Staying on Location
In my previous post about Business Portraits, I covered why they are important to your company, planning the photo shoot, the best time to hold it, dress code and background or location.
I hate the term “Head Shot” as the sort of photo you have on a passport or security ID is going to do nothing for your business – or for you. You want to have proper portraits that help tell a story about your people, your company and you.
If you are planning a location for the business portrait shoot, ideally you want one where there is the option of open air or under cover. In the example shown to the left, I photographed the Senior Partner in a firm of Merseyside-based accountants on the edge of the colonnades that form part of Albert Dock in Liverpool.
Over his shoulder are “The Three Graces” which are the famous three buildings on Liverpool’s Pier Head, that are a UNESCO World Heritage site. This accountancy firm was keen to be identified with Liverpool and anyone who knows Liverpool knows The Three Graces.
In a group shot for this firm, I placed the staff underneath the same colonnade, while I stood on a staircase nearby to get the shot. It was a typically windy day at Albert Dock and I was getting wet as I took these shots, but any photographer expects a little discomfort from time to time.
The important thing was – we got the photos in an environment that anyone who knows Liverpool would recognise immediately and no member of staff got wet. Getting wet is not a good start to the working day!
A good alternative is to use your business premises as the background – possibly using some of the company branding as part of the portrait.
If you want a more subtle effect, an experienced photographer will be able to achieve the blurred background effect you see in the photograph at the start of this post (known as “bokeh”.)
The photograph of the young business woman, at the beginning of this post, was taken using only natural light that was coming through a window in a warehouse and some overhead lighting.
No flashgun or studio flash was used for this shot. The blurred yellow shape you can see in the background is a fork lift truck. Without necessarily knowing what the shape is, you know this is an industrial environment.
This is one of my favourite business portraits for several reasons, not least because it won me an award from the Guild of Photographers. It is also the final photograph in the ten photographs that make up my landing page at www.wainmat.co.uk
Running the Shoot
Whilst a group photo shoot should be enjoyable, it does often bring out the inner child in most people. I always try to do individual photos of people on a strict 1:1 basis, so that they won’t be distracted by other members of staff.
Make sure there is somewhere that the other members of staff can sit or stand out of sight of the person who is having their business portrait taken.
As you now know that a shoot is going to take longer than you originally planned for, make sure that there are bottles of water, maybe some snacks for staff and a hand mirror so that ladies can do last-minute checks on make up, or men can comb their hair. Everyone becomes very self-conscious during a photo shoot like this.
If the photo shoot is outside and the weather is cold, bring a few wraps so that those who haven’t come in coats don’t get cold, or get them to wait in cars until they are called.
The whole process should be enjoyable for everyone. Apart from at a wedding, most people never have their photograph taken by a professional photographer during their lifetimes.
For me, one of the greatest pleasures is to see the reaction I get from people who I have photographed, when they see themselves in the final, finished image.
And yes, I have seen people in tears, when they see themselves or a loved one in a really good photograph. It makes me feel very privileged to do what I do.
It’s a good idea to develop a company portrait style as it helps to convey a sense of team spirit to everyone who will view your business portraits.
Once you have worked out what the company portrait style is – stick to it. If you are not sure what style to go for because you’ve never done this exercise before, spend a little time looking in the “About Us” pages of other companies. Quite soon, you will see a style that really appeals and you can send the URL to your photographer so he or she knows the look you would like.
Alternatively, look in business publications for photographs that you like, cut them out and send them to your photographer.
A big advantage of having a clear company portrait style is that, when new members join your team, it’s not too difficult to get a photo of them that looks like it was taken at the same time as all the original team photos.
This is probably why many companies opt for the white background look but if you have a location you will always have access to, it won’t be difficult for your photographer to re-create the look.
I know it’s not something that is discussed in polite society, but let’s talk about money.
In your company, if all business portraits have, to date, been shot on a smart phone, you will probably get a surprise at what professional photographers charge for their services.
But once you have had business portraits shot by a professional, you will never go back. You and your staff will never see themselves in the same light again.
A professional photographer will work closely with you to plan the shoot, agree on a company style and take the photographs with equipment that costs a small fortune (my kit is insured for well over £20k.) Why so much? These are the tools of my trade and I believe that my clients deserve to be photographed with the best kit that I can buy.
Your photographer will then spend more time processing the photos than has been spent on the photo shoot. He or she will work with you and your team to pick the best images and possibly do some further processing of them. This is not a quick process.
In the past, the way that some photographers charged for their time and the right to use images was often less than transparent, verging on the arcane.
I give an upfront quotation that I stick to, as I know from my own experience of running companies that delivering projects on budget is everything.
If I do a business portrait shoot and hear that just one member of staff isn’t happy with his or her photos, I will come back and re-shoot for no extra charge. Let’s remember this is also a team-building exercise and we want everyone to feel good about themselves.
I trust my clients and I want to build long-term relationships. When I come back in the future to shoot a company’s business portraits, I want to be greeted as a friend by those who remember me.
I keep archives of photographs that I have taken for companies, both on hard drives and online. If a newspaper needs a photo of someone I have photographed, I can send a link that they can download in seconds. It’s all part of the service.
Some Closing Thoughts
Banks and shareholders don’t lend to or invest in companies, they lend to or invest in people and they will want to know what you look like.
Last year, 10% of all the photographs that have ever been taken since photography began, were shot. Most of them were taken on smart phones and most of these were awful.
If you ever look at most Profile Photos on Facebook and other social media, almost all of them are pretty dreadful for reasons I won’t over-analyse here. Even senior management in large companies often have poor photos on social media.
So why not incentivise your team by offering an extra photo or two in a less formal style, as an add-on to the more formal business portrait shoot? It will add very little to the cost of your business portrait photo shoot.
Once your team have great business portraits, they certainly won’t want the traditional bad-lit, out of focus photo of themselves that they have been using on social media for the past few years.
Finally, for any of my social media contacts who want any advice about photography, just drop me a line – I’ll be happy to help. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
First photo taken with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a 85mm f1.2L II lens. Exposure 1/400 second at f2.8. ISO 400.
Second photo taken with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a Canon 24mm – 70mm f2.8L II lens at 70mm. Exposure 1/60 second at f5.6. ISO 800.