Investing in Storytelling Through Brand Photography
I have clients who keep me as a “photographer on call” to capture messaging central to their brand. Nextech, an Indianapolis not-for-profit focused on bringing tech to students, is a perfect example. They are committed to telling the story of the impact they have on their participants through brand photography.
Located in Downtown Indianapolis, Nextech immerses high school juniors and seniors in tech-related classes, trains teachers how to teach coding, and works with elementary students to inspire them to follow the STEM track. The organization got its roots as a program within the Exact Target Foundation, and eventually spun off on its own. I’ve known the leadership team for years, so it has been fun to watch their evolution.
Nextech is committed to using their own high-quality imagery to tell their brand story. Their goals is to show how they help students and teachers feel confident in using and teaching tech. Professionalism is important to their messaging, so rather than using pictures snapped on a cell phone or stock photography, they bring me in to their events to snap candid and formal shots of them at work.
“Collaboration is fun” is how I would describe the main theme of the images I take for Nextech. They bring me into the classroom, workshop or other events and ask me to be a fly on the wall. I wait for moments where students, mentors and leaders look like they are having a quality conversation or an enjoyable moment and grab the shot without them even knowing. My camera is ready for the right gesture, smile, or laugh that will capture the essence of the activity. I also take headshots of the team, as well as participants whose quotes about their experiences will be used on the Nextech website.
Professional photographers bring their experience and knowledge to their work. Beyond knowing how to capture the right mood through candids, lighting and editing are central to the success of the shoot. When I arrive at the event facility, I always hope for a window for some natural light, but I always travel with my light kit just in case. I also try to match the light on my camera to the color of the room’s light to reduce the common blue or yellow cast that emits from natural or artificial sources. Also, it can be necessary to do some work in the editing room, compensating for dark rooms or color.
Sarah Pelko, Nextech’s Marketing Associate, was kind enough to share some thoughts about working with me:
“My first experience with Paul was when he was doing headshots for our Catapults– groups of high school students who come in for the summer to learn coding and get introduced to the Indianapolis tech industry. A lot of these kids have never been in front of a camera before let alone a professional photographer. Some had no idea what a headshot was. They were enamored with Paul. He came in got these kids from all walks of life to get comfortable with the camera. He was very good at speaking to the audience he was working with. Since then I have worked with him on other projects where he is capturing candid shots for us. He is very good at being inconspicuous so people relax. He is then able to capture exactly what we intended. Finally, he gives us the proofs of only the best of the best to sift through, using our time wisely. We have a lot of events photographed, so we really appreciate this tactic.
Nextech works with teachers, student, pubic schools, private schools, tech industry professionals – a wide variety of people. Paul is able to cater to the individual needs of every group and make them feel comfortable which is a great skill. Most people do not want to have their photo taken. Paul is talented at getting people comfortable with the process. We are very excited and happy to have Paul on our team.”
Thanks, Sarah! If your organization is interested in telling its story through brand photography, you can contact me here.
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.