Brand Imagery: Creating a Shared Visual Vocabulary
With the growth of social media has come an increased reliance upon imagery to tell brand stories. For most of my clients, that means pictures of their staff and their offices. For those in the home improvement industry, it is their work that needs to be highlighted. One person’s definition of blue may be completely different than another’s. It is only through a shared visual vocabulary that they can be sure to be on the same page. Architectural photography is a different kind of brand imagery, but just as powerful as the headshots and event pictures I take.
While my preference is to photograph people, I enjoy the creative challenge of taking architectural images every once in a while. These two subjects require different yet similar approaches. Both professional headshots and architectural photography have the same goal – to make each subject look their best. With people, it’s ensuring their authentic personality comes through in their smile and posture. When photographing a kitchen remodel, the colors, textures, details and angles all have to shine.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I talk about lighting for every photoshoot I write about. For headshots, I approach my lighting needs by the space I am in. If I am outside or in a building with a lot of natural light, I can rely on the sun to illuminate my subjects. Interior shots usually mean I have to bring my own lighting to create the necessary shadows that highlight people’s faces. Photographing in a home is a whole other story. Windows add natural light, which tends to fight with indoor lighting sources in photography. Many times I have to adjust for lighting in the editing process. Also, hard surfaces like countertops, tile, stainless steel and mirrors are highly reflective, not only of light but of me as well. Care must be taken during the shoot to compensate for the shine and for the possibility of my face showing up in the middle of an oven door.
Photographing people usually requires a standard camera lens since I am rarely trying to add particular points of view. Architectural imagery requires more subtlety. You may notice many realtor home images have a fish-eye look, pulling out edges and angles in an unnatural way in an effort to capture the entirety of a space. Home remodelers, craftsmen and interior designers are looking to show the quality of their work while allowing you to feel like you could be in the space. Think Architectural Digest or Dwell magazine imagery. This look cannot be captured with the wide-angle lens. Instead I spend a lot of time moving my standard camera lens up and down, or the whole tripod to varying spots to ensure I capture the essence of the room. Close ups of materials, architectural detailing, patterns and textures are central to telling the story of a home design project as well. People never have me show the texture of their skin in our headshot sessions!
Most of the after-shoot editing I do for professional headshots is adjusting smiles, out-of-place hair, or putting someone on another background. With architectural photography, the color of the space is an important detail that must be true to the design. Color is interpreted differently by the eye and the camera, so sometimes I will take a picture of a color wheel in the space to see how the camera is interpreting the room. This allows me to alter the image later if it does not capture exactly what my client envisioned. I also clone out necessary but not always attractive elements like outlets, switches and thermostats.
A large part of your brand is what makes you different – your personality, your people and your work. I take the time to get to know you, your employees and what you do to ensure those unique qualities shine through in your brand imagery. Contact me here to learn more about how I can help you communicate effectively with your target market.
Capture Your Brand Efficiently with a Professional Photographer On Call
Fast-moving organizations have a need for efficiency, and Carmel-based retail software solutions company enVista is the perfect example. They have a large, growing team of associates, and putting a face to a name is central to their client relationships. I have been their professional photographer on call for a few years now, going out to their offices to take professional headshots of their new employees many times a year. Not only do the headshots reside on their website and internal IT systems, they hang them on a large wall in their break area to celebrate their team. The consistency of the timing and look of the photoshoots ensures their clients know exactly whom they are working with at all times.
The real value of having a professional photographer on call that you trust is efficiency. You do not have to keep repeating the details of your needs to someone new; they know your style, people and company already. The consistency they bring makes unifying your brand much easier. This relationship becomes even more important with event photography, since the photographer will know the key individuals to capture, as well as the messaging behind your marketing. Events tend to happen once, so retakes are usually impossible. Your photographer gets one shot (pun intended), so working with someone who knows your company helps ensure you get what you need.
enVista is not looking for in-depth photoshoots for the employee headshots. The goal is get a good picture of each employee quickly. I set up a white backdrop to keep the photos consistent each time, and the employees stand before it for their picture. However, creating a connection with my subjects is central to how I am able to capture their personality in the images. So, I have become adept at making quick connections that put people at ease, allowing them to offer up authentic smiles. New employees tend to be happy and enthusiastic, but also nervous. A genuine “good morning” and helping them settle their clothes or hair helps them relax and enjoy the shoot.
