Shooting corporate photography for larger organisations, especially within the finance, legal and insurance sectors, requires a blend of creative thinking and convention, as well as a degree of flexibility. Convention, because even with new hybrid models of working and a generally more informal approach to office wear and corporate life, businesses still need to display their professionalism in a serious way. After all, shareholders want to see an executive team with an air of authority, in the same way that prospective clients should see an impressive depiction of their potential legal team on the firm’s website.
What I cover in this article:
- Why is Corporate Photography important?
- New appointment announcements and headshots
- Mergers and acquisitions photography
- How to shoot corporate photography that will appeal to press and media.
- What’s the best background for Business Headshots and Corporate Photography?
- Reportage office photography
- Is colour or black and white best for corporate photography?
- All images illustrating this article are from my work with Azets
Why is corporate photography important?
An effective and well organised business photography shoot can pay dividends; a lacklustre one will merely provide dull images and a mediocre impression to the outside world. You want your organisation to be shown in the best possible light (in every sense), with images which accurately reflect your brand and give a sense of style, place and personality. Why does this matter? Because clients, potential talent, shareholders and the press will all be influenced by how your team, your staff and your premises look. As an experienced corporate photographer, when I work with a business I will pull together a set of pictures which share high production values and a consistent look and feel; these will form a valuable asset for a firm and this corporate photo library can then be added to as time goes by.
New Appointment headshots
A good example of ‘everyday’ but necessary photography is the portrait of a recently recruited senior member of staff. When publicising the appointment of a new name, a professional headshot is required for in-house and media purposes. Rather than using an out-of-date version supplied by the individual, it’s always better to get a fresh shot taken; that way, you’ll have a consistent look across your c-suite. A professional, engaging photo is much more likely to be picked up by press and business correspondents.
Similarly, large organisations sometimes like to formally mark the annual graduate intake with group and individual pictures. This might seem like a standard, not terribly exciting, box ticking exercise, but handled right, even quick headshots can get the imaginative treatment.
Mergers and Acquisitions photography
When two companies join forces, a few shots will be needed for the media announcement and any subsequent publicity. With press photographers few and far between these days (I used to be one of them!) public relations officers are much better off producing their own images to accompany a press release, and again, there’s no reason why these pictures can’t be bold and striking in their own right. Any PR worth their salt knows that a great publicity shot will get their story noticed and maybe even make the front page.
Corporate Media photography
Photography for media use needs to be sharp, eye-catching and dynamic. With my own years of experience working for The Times Business Section, Financial Times and many corporate public relations firms, I’ve developed a sixth sense for knowing what will catch a picture editor’s eye, so that even the most obscure of product innovation launches or highly technical business concept can be conveyed in a way that sparks interest.
Again, there’s so much more than you might think in setting up and capturing a strong ‘standard HQ shot’. All companies will need a portrait of their CEO or media spokesperson with company branding and the office or site environment but these kind of pictures can still be striking and interesting, as can a great team photo. Getting a whole group of people to feel at ease and relaxed is something I’ve got down to a fine art over the years, because I know that it’s the key to a strong shot. If everyone is looking relaxed and confident, and the composition is well put together, that picture is far more likely to make it over the line when it comes to business editors and bloggers deciding whether or not to include a picture with their story.
I know full well that busy executives are under pressure and just want to get on with their day. Even with just a few minutes of their time, I still find it possible to capture their personality and find an angle that works, delivering a charismatic portrait that they, and their PR manager will be happy with.
Corporate photography backgrounds
Should you show the office environment or use a plain background? Only experience (and a bit of lateral thinking) allows me to tackle this question head on. Whatever you choose for a corporate portrait or business headshot it will have a strong bearing on the style of the final image.
