Maximizing your return during executive photo shoots.

When business-people find they have an immediate need for a formal corporate executive’s portrait, time is not the only driver for the project. Even when the initial project requirement is only for a single headshot of the exec in a pre-determined pose. The project shouldn’t be that quick or easy. Or be satisfied with a single acceptable image.

If I were to respond to these types of projects by taking that single shot, in the single pose, I would probably be wasting the client’s time and money in the long run. That’s because the most valuable asset executives have to manage is time. Scheduling a photo session relies on a complex collection of events and factors all coming together synergistically. If the photo shoot doesn’t produce exactly what the end business use requires, we have to reschedule and hope that the scheduling stars align again before time runs out. If a different requirement for a photograph arises that can’t use the one pose we have on file, we have to reschedule another shoot.

Taking photos is definitely NOT the most important use of an executive’s time. Therefore, when I do have any opportunity to have an executive sit for a portrait, I try to take a wide range of other shots after the preview of the required pose is accepted. This is important because once a website, printed annual report or other business use goes to the design team, it isn’t uncommon to have the team change their minds on what would best fit the piece. The request for a simple headshot may become a preference for a full standing portrait … or the design team may want to change perspective or lighting.

Also, by capturing a variety of executive shots, with different settings, angles and lighting, the company gets a selection of different images on file to pull from. This enables them to stay ahead of the curve when the next request arrives. This saves time, money and enables more rapid response to last minute requests. 

Professional portraits are an important component of a company’s marketing assets. And executive time is valuable. This approach delivers a better return for the company’s dollar.


The real way to get people to relax during a photoshoot.

Posing for pictures is just not natural. Few people feel comfortable in front of a camera, and even fewer feel comfortable when posing for an image that will be shared with the public in a business capacity. That being said, it is essential that commercial photography show people who are at ease and confident. This is impossible to do when a subject is stressed or feeling awkward during the shoot. 

I feel the photographer is responsible for making the subject feel as comfortable as possible during the session. This is as important for the shot as having precise focus. As part of my expertise, I bring key people skills to the photo shoot so we can a) minimize time wasted and b) create attractive, effective photographs.

By nature, I have a quieter, more reserved voice. I keep it friendly and not challenging as I feel out the subject’s mood and energy level.  I think that gets good results and it comes naturally to me.  I care deeply about my photography,  which comes through in everything I do during the shoot.  The bonus is that this helps people relax while I am taking their picture.

Also high on the list of photographers’ key skills to have is optimizing interaction with the subject. The most important parts of this I practice is empathetic listening and responsiveness. Find out what the person likes and wants, and more importantly, doesn’t like. I put myself in the person’s position and adjust my shot selection, posing and framing to optimize the situation for the subject. If the subject asks a question, I respond as succinctly and immediately as possible. I also listen “without” my ears. Often, I can pick up on non-verbal cues that let me know that a person is uneasy about something or wants to change the pace of the session. I then use simple questions to determine what can remedy the situation. 

Of course there are tricks to the trade. I usually shoot to my laptop, sharing images with the subject and making adjustments as we progress.  Posing is an art form as well.  Putting one or both hands in one’s pockets can help subjects feel more comfortable. Or they can brace that hand on a chair or against a wall. But it is up to me to make sure the overall composition of the image is still natural looking, attractive and balanced. Is the clothing still right? Or do I have to reposition or smooth-out someone’s jacket? Does the person still look natural, like they might take that pose without thinking about it?  Finally I make sure we capture a variety of expressions and poses.  With digital capture there is little reason to not create more opportunities to get the shot.

I have been told that I do very well at making people relax during a photo session. It is one of the factors that grows my word-of-mouth business and call-backs. But most importantly, it is another important component to creating an effective, professional end product.


Leveraging clients’ locations for authenticity and range of perspective.

My business is primarily centered on shooting photographs at the client’s location.  This is because the objective of professional/business photography is to create high-quality, professional shots that convey image and messaging that match the client’s business purpose. Staging a photo shoot at an unfamiliar studio is not the best way to achieve this.

Apart from the obvious advantage of reduced travel time, shooting in their “native” environment is generally less stressful for the subjects of the project.  Beyond that, having the ability to shoot with the authentic background of their business activity and having access to objects and processes that serve as relevant props within the frame, help me instill the company’s true “vibe” into the shots.  If a biotech client wants to show their state of the art lab for example, or an architecture client has designed their workspace in a creative way shooting portraits or work process shots could not be accomplished in a studio without a hollywood - sized budget.

Furthermore, being at the business location gives me the opportunity to capture a wider variety of shots. Since I have access to more diverse shoot sites, I can utilize a greater range of creative shooting angles. This can translate to novel, more impactful visual treatments with less visual repetition.  Also, by being able to shoot subjects in various locations, within their business, mixing more formal posed shots with candid workday activity photos, I can create a wider variety of environmental and emotional perspectives.

However, the advantages of shooting on location do come at a cost. Lighting is harder to control, my presence and the shooting process can be disruptive and   environmental limitations can create additional obstacles to overcome. An extreme case of this is shooting in an industrial or pharmaceutical clean room.

When I perform clean room photography, I must take extraordinary measures to minimize my impact to the environment. Wearing a clean room suit and goggles and keeping camera and lighting gear from contaminating the environment slows down the process of capturing a great image. That’s where patience, experience and flexibility come into play, and it’s also why the vast majority of photographers don’t do clean room shoots.

But, there are so many factors inherent in shooting at a client’s location that can enrich the final images with visual information and authenticity.  I have made it a priority to continuously practice and refine my skills to deal with lighting and other environmental hurdles so I can take advantage of location shoot benefits.  If you have a unique situation that requires flexibility and creativity to capture the “right shot,” please contact me. At the very least, I can tell you what difficulties you will be facing … and put some thinking behind how those problems can be overcome.

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