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.”
Brand Imagery Helped Art to Remember Tell Its Company Story
I have the pleasure of being a resource to Doug Karr of DK New Media when his clients need brand imagery. Doug and I worked together at Exact Target and when each of us went out on our own, we continued. He recently brought me onto a website development project for Art To Remember, an organization supporting art education through customized art production. The collaboration between a marketing expert, the client and me creates powerful brand content. Doug sets the mood board with sample photos, a color palette, and depth of field and composition requirements. This tool helps give me a feel for the photos they need. Interior or exterior shots of their offices, events, customers, products, manufacturing processes – whatever they need. Even the headshots have to evoke a certain feel to support the brand. Then, I work directly with the client.
Art to Remember helps art teachers fundraise by providing a place where parents can purchase products with their child’s art on them. They also provide lesson plan resources to art teachers and plan to expand their business line to provide parents a place to highlight their kids’ art. They needed imagery for their new website – product photos, images of people working in their production facility, candid kid photos and headshots.
Kelly DeNeal, Director of Marketing for Art to Remember, talked to me about our time together:
“We are working with Doug Karr on a brand refresh and a new website, so we needed new photography. We are an e-commerce company, so images of kids creating artwork in the classroom and then showing how that work is put on our products is a great way to convey our story to our customers. Paul came with us to a local classroom to capture a teacher teaching a lesson, kids creating art and then holding products their parents had ordered. He also came to our office and took pictures of our products and our staff. Not only do we have images for our new website, we also have begun building our own stock image library.
We loved working with Paul. He made the process so easy. He has a great eye for his work, from setting up the shot to using the correct background, lighting, and angles. We know we can lean on his expertise to give us the images we needed.”
Thanks, Kelly! As marketers like Doug will tell you, using stock imagery makes you look like everyone else. Images tell a story differently than words, and are central to businesses like Art to Remember to connect with their customers. If you are looking to create brand imagery for your business, please contact me here.
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.