Branding / August 17, 2020
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Photography is an important piece of website content, and sometimes the most impactful element on the page. Whether you’re building a new website or refreshing an old one, the choice of photos – both lifestyle and formal headshot photography – can make all the difference. As PR and marketing consultants, we know this to be true from our experience managing website projects and arranging photo shoots for clients.
Rhino PR recently worked with Frank Monkiewicz to shoot photos for a client’s new website. Many of you know Frank from his ubiquitous presence behind a camera at SMPS Boston chapter events. As a commercial photographer of people, Frank is a keen observer who captures genuine expressions and authentic moments in lifestyle portraits and action shots. We asked him to offer some tips for taking exceptional people photos that stand out on a printed or online page.
Notice trends in commercial photos. Formal headshots have evolved into more relaxed and casual “lifestyle portraits,” especially for companies embracing a more casual dress code. These lifestyle portraits are increasingly showing up as horizontal photos on websites instead of the starchy vertical orientation of old. For backgrounds, formal headshots still lean toward the white or light grey backdrop, while lifestyle portraits typically pose people in an office background. Also, company group photos aren’t recommended anymore: with employee turnover and absentees on the day on the shoot, a team photo isn’t easy to take and may not even be an accurate representation of all your employees.
Think about photo usage. Will you use the photos for the website? Collateral? PR? Do you need formal or lifestyle portraits, or both? If you’re taking photos for a website, be sure to consider the design and specs for photo placement. If the home page has a wide or panoramic shot, for example, the photographer will need to take the photo from a wide angle. Cropping can render a photo useless for a specific purpose, so it’s important to tell the photographer ahead of time if you need an overview or close-up shot. Employee photos on a website may be designed as horizontal, vertical or square, so the photo orientation during the photo shoot does matter.
For formal portraits, decide on a backdrop or color background prior to the photo shoot. Frank has 15-20 paper backgrounds in his Cambridge studio that he brings to photo shoots as requested. With such a large selection, he can try to match the background of a new employee headshot to the background of older ones. He can also accommodate a lifestyle portrait in his studio, utilizing windows and light to duplicate portraits from a previous shoot.
Consider location of the photo shoot. Will your office work for lifestyle portraits? If the workplace is just private offices and conference rooms with no windows, it may not be conducive for a photo shoot. If not, schedule portraits around a company meeting or event. One large company held their annual meeting at a hotel and asked employees to dress to be ready for professional photos. The company arranged for every employee to have their lifestyle portrait taken during the event. Also, keep in mind that some photographers charge a fee to scout a location prior to a photo shoot. Figure out an appropriate location to avoid extra costs.
Plan ahead. Like other marketing activities, photo shoots of people require some coordination and forethought in order to be successful. Prepare a shot list and share it with the photographer in advance. A shot list might include lifestyle portraits, formal headshots, casual/impromptu office shots, or action shots showing your people doing their jobs. Camera settings and lights are adjusted differently for formal headshots, lifestyle portraits and action shots, making it time consuming to jump from one style of photo taking to another. Ask employees to sit for formal headshots first before moving on to lifestyle portraits.
Office or culture shots can be casual and still set up in advance. For culture photos, it’s best to decide ahead of time who will be in them and mix it up with a diversity of people. For working office shots, remember to include any props or “stand-in” people needed and have them at the ready on the day of the shoot. Be sure conference rooms are clean and there are no empty coffee cups in the background.
Prepare people for people photos. When taking photos of people, it makes sense to prepare them too. Give people advance notice so they can adjust their schedules and wear appropriate clothes the day of the shoot. It’s important to take portraits in the morning while people are fresh and have had coffee.
For the question of what to wear, Frank suggests whatever YOU like! He hesitates to tell people specifically what to wear, but he generally advises clients to wear clothes that are comfortable and make them feel good. These days, people want a more relaxed look in their professional photos. Clothing choices may depend on the kind of shot being taken: “head and shoulders” or full-length, for example. For men and women, muted colors always look better than heavy stripes, big patterns, or bold colors. And remember to iron your shirt – and pay attention to the collar!
For clothes that look nice in lifestyle shots, women may consider a top with a well-tailored jacket or a simple blouse with nice jewelry, and men may consider a t-shirt layered with a V-neck sweater or a button-down shirt with rolled-up sleeves. What not to wear? Keep in mind that sport coats with wide shoulders tend to make anyone look big in “head and shoulder” shots. Crazy ties might be fun, but don’t translate well in photos. Sloppy, wrinkled collars and overly clunky jewelry can also be a distraction.
Don’t say “cheese.” Often, people will force a smile on cue. Instead, Frank encourages people to give many different expressions during a portrait session. You don’t have to smile; just be authentic in your expressions. Frank takes 25-30 photos of each person during a portrait session, providing time to relax into the photo shoot. When he sends the web gallery of proofs, people can pick out the headshot smile they like.
One last word of advice from Frank: put a timeframe on selecting your proofs – or it doesn’t get done!