Tell Your Brand Story Through Professional Headshots and Brand Imagery
One of the reasons why I love what I do so much is my belief in the power of storytelling through pictures. As a photographer specializing in professional headshots and brand imagery, I feel like it is my job to capture my clients’ personalities on camera. Whether it is a single headshot of one person, or event photos or environmental images, I take the time to understand the goal for the shoot and the story we are trying to tell.
Duane Law is the owner of Exact IT Consulting, located here in Indianapolis. He was looking for headshots and marketing imagery for their website and other advertising spaces. It was important to him to capture both the company’s culture and expertise. We took editorial-style headshots and environmental images to achieve this goal.
When I come into an organization’s workspace, I immediately start thinking about what they do and look for elements that convey that idea. For Exact IT, it was technology. It would not have made sense to take pictures of the office furniture or décor since they are not interior designers. I found things that evoke the idea of technical expertise, such as wires, blinking lights, and cool looking technology items. The idea is to show that the organization is comfortable with these things, and therefore worthy of trusting them with your IT needs.
For the professional headshots, in the tech world a more casual vibe is the norm. So, we avoided suits and ties and went with the company polos, the stereotypical uniform of tech support that also has the added benefit of showing off their logo. I captured employees sitting at their desks, smiling at the camera or more candid shots of them enjoying their work.
Exact IT now has the beginnings of a stock library for their marketing needs, as well as updated headshots that highlight the supportive nature of their company culture.
Duane was kind enough to share his thoughts on our work together:
“We love having pictures of our space to showcase on the website, on social media and in our marketing materials. It helps humanize the brand and put faces to our company. Paul was professional, experienced and fun to work with”
If you are looking to tell your company’s brand story through your own imagery, you can contact me here.
Showing Your Personal Brand Through Editorial Headshots
It may be that when you think of a professional headshot, you picture a person set into a formal pose sporting a conservative smile and outfit. However, these days imagery is expected to tell a story. Hence the rise in popularity of editorial headshots, which offer a deeper understanding of the subject’s personality and livelihood. Now that most of us have a smartphone and take candid pictures, society is used to seeing people in a more authentic light. Editorial headshots offer that snapshot into who you are and what you do.
Editorial headshots are meant to go a bit further than showing your face (which is important too). They add a bit of marketing to your image by offering a glimpse into your processes and client interactions. A client of mine, Brian Huff, was looking to include this idea in his professional headshots. He is in the tech field and does a lot of brainstorming on a whiteboard. He wanted that tool behind him in the pictures to emphasize what a client can expect when they work with him. Those headshots offer a totally different message than just his smiling face on a plain backdrop.
If you are considering having editorial headshots taken, I have two pieces of advice. First, be flexible with your environment. There may be a few stories you want to tell about yourself. For example, Brian knew he wanted the whiteboard, but once we were on-site, we realized that an attractive couch and window offered another view of him that was also appropriate for his client base. He ended up also choosing one of those images to use in his marketing efforts.
My second suggestion is to consider your outfit carefully. One could argue that it is even more important to dress authentically for editorial headshots. Dressing in what you wear at your job adds to the storytelling. For example, if I am photographing a researcher, it could be appropriate to have a lab as the background with my client wearing gloves and a mask. A financial advisor could be wearing a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, or a manufacturer could wear coveralls and safety gear. There is no official dress code for an editorial portrait; it all depends upon what you do and who you are.
Brian was kind enough to share his thoughts on our work together:
“A common connection that Paul and I share decided it was finally time for her to get new headshots and she took to social media for advice. Paul’s name was mentioned multiple times and it got me thinking – I started my career 20 years ago and never thought about getting professional headshots. Maybe I, too, should get rid of those cropped photos. Paul and I have been acquaintances for years through networking and local food. My expectations were that he would deliver on his stellar reputation. I had no idea how simple or how much of a production the photoshoot would be. He showed up at my office with some equipment and made the process easy and effortless. The results are exactly what I wanted, professional yet ‘me’.”
Thank you, Brian! If you are interested in having editorial headshots taken, you can contact me here.
