I know AWD will be coming. I wish it was sooner rather than later, but later’s better than never.

Some people will look at a new model and straight away they’ll compare it to the available competition. “It looks like this” or “it’s not as good as that”. I understand that too, though I’m not really in favour of it if it’s a non-stop whine-fest.

The thing to remember about spyshots is what I wrote above: they’re unplanned, rushed, full of masking tape, covers, disguises. The 9-5 spyshots that were published here were met by an overwhelming barrage of criticism around the web. My first impressions were negative too, but I tried as best I could to put my feelings on hold in the realisation that these shots were, from a photographer’s point of view, quite bad photographs.

Let me explain. We see spyshots and think they’re great because they have content we’re looking for. However, as photos go, they’re not really very good. There’s no composition, no balance in the colour, no depth of field etc etc. And this is why car companies hate spyshots.

Good quality photography will elicit a more positive emotional response from the enthusiast. The proof is right here and at any other interactive website that has published the new ‘official’ 9-5 photo. It’s a much better shot: balance, aggressive, metered, composed.

The difference is evident in the comments that the photo has received. Whilst there haven’t necessarily been high-fives exchanged, there’s been a much greater acceptance of the model and a lot of people admitting that “yeah, it’s growing on me”.

Manufacturers have to consider the balance between protecting design and testing the vehicle in public. With digital cameras and the internet out there any sightings can be posted all around the globe, literally within hours.

This is why I think that a manufacturer should start to publish photos on it’s own terms as soon as they’re available. These ‘official’ 9-5 pics have been around for a while now. I was told about them around a month ago (and Saab should be pleased that the person who told me about them refused to show them to me, despite my begging and pleading). The funny thing is that everyone I know that had seen these ‘official’ pics a month ago raved about them and how much better the styling was compared to the spyshots.

When they’re looking at these great photos, the rest of us, the ones that actually make decisions to spend our thousands on new cars, are looking at cameraphone pictures and canning them.

If I’m GM, I want to manage that sort of reaction on my own terms. Test mules are primarily for running drivetrains etc in city and country conditions. Why put actual new-model sheetmetal on them? Why not test drivetrains with completely dodgy sheetmetal and keep the new styling under wraps until you’re ready to release it on your own terms?

That may be the most niave paragraph ever written on this blog, but that’s OK. It just makes common sense to me that Saab could manage the release of it’s own new vehicles in a way that maximised and leveraged the natural interest that’s already there.

And people, please understand that spyshots look like crap because of the nature of the photo, not necessarily the nature of the car. Even Elle McPherson looks like crap straight out of bed at 7 in the morning (or so I’m told).

Whether you’re photographing cars, dogs, cats, houses, Elle McPhersons: it’s like anything else, the quality of the final product is directly related to the preparation.

You may also like

1 Comment

  1. They better be not running with those “Rice Boy”, non Saab Characteristic Wheels.

    The 9-3 Sportcombi wheels are great, why can’t Saab just “tweak those” a little for the NYA (New) Saab 9-5??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *