Client Highlight: Sapphire Strategy Professional Headshots and Brand Photography
Having worked in Indianapolis for over 20 years, I get many opportunities to see friends and colleagues evolve and grow. Such is the case with Sapphire Strategy. I have known their founder, Jenn Golding, for many years now and I was happy to work with her when she opened her consulting firm. Recently, we got together again to take professional headshots of her team, as well as take some brand photography in their new office space.
Sapphire Strategy is located in The Union 525, a tech-focused co-working space in Downtown Indianapolis. The building has a cool vibe and served as a perfect backdrop for our photos. These more urban-looking places offer a lot of visual variety with unique architectural details in one building. The Sapphire Strategy Team and I wandered around the space, finding seating and standing areas, desks, windows, half walls and even wall murals to use as backgrounds for their photos.
Variety also has challenges, however. Each new area of the building could mean a change in light quality, color and tone. And, different spaces have different vibes – warm and inviting to cold and austere can both be in the same building. It was important that we keep in mind the look we wanted as we chose the environments.
Creating good composition for the photos can be challenging in these spaces too, especially for professional headshots where we want the focus to be on the person, not the background. I am always looking for a pleasing composition to place people into; busy environments can make it hard to create a visually balanced image. Even though for larger shoots I scope out the venue beforehand, this issue must be managed on-site in real time. Here is where having experience in understanding how different lighting and backgrounds affect the final outcome ensures a productive photoshoot. We certainly do not want to have to come back to redo the images!
Beyond showing their working environment, another goal was to show the vibe of the company. They are a fun loving and hard working company and their corporate photos needed to show that personality. Sometimes I take photos at more formal companies where it can be hard to get people to let go a bit and not look so stiff. This group had no problem looking happy and comfortable –at times had a hard time getting just smiles rather than laughs!
According to Jenn Golding, “When we work together, I give Paul very basic guidance and a shot list to let him know what I am thinking. Then I let his creativity go. He takes pictures all day and I don’t, so I trust his judgment. I like his eye for environment, headshots, office shots, etc. I let him know what I need but then tell him – ‘If you see anything cool, go for it.’ I’ve been working with him for years, and have always been happy with the result. For this shoot, we needed headshots, office shots, team photos and shots of individuals and our new location. We will use the photos in social media, website, email marketing, and collateral.”
Professional headshot and brand photography are central to communicating the personality of your business to your customers. If you are looking to launch a business or just need a refresh, you can contact me here.
Professional Headshot Sessions: Review Your Images On-Site
One of the challenges of my work as a professional photographer is ensuring that I walk away from a photoshoot with images my client will be happy with. Constant reviewing of the shots while I am there and making necessary tweaks keeps surprises from happening later when they see the proofs. The photos go straight to an iPad, where they can be evaluated immediately on a larger screen than what is on the back of my camera. We note little things like a stray hair or un-tucked collar, as well as body stance, lighting and smile quality. Often professional headshot clients are uncomfortable in front of the camera. I am better able to articulate to them what is going on – perhaps smiling stiffly or looking pained – by showing them the photo rather than describing what I see. This communication helps them get more comfortable and we end up with headshots that reflect their personality. On site, real-time review allows us to correct the things we cannot alter after the fact. Elements like skin tone, color and shadows can be edited with Photoshop if need be. This tactic works especially well when I am quickly taking professional headshots for a large group of employees. It shortens the communication process and helps move the photoshoot along.
For brand photography, my client is usually looking to convey a particular message through the shots. On-site review ensures we are telling the right story. Whether they are trying to convey a confident, trustworthy, fun or professional atmosphere, we are able to make adjustments as we go. Perhaps the expected background is too busy or too bland, or the angle of the shot needs to be altered a bit to set the right mood. Again, we correct the elements that are inherent to being in the space and leave the simpler adjustments for the computer. Just like a chef who tastes a dish through every stage of cooking, I adjust as we go during my photoshoots, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that until we have exactly what my client is looking for.
Miscommunication is prevalent in professional photography because we are trying to describe what we see in our heads. The subtleties within a photo are not always easy to communicate with words. Having the image there to point to offers my client and I a shared vocabulary, making the tweaking process much easier. It’s not my client’s job to know the vocabulary of photography, so using imagery allows us to create a shared vision.
Looking for professional headshots or business photography? You can contact me here.
Crafting a Business Image
Wherever you are representing yourself, be it online or print media, you will need to think about your business image. Visuals create a window to the personality and tone of a company. Headshots introduce your team and onsite environmental or editorial portraits evoke a sense of hard work and skill. Done well, photos can communicate volumes to your clients about you, and present a polished, professional look you aim for in person.
I have worked with many companies to create stock libraries and professional headshots uniquely tailored to their needs. I do the heavy lifting for my clients in crafting their business image, using my own creative eye and experience to develop the perfect photo. However, it is vital to know what you want, and to communicate your expectations with your photographer so the resulting images will better represent what you pictured. The following pointers will help you figure out those expectations.
Uses Far and Wide
To start, you need to know where you will be using the images. Do you need team shots? Marketing materials? Website stock photography? Knowing the mediums will help your photographer know how to approach each photoshoot.
Style and Story-telling
Images tell the story of what your business is—if you are a tech company, your visuals should look drastically different than a landscaping contractor’s. There are three styles I use in photoshoots: classic, environmental, and editorial. Classic style, a straight-on shot with a distraction-free background, is great for people-driven companies, like HR and marketing. Editorial style captures workers and processes in action, and is the perfect way to highlight product and service-driven businesses.
Environmental style allows subjects to be shot at visually interesting locations, outdoors or in the office. I recommend environmental portraits to those who have interesting office spaces. You can refer to the process of professional headshots for a more in-depth look.
Personality and Backdrops
Talk with your photographer beforehand to determine what personality vibe you’re going for so he or she will know what tools to bring and how to shoot the pictures. Are you a law firm or bank? You may want images that communicate competence and trustworthiness. Are you a tech company? Creativity and ingenuity might be your leaning. Plain color backdrops can convey a strong message: white and bright colors have an open, inviting energy, while dark backdrops look more serious and dramatic.
Interesting offices provide a lot of visual fodder for stock photography and headshot backgrounds. I always advise my clients who have great office spaces to showcase their work environment, not just for clients, but also for prospective employees. Refer to my blog about using office spaces for examples.
Bringing a professional photographer on as an integrated partner can save time and provide you with consistent quality work. Please contact me for your business photography needs, whether it is portraits, professional headshots, group photos, or unique brand photography.
Brand Photography for Non-Profits: The Riley Children’s Foundation
I have the honor of being one of the go-to photographers for The Riley Children’s Foundation, who create regular communications for emails, social media posts, magazines, brochures, signage and everything else needed for a non-profit to reach its donors. My projects revolve around capturing the conditions, struggles and successes of children and their families who are treated at the Riley Hospital for Children. Together we create visual stories of these kids and what they’ve been going through.
I create images for a number of different media outlets: social media, enewsletters, the printed magazine “The Riley Messenger”, blog posts, brochures, signage, and much more, including third parties like the Indy Star. There is a huge variety between photoshoots. I take standard “candid” portraits and also create studio-style portraits with a backdrop.
Locations vary between the hospital, families’ own homes, and events like a high school dance marathon in Bloomington or race car drivers and professional football players visiting patients.
With a few years of working together under our belt, a level of trust has been created. I can show up to a location with my gear and dive right in with little oversite. They usually tell me the background of the subject, but beyond that I know the Riley style and brand and can tell the story they want to tell. I also know the nooks and crannies of the organization—parking, familiarity with the team and their photo library—giving us an expedited process. I also understand the challenges of working with kids who sometimes aren’t feeling well, and my manner of being sensitive and understanding is invaluable to making them feel comfortable. The kids are usually fantastic, by the way. I have a lot of fun working with them.
To effectively tell a story through visuals, you need to show what happened through those images. I do this by including aspects relative to the situation. One recent story was of a boy who had a genetic eye trouble his father also had. His treatment required wearing very thick glasses. I took a shot where he wore his glasses, then took a shot straight on without the glasses to show his eyes, emphasizing the issue that is being resolved.
Laura Buckner, my contact at the Riley Children’s Foundation, provides her take on what professional photography does for their organization. “Professional quality images are paramount to communicating need for a non-profit. Photography is everywhere, but placing importance on professional quality images like Paul provides is a priority for Riley Children’s Foundation. When people see a variety of images from us over a period of time, it starts to make an impact.”
Bringing a professional photographer on as a partner of your team can save time and provide you with consistent quality work. Please contact me here for your business photography needs, whether it is portraits, professional headshots, group photos, or unique brand photography.
The Process of Professional Headshots
Professional headshots tell the story of who you are and what you do. Great portraits aren’t effortless; there is a process to creating those photos that work perfectly for your marketing materials, website, or professional profile. You will need to choose the right style of professional portraits, prepare and plan for the photoshoot, and communicate with your photographer your needs and vision.
Professional headshots come in three styles: classic, environmental, and editorial.
Classic: This style keeps it simple—a straight-on shot with a distraction-free background. This look is great for professional profiles or employee headshots. Either an on-location or color backdrop can serve as the background. A solid color backdrop makes team photos easy to replicate when you hire new members. I always talk through with my clients what colors and backgrounds best suit their brand or business, as they are instrumental in conveying a certain feel to your audience.
Environmental: This style is well-suited for visually interesting locations. If your office has unique architectural features, cool outdoor spaces, or eye-catching artwork, taking your portrait on-site will add character to your headshots. Conversely, plain offices are ill suited to environmental shots. The same goes for messy spaces; straightening up is essential for professional photos. Overall, it is important to know what feel the background will convey, and choose your location wisely. Portraits should match your type of business; it makes sense for a landscaping architect to be outdoors, and a tech startup company to be in a cool office space. Some current office design trends include neat lighting and old wood, which end up making nice backdrops for in-office portraits. I like to arrive at locations early to scout unique backdrops—attention to detail is key to making your portraits memorable.
Editorial: This style focuses on your employees “in action.” If your business makes physical products or delivers services “on location” in interesting places, this can be the perfect option. Similar to environmental, editorial style is also not recommended for plain offices as the images will feature the surrounding space. If an office-based business wants editorial portraits, I may ask them to bring a few of their clients and/or partners into the office during the shoot. This allows us to take shots of their team in meetings, on calls, working in groups, etc.
Editing is essential to create a finished photograph. My philosophy of photo editing is to remove distractions from the frame and ensure the subjects look their best. After some minor color and lighting adjustments, I work with my clients to choose the best portraits. I then edit them more heavily, removing specks and stray hairs, softening shiny skin, or reducing the number of wires on a desk. Major changes I can make include taking a subject from one background and dropping them onto another, or even taking just a head or tie and placing it on another picture. With larger changes sometimes there are extra costs; it’s much easier to wear a tie than for me to photoshop a tie on you.
Communicating expectations clearly is vital no matter what style you choose. Miscommunication, or neglecting to explain your vision means you may not be happy with your portraits. When your photographer understands how you will use the images, and what specific look you want, the end result will better represent what you pictured.
Looking for an experienced professional headshot photographer? You can contact me at 317-443-3792 or send me a message.
What to Look for When Hiring a Professional Photographer
Photographers come in all varieties—wedding photographers, portrait-takers, stock photo creators, hobbyists and Instagram enthusiasts—and they are not necessarily interchangeable. Hiring a professional photographer means finding the right creative genius who can capture what it is you want to communicate.
What Every Photographer Should Have
That being said, there are certainly qualities you want your photographer to have no matter what your project is.
Work that is their own. The main thing that impresses me in other photographers is a unique vision. They should be able to handle the standard headshot, but can they also produce creative work that is unique and compelling? If you aren’t impressed by their photos of others, you will likely not be happy with their photos of you.
An eye for consistency. I often go back to clients to photograph new hires. Those headshots need to look just like the ones I did in previous sessions. Photographers need to be able to produce photos from different sessions for their clients that look as though they all happened in one sitting.
An eye for detail. Detail makes for a cleaner, more impactful image. Are there any distracting objects in the background? Are the subject’s clothes and accessories neatly primped, or did it look like the photographer wasn’t paying attention to how they looked?
Grasp of basic image creation. Being able to handle the basics is a no-brainer. Are the images sharp? Is the lighting on the subjects even and pleasing? Is detail lost to blown-out highlights or blocky shadows?
The Thing About Gear
Yes, gifted photographers can do a lot with a single camera and their experience; however, high quality gear still makes a difference in professional photography. There are times when my expensive, pro-level equipment allows me to keep producing compelling images in situations where entry-level tools would just fall over. You will want a photographer with both an artistic eye and quality gear.
The Right Professional Photographer
For different events and subjects, you will need a photographer who has experience photographing that specific instance you want to capture. Don’t expect a family and baby photographer to be on-par with a commercial headshot and portrait photographer, and vice-versa. As an example, I personally just don’t have the props and experience with babies to produce high-quality newborn photos, but throw me in an office environment and I can produce a whole photo stock library for a business website.
You also need to like a photographer’s style. Perusing their online gallery is one way you can determine what you like and don’t. Are their studio backdrops smooth and simple, or wrinkled like bed sheets? Is the post processing in Photoshop subtle or overly done? Are they using gimmicks like selective color and heavy Photoshop filters? If their style isn’t the look you’re going for, you won’t be pleased with the images they create for you.
Word-of-mouth referrals and testimonies are often helpful as well in deciding if a photographer is pleasant and professional to work with. You might also want to check their website: a photographer with a good website is indicative of an in-tune and business-savvy person who invested in their online presence as an important customer service.
Ultimately, the right professional photographer is the one who not only produces great photos for you at the end, but is also easy to work with through the entire process, communicating with you about timing and vision.