Stephanie Newell, enVista’s Human Capital Director, shared her thoughts on having a photographer on call:
“We’ve been working with Paul for five years; he takes headshots of all of our new employees and annually takes a group photo of our whole company. What has been really nice about with working with him is that once we explained our needs for and style of the photos, he continues to execute it every time. We have orientation days every three weeks now, and we have him out for each one. He manages the whole process for us. With so many new employees, he knows we might not know everyone’s name at the time, so he takes a photo with them holding their name on a piece of paper first. He then gives us several good options so the associate can pick their favorite. We also like having a single style of headshot we can use on our IT systems; it’s a great way for us to put a face to a name with the remote nature of our company.”
If you tend to have a lot of photography needs for your business, it may make sense to create a relationship with a professional photographer. Having a partner who understands your company and what you are trying to achieve can make promoting your brand more efficient and effective. I’d be happy to help. Contact me here with any questions or to make an appointment.
Brand Imagery: Collaboration Between Clients, Photographers and Marketing Firms
While I most often work directly with clients, I have also developed relationships with Indianapolis marketing firms to help them create brand imagery for their customers. Such was the case for Wharton & Power Insurance. They were working with Fresh Figs Marketing to rebrand as a formal partnership between two long-time colleagues. While they were updating their digital and brick and mortar look, they also needed fresh headshots for their new website.
“Team headshots are an important part of brand imagery,” states Jennifer Riley Simone, President of Fresh Figs Marketing. “Giving potential clients a glimpse into the personality of the team as a whole, as well as the individuals they would be working with, can help them feel comfortable about reaching out. Also, taking the shots in the office can help set a tone for the customer experience. W&P is a boutique independent shop, and I wanted that vibe to come through in the headshots.”
Wharton & Power had moved into a new stylish space in 2018, so I scouted around to find a backdrop that would provide a more relaxed feel than the typical insurance headshots. I chose their front window, which offered a nice view of the brick building across the street and set a community tone. Wharton & Power purposely chose to relocate to the Village of West Clay business community, so we subtly highlighted that in the headshots. I had worked with the Wharton half of the team before, taking portraits for their last website redesign with Fresh Figs. Then and now, it was important that I create images that could be easily replicated as staff come and go. Choosing the outdoor background allowed me to achieve this goal, knowing that those buildings would there the next time headshots were needed.
Since these portraits were specifically for the new website, my goal was to capture the individual as they supported the company brand. The small, personalized focus came out immediately as I began to shoot. The team was relaxed and friendly, not stuffy at all, so it was easy to capture that approachable look. Neither Jennifer nor I had told them what to wear since we wanted them to be comfortable, but they ended up being coordinated which looks great on the website.
Scott Wharton shared his thoughts on our time together:
“Paul went above and beyond for us during our photoshoot. He ended up having to come out twice to accommodate travel schedules. The first round, he arrived on time, took the images quickly, and gave us great pictures. Unfortunately, the second shoot was not so smooth. Paul ended up having to hang out with us for 45 minutes while one of our team members fought traffic. We were grateful that he made room in his schedule for this snafu. He was tolerant, patient and yet again gave us great photos.”
Working with a client again years later is fun for me, especially when I see improvement. The images for the 2018 go around were more refined than my 2014 shoot. I can see my techniques evolving, allowing me to better capture the personalities of my clients. Also, as time goes on, we can collectively see that headshots taken 10 years ago when LinkedIn was newer are more of the standard formal look. As social media has evolved, so has the headshot, where more relaxed and personable images are required to stand out in the sea of faces. I enjoy this new style of brand imagery because my favorite part of my job getting my clients to bring out our their particular selves in our shoots.
Collaborating with marketing firms allows me to play a part in shaping the look of a brand as a whole, not just the individual. From professional headshots, to location and event imagery, I can bring a personalized visual element to the overall brand. A team that includes the agency, the client and the photographer can offer a truly personalized look to a company image. If your team is looking for a photographer, contact me here.