Using Editorial Photography in Professional Headshots
The Financial Advisors of Knall/Cohen/Pence Group, an Indianapolis branch of Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc, were looking for updated professional headshots for their new website and sales tools. COO Phil Bounsall shared the organization’s goals for the shots: “We wanted every employee on the website so our clients can easily see who they are working with and have quick access to their contact info. We also use the images in our informational presentation for prospects.”
Capturing the personality of the organization was important to KCP. They have an office with interesting art and architectural features that were perfect as a background. I took the employees in groups of 3-4 and placed them in different spots around the office. I also used different poses, with some people standing, some sitting, so with their arms crossed, etc. We even did some with people not looking straight into the camera for a more candid feel. This variety helps liven up the look of the marketing tools in which the images will be used.
Using the environment to provide deeper clues to the viewer about the subject of the image is called editorial photography. We took this idea even further with the partners of KCP. Each member of the leadership team has a distinct personality or interest that is reflected in his office. They wanted to capture those unique attributes in their professional headshots, so we made sure to place each person in his space. For example, one partner is a voracious reader, so we took his picture next to his pile of current reading material. Another person is into art, so we placed him near a piece of his collection. The environment helps further the story within the image, adding more interest to these professional headshots. As Phil told me, “We want people to leave our website with a feeling of knowing and trusting our team, so we were looking to show a glimpse into who we are through the pictures.”
Phil was also kind enough to share a few words about his experience with me: “This session was the second time I have worked with Paul, and each time I found him to be flexible, creative, and comforting. He gets the best out of everybody and offers a very good experience.”
Thanks, Phil! If you are looking to take your professional headshots to another level, consider using editorial photography. I’m here to help. You can contact me here.
Riley Children’s Foundation “Be The Hope” Campaign
I have truly enjoyed the work I have done with the Riley Children’s Foundation over the past few years. The interaction with the children, and knowing I am contributing to the success of this important organization, add meaning to my work as a professional photographer. My most recent time with them involved creating imagery for their “Be The Hope” campaign, which hopes to raise $175,000 by 2020. Ed Carpenter Racing has stepped up to be a major partner for this new fundraising initiative. Imagery of the kids Riley Children’s Hospital serves and Ed was central to spreading the campaign message.
We went out to the Ed Carpenter Racing on the East side of Indianapolis and took studio-style portraits of Ed and the children. A simple backdrop was essential to what they planned to do with the images. Part of the marketing campaign was to announce the newly designated Riley Children’s Foundation Turn Two Suites at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The pictures were blown up to over 20ft tall and placed on the building, which made for an impactful unveiling event.
The event was also an opportunity to capture more marketing imagery. I took pictures of Ed and the kids under their huge selves. It was fun. Ed also went to the hospital to hand out Riley superhero capes to the kids who were there. All of these images provided rich content for the social media aspect of the “Be the Hope” marketing campaign.
As a non-profit organization that directly helps people, the Riley Children’s Foundation is much more able to tell their brand story using their own imagery. Stock photography of children would have never worked. My long-standing relationship with Riley meant I already understood the tenor of their messaging, making it easier for me to capture what they were looking for. And, I have experience working with their constituents – kids. Having the patience to wait for the possibly fidgety or uncomfortable child to relax and therefore offer the perfect authentic facial expression is the key. It takes time for the children to get comfortable with all the strange adults in the room, as well as the camera. During one of these photoshoots, one child decided he did not want to participate. We just hung out in the room until he relaxed and he eventually started enjoying himself and allowed the photographs to be taken. His mom even sent her thanks to me via Riley for my patience with her child. For me, that patience comes naturally, especially with this particular group of kids.
Riley does good work and I am proud to be affiliated with them. If you would like to support the “Be The Hope” campaign, click here.
Client Highlight: Professional Headshots Reflect Your Brand Promise
Whatever business you are in, your company has a personality and set of differentiators that help it stand apart from your competitors. All of your marketing content needs to highlight what makes you unique, including your professional headshots. My client, Rebecca Geyer, owns an elder-law practice here in Indianapolis. Being competent, trustworthy and approachable are central to her marketing message, so I needed to give her imagery that reflected that tone.
