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.
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.