Professional Headshots Capture a Multi-Faceted Musician
Christopher Michael is a musician who lives in Philadelphia but has family roots here in Indiana. His father, Benjamin Dean, introduced us when Christopher needed professional headshots that would reflect the multiple sides of his music career.
As a Christian heavy metal musician, Christopher needed images that would show the more gritty side of his music, as well as his role in the business of entertainment. He suggested a large, old church that he usedto attend and therefore had a connection to. The building is made out of stone with wooden doors, which lent itself to the heavy metal vibe we were going for. Since we used the outside of the church, nature was the light source, and I set up shots based on the natural shadows from the sun and the building. I also used one soft box of my own to make sure I had light coming from exactly where I needed it.
Christopher brought different outfits to suit the different looks. For the performance side, he wore a fun purple shirt and light up shoes that we made sure got into the shots. For the business side, he wore a white button down shirt with blue jeans.
Even though Christopher is a musician and used to being in front of a camera and a crowd, I still felt that in order to get authentic images I needed to get him relaxed.
Some of these images were outside my wheelhouse in terms of professional headshots, where I am usually focused on a more conservative vibe. I gave his role as a musician a lot of thought before the shoot. I tried various angles, such as shooting down low with a wide-angle lens to make him look larger than life with the big church behind him. I wanted to go a bit bombastic with the style to reflect his heavy metal music. Then I did some editing in Photoshop, playing with exposure and shadows to give the images a dramatic look.
Christopher shared his thoughts about the photoshoot with me:
“Paul is a friend of my father’s and he introduced us. I did not really have any set expectations going into the shoot, but it ended up turning out much better than I could have imagined. The quality of the images and the experience of taking the pictures were really nice. The shoot was very simple and relaxed and I enjoyed working with Paul. I plan to use the images on my LinkedIn profile, as well as on the website I plan to launch soon once I finalize my EP.”
Because I focus my professional headshot work on capturing the personalities of my clients, each experience and set of images is different. If you are looking to update your portraits to show your authentic self, contact me here.
Empathy & Resilience: The Essence of My Work As a Professional Photographer
Photography has been a part of my world for most of my life. It all started in high school. My dad was a hunter and in the off-season he took up photography so he could still be out in nature. He bought himself a camera and helped me buy one too. I fell in love with it, but I did not think of a professional photographer as something I could do for a living. I was more inclined to standard livelihoods. I got my degree in psychology, taught myself computers and went into the tech field.
I worked at ExactTarget for six years and before that as an independent contractor for computer-related companies. I enjoyed moving from project to project and could feel my entrepreneurial spirit guiding my choices. However, owning my own business was not what drove me to start my own photography studio. My decision was based more on a lifestyle choice. I love photography, and the pace of a freelancer appeals to me. While many entrepreneurs enjoy the day-to-day management of running a business, that part of working for yourself isn’t what excited me. What I wanted was to spend my days enjoying my career and working with people I like! Photography was the perfect path to pursue.
My work means that I have busy periods where my weeks are full with photographing clients. Then I will have downtime where I edit the photos and take time to recharge. I believe that time to unwind and regroup leads to resilience, a term in psychology defined as the ability to handle challenges that come into our lives. When the annoyances of every day really get under our skin, where every moment is filled to the brim, we are less able to build the energy needed to have resilience. It’s not easy to manage our world with clarity and calmness. I find that because my work allows me to regularly regenerate my energy and creative juices, I am much better able to do good work and live a happier life.
Working with people is why I enjoy specializing in professional headshots. However, to be successful at my work I have to come into each project with an authentically positive attitude. Most people are not comfortable in front of a camera, so I must put them at ease to allow their personality to shine through. By being truly happy and at peace, ready to get to know them and address any concerns they have, I am much better able to mirror back the energy my clients need to have to achieve a good headshot. Empathy is a large part of setting people at ease. By not overbooking myself and taking time to relax, I am better able to practice empathy and therefore do good work.
So, when you set a professional headshot appointment with me, be prepared to be met by a relaxed, interested person who will help you enjoy the experience. Genuine smiles come out of people who are genuinely enjoying themselves – it is this energy that I am always trying to achieve when I work with my clients.