Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Corporate Team Portraits - "You guys really care!"

Some of the 150 Portraits

Recently we shot a job for a big corporation who wanted staff portraits of up to two hundred of their employees over two days -- one day each at two separate office locations. They had a very specific style and layout they required, so we didn't do anything particularly creative or unusual, except apparently we did. What, apparently, was unusual, according to our subjects, was that we appeared to "care."

The schedule dictated that we allot approximately three minutes per person (which we time to keep us on track) during which we would elicit a solid professional portrait, depicting a happy, calm, comfortable and confident representative of the company. Three minutes is not a lot of time, and if we had fewer people, more time and a commensurately higher budget, I would never recommend such short sessions. However, in this kind of circumstance, we have to work within some immutable parameters. And that's where we as photographers have a choice to make. We either kind of throw in the towel and don't even try to make great portraits, or we step it up and do our level best to pull a rabbit out of a hat and make our three minute clients as close to as happy as our 'full length' session clients as we can. (Sorry, very awkward sentence!) And this is what we do.

In a nutshell, we had all the usual challenges plus some more: a number of the subjects were not at all excited about being photographed, we had no budget for hair and make-up, the staff were in the middle of their shifts so could not leave their desks for long, and there was no budget for retouching. My team included just me and my assistant. Our deliverable was to include one medium resolution portrait file for each subject, and a full set of logo embedded Jpegs for corporate use.

So, every three minutes, we posed the subject, styled their hair, powdered their face if they needed it (almost everyone did), lint-rolled and straightened out their wardrobe, and worked with them to elicit their authentic self. And it was during this sustained flurry of focus and activity that we were told, a number of times, that we were different because we appeared to actually care. The feedback after the shoot underscored this sentiment.

Back in the studio, during processing and preparation of the final files, I took care to select the frames I truly felt were the best, and then I took one extra step to ensure a happy clientele. There were, unavoidably, a handful of portraits that were seriously compromised by skin issues. These I had my retoucher do a quick 'once over' on, as a courtesy, just so that I wasn't sending out anything I really felt was sub-standard.

Bottom line, if you are getting a professional portrait, it should look professional, period. So, as much as I'd like to always have the time, the budget and the opportunity to bring some artful interpretation into the equation (and please call me if you fit this bill), if you need a photographer to make a large number of people look good, quickly, I'd be happy to help

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