6 Ways to Tell if Your Corporate Photo Shoot Will Be a Success...or a Trainwreck

So the word comes down from the top: "You need new pictures." Or maybe, you've just decided to brand yourself and your services with a new, fresh image. Either way, it's time to find a photographer.

So this shouldn't be too hard, you think, as you google "photographer near my address." You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a photographer nowadays!

Well, here's the catch: not all photographers are the same. This may come as a shock, but just because a person has a couple grand to buy a camera, it doesn't make him a pro photographer. And far, far too many corporate execs pay that price when they have to redo photos, miss deadlines, and even pay extra fees to have someone else rescue the shoot.

6 Ways to Tell if Your Corporate Photo Shoot will be a Success...or a Trainwreck:

  • Does the photographer's website show the kinds of photos you hope to have for you and your team? It better - a photographer puts his best work on his website (wouldn't we all?). Do the people in his or her business portraits look tired, chunky, awkward, frightened, or flat-out strange? If people look confident, dynamic and energetic, and as attractive as is humanly possible (at this age, anyway), then it's not just a case of inheriting "photogenic" genes; it's because the photographer knew how to make these things happen. Oh, and if you don't see ANY business portraits on the website? Hmm...well, if you decide to hire this photographer anyway, just think of your high-profile, important photo shoot as their first learning experience.
   It's obviously this guy's first day.

It's obviously this guy's first day.

  •  Can you read any testimonials from past clients? This is the best way to know if you're headed for danger. If you don't see any testimonials, reach out to the photographer and ask for the names of some past clients (read: clients who are relevant to the kinds of pictures you want him or her to take. Again, this is where that pesky experience thing comes in). Clients will be more than happy to discuss their positive experiences (and can probably commiserate with you on negative ones in the past). This is the easiest way to predict (short of a crystal ball or some tarot cards) if your photo shoot will be a success. What, no testimonials? Imagine receiving a resumé without references - same logic applies.
 Sorry: Testimonials from Mom don't count

Sorry: Testimonials from Mom don't count

  • Does your photographer plan to bring an assistant? It may seem like a small difference, but a capable, quick assistant is the person who makes the job run smoothly and allows the photographer to focus on taking your pictures. Imagine every little thing that can happen, from changes in schedule, to building managers who try to tell you where you can and cannot take photos, to people photobombing the background...complete dysfunction can ensue without an assistant to handle the particulars that inevitably arise during a photo shoot. Most of the time, a good one can solve the photographer's problems - and yours.

  • Does your photographer move the lights for each person? This may seem like a nit-picky point, but every face is different, and thus requires different light. But maybe your photographer throws up two umbrellas and processes people through, one after the next, click click click, and now you're getting bad grade-school flashbacks. Yikes! By contrast, a talented, experienced pro photographer looks at your face as a canvas, and models your appearance, using light as his paintbrush. This is not a mug shot - it's a portrait. And as a portrait, it should be approached by an artist, not a shutter clicker.

  • Does your photographer insist on posing people in chairs? If so, my condolences. While that was the in-thing for those of us who went to Sears every Christmas, it's now something you're more likely to see in Awkward Family Photos. Contemporary styles are all about more relaxed postures, softly blurred, corporate-looking backgrounds. If 80's mauve and blue backdrops, and team pictures with ladies seated in the front row, are in this photographer's showcase portfolio, you may want to hire someone who's been awake for the past decade. I promise, the outdated look will make you seem less like the strong, can-do team, and more like the people who aren't aware enough to handle the demands of the 21st century.

 The Team Picture style has (thankfully) evolved.

The Team Picture style has (thankfully) evolved.

  • Does your photographer talk - like, actually talk to you while he's shooting - and coach you? You can't see whether your pose is reflecting confidence and friendliness, so the photographer should help you convey those messages through your picture, whether it's by saying something (not "cheese" - something confident and assured, like "no problem" or "everything's great"), or by giving you things to consider, like pretending the photographer's a client, and you've just welcomed him or her into your office. A real pro will already know how to do this sort of thing, but corporate teams always seem to have a story about a photographer who "didn't say anything" and "we just stood there" - great strategy if your photographer's shooting the team like a jail lineup.

    It's been said hundreds of times, rapport is something that needs to exist between the photographer and his subject(s): while a pro will know how to make this happen, it won't even occur to an amateur to make the connection with what's in front of his camera. For a corporate team to avoid disaster (unusable pictures, more money to re-do them, missed deadlines because you had to schedule yet another shoot...) it's best to check off these main considerations when searching for your team's photographer. If you do, it won't be hard to wear a confident smile in your portrait - and even if it is, he'll probably take care of that, too. 
 Photo Goals: An example of a professional team portrait. Subjects were coached, poses are relaxed, the background is a natural, corporate environment, and the lighting flatters all of the faces.

Photo Goals: An example of a professional team portrait. Subjects were coached, poses are relaxed, the background is a natural, corporate environment, and the lighting flatters all of the faces.