Impact and versatility
Glass panelled boardrooms or views across the city will convey power and gravitas but will require many more technical adjustments to balance competing light sources and avoid reflections. The image will work fantastically well used large as a header or page lead but may not work as well for smaller applications such as About Us or LinkedIn. A clear plain backdrop will concentrate all the attention on the subject and will have more impact when used smaller. As well as that, it will be more versatile for designers to incorporate into a wider variety of applications.
Location and control
Almost all corporate photography happens in situ rather than in a studio, which means as a photographer I inevitably have less control over the finished product in terms of background and light. For example, if photographing a large number of people through the day in the same location, the pictures will look different as the sun moves and the light falls into the room from a different angle. Or if there’s a window in the background it will mean the pictures looks different whether the sun is shining or behind a cloud. Internal glass backgrounds can be challenging technically because the lights and photographer can be reflected and show in the finished photo.
Whether it’s possible to manage these location issues will depend on how much space there is in the room to increase the distance between photographer and subject, vary the angles or move the lights. The position of the lights is crucial for the way the light falls on the subject’s face and reflects in their eyes. These ‘catchlights’ play a critical role in bringing a portrait to life. Without catchlights the portrait can look flat and lacking personality.
Conclusions on background choice
So in conclusion on background choice, there’s a lot more to consider than meets the eye. What you choose will have a significant impact on the photography process. The best choice will vary with factors such as the number of people, the seniority of the subjects, the space available and the variety of uses you need for the pictures. Give me a call and we can discuss your needs.
Reportage office photography
I really enjoy this element of portraying corporate working life. Taking pictures around the office of people working, on the phone, interacting with each other informally or during a meeting, can be a fantastic way of conveying what it’s actually like working in that particular environment. These ‘behind the scenes’ photographs can make a real difference – for potential recruits and clients alike, they give a genuine and authentic sense of the place and the people.
From a tech start-up with everyone in trainers and the table tennis table in the background, to a break-out space with sofas in contemporary office, informal ‘live’ shots will show your organisation in a more relaxed light and can add a different dimension, alongside the classic staged shots required for specific PR purposes.
Is colour or black and white best for corporate photography?
While colour is the norm, black and white can be a powerful look for corporate photography and especially portraiture. Ultimately it’s a subjective choice and is generally determined by the style of the brand. In my view, black and white can be incredibly effective when used well, adding real impact, stripping away distractions and leading the eye straight to the subject’s gaze. The emphasis is on the subject, their expression and posture, and has less to do with what they’re wearing or what’s going on in the background. For sheer gravitas and a classic look that won’t date, a black and white portrait is hard to beat.
CASE STUDY: Azets
Commission for offices all across Scotland
Azets is a business powered by 7,500 people across a global office network, delivering a range of accounting, tax, audit, advisory and business services. They commissioned me to take multiple headshots and corporate photographs across their Scottish offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Aberdeen, Inverness and Ayr. The challenges included maintaining style consistency across offices in seven different locations; scheduling a shoot for large numbers of people with limited time; and dealing with the immediate practical tasks of unfamiliar interiors, adapting to changing light across the shoot day and generally hitting the ground running on arrival in each city.
Usually for a uniform look across different offices, a plain background is the way to go, but Azets specifically wanted the corporate environment to be on show. They requested a glass panelled boardroom in the offices where one existed and elements of the office interior design with a hint of branding where it didn’t. Whatever the background for a headshot it’s always important to make sure it’s out of focus so as not to distract from the central subject, so in this case, I needed to ensure that there was a hint of a recognisable background, while still keeping that all-important consistent look across 200 headshots.
Headshots, media portraits, reportage office photography
At each Azets location, I took all three kinds of shots explored in this blog, namely headshots, reportage office shots and ‘official’ photographs for media use. With military style scheduling (and a super-organised liaison person supporting me) I managed the time as efficiently as possible, compressing a trio of styles in a single day’s session. It was demanding but also very satisfying to deliver a core portfolio of photos for each Azets office which at a glance reflected both the brand and the energy and presence of the people who represent it.