Individual Professional Headshots
Sometimes people get uncomfortable in front of the camera, so in order to elicit their true selves I need to help them relax. However, the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates team had no problem being authentic. Their warm personalities and strong professional skills came through easily since there was no apprehension. I have worked with Rebecca and her staff twice now and had the same experience each time. Unlike some other businesses where we are trying to create an environment, these individual headshots were more about highlighting the person. So, I used a bright, simple backdrop, which also makes it easy to take similar shots when new employees are added.
Business Team Shots
For the first shoot, we tested out many areas of their office to offer a few background options. My second time there, we knew what they liked so we stayed in one spot. Again, this friendly and open team made my job easy! The most difficult aspect of taking group shots is blinking. It can be difficult to capture everyone with their eyes open at the same time – especially when children are involved. For this small, experienced team, I was more concerned about how to light them correctly. The lighting you use for an individual is very different from a group situation. If you light at an angle like you do for a single person, the people in the front row cast a shadow on the back row. I have to shift my lights to ensure everyone looks good. It is situations like these where a photographer’s experience really shows.
Rebecca was kind enough to share her thoughts about our work together:
“I originally met Paul at networking group and have had a good experience with him. He is professional and timely in getting responses, and he provides both print and web versions of his photos to help you with your advertising. We especially liked that he would make any photo tweaks we needed. The final product had a professional look, which is necessary for a law practice. Lawyers can be intimidating to contact so coming across as approachable yet professional was our goal. I have been pleased with Paul’s work and look forward to continuing to work with him.”
Thanks, Rebecca! If you creating marketing materials that highlight your brand promise, don’t forget your professional headshots and team images. The people your customers will be interacting with play a large role in differentiating your business. Make sure their images reflect them as well as your company. Please contact me here for more information on my photography services.
What’s the Best Way to Hone Your Professional Photography skills? Teach.
I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to instruct and advise photography students for the Indianapolis Camera Club. In addition to the satisfaction of helping people develop their passion for photography, I have also discovered that teaching has made me better understand what I do. When it comes to work, many times we approach developing a skill by doing a lot of research and then building upon our instincts and experiences. When you teach, you must know the hard reasons behind your choices. Why do I place my light here? Why do I position the subject this way? Having to articulate and defend to myself the whys behind my work has certainly helped me hone my craft! And then there are the question from students. Answering “that is the way I’ve always done it” could be the truth, but having a technical reason is more helpful. It also makes me understand why I do something, and provides the opportunity to refine my process.
One activity in particular that the Club had me do was a hands-on image critique for a class. They gave me a bunch of pictures and had me describe why some worked and others did not. I feel this experience was extremely helpful for the students. Photography does not have obvious solutions to problems. Unlike driving, where you typically step on the brakes when you encounter a difficult situation, imagery is not that straightforward. The goal of photography is to evoke an emotion – which one is up to the photographer or the client. Answering why one image has more emotional impact that one that was taken two seconds later is not easy. Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson spoke about the notion of the decisive moment, that one place in time that captures the best of what is happening in front of you. This concept has driven my work; I am always evaluating a scene to uncover the perfect moment to capture. I have found that introducing this idea to students can be impactful. My goal is for them to know the concept exists, and use it to guide their work. From there we discuss elements like composition, lighting, expression, gesture, etc. – the other things that go into compelling images. Not only does articulating these aspects of good photography help elevate my work, it also is important for novice photographers to hear the concepts and see examples of how they are used or not used. I hope that the students leave with a good knowledge base and the desire to be proactive in looking for ways to develop their skills.
Jeff Coates, President of the Indianapolis Camera Club, offered some thoughts on my work with the organization:
“I’ve been on the Indianapolis Camera Club Board for several years now and I also have a Masters in education. There is a mantra is the education industry – just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you can teach it. Our group understands the value of bringing outside photographers in to share their experiences with our members and we try to get folks who are also interesting in teaching. What struck us about Paul was his genuine interest in listening and trying to help people learn whatever aspect he was talking about. I found that fairly unique; he has a natural affinity for being in a teaching role. We all picked up on it and appreciated it. His ability to develop a rapport with our members was remarkable, and we were so impressed with him the first time, we keep asking him back. It is one thing to explain your craft, but being able to engage with the students to help them learn is another. We have a wide variety of skill levels in our group and Paul is especially good at helping people learn foundational skills of photography.”