“I want my concrete to look like this photo.”

As stamped concrete professionals, we’ve all heard this comment from potential customers. When clients see a photo of a finished project, they often think it should be simple to replicate, especially if the caption states the colors used.

Photos certainly are a great tool for getting the owner’s idea across to the contractor, but they also offer an excellent opportunity for contractors to educate customers about the extremely variable nature of stamped concrete.

Don't Let the Photos Fool Your Customers

View All 3 Photos >

Our decorative concrete columnist explains how photographs in brochures and other marketing materials can set the stage for disappointment, and what you can do to avoid that.

Play slideshow

Potential customers are often so caught up with the colors in a particular photo that they fail to consult the associated color charts. That means they don’t see the disclaimers regarding final color.

If the customer’s photo lists a base color of Slate Gray and the antiquing release as Deep Charcoal, that’s good enough. After all, how different could the real colors be from those in a photograph?

I can hear you laughing.

Limitless variables

The answer is that photos can differ tremendously from the actual color of a finished project. Differences in lighting, camera angle, and backgrounds can all drastically affect the look of a photo.

Also, because stamped concrete is a handcrafted item, the final outcome depends greatly upon the craftsman who installs it. No two contractors will achieve exactly the same results, even when using identical materials. Finishing techniques and methods of cleaning and sealing vary from contractor to contractor.
Therefore, to choose colors based exclusively on a photograph is foolhardy. It’s even more foolish for a contractor to sell a job based solely on a photo.

To prevent problems later, realistic expectations must be set.

Sample before stamping

You’d think that jobs using the same color combination would appear somewhat similar, but you’d be wrong.

To illustrate my point, the three photos in this article are from a manufacturer’s stamp pattern selection guide. They appear in the brochure’s first few pages, so it’s easy to fold the pages so all three images are visible at the same time. I do this for every potential customer trying to choose colors for their project.

All three projects used Millstone integral concrete color with Smoke antiquing release. But due to lighting, background, and different installers, each photo is remarkably different. If the captions hadn’t identified what products were used, you’d never guess they’re the same.

None is a “better” installation than the others. They’re all very nice projects and yet they are still very different. That’s why customers should look at color charts and read their disclaimers.

And this is precisely why color manufacturers recommend that a jobsite sample be made before the job: to give customers a realistic sample of what their project will look like from that particular contractor with his particular materials.

Managing expectations lets you avoid problems when the time comes to collect payment. By showing your customer photos like these, you will have helped to manage those expectations.