Why clicking with your subject is key to the perfect commercial portrait
Now I’m not here to get all soppy on you today. But if you’re in the market for a wedding photographer, I know you’ll meet a range of photographers and base your choice on not only photography skills, but social skills and personality. You’ll want your photographer to be someone with whom you feel comfortable and who will put your guests as ease. I know that you’ll choose based on these things because it’s your big day, it will entail months of planning, and you’ll make sure that everyone involved with it is right for you, on a personal as well as professional level.
But if you’re a business owner looking for commercial photography for your corporate website, an advertising campaign, a profile shot for social media or a portrait for a display in your work environment, I’m here to tell you that the relationship between you and your photographer is just as important.
Of course, their photography, technical and post-production skills, understanding of lighting and quality of equipment are absolutely essential when it comes to selecting a commercial photographer. And these are likely to be the key factors in deciding who to commission, based on their portfolio, their experience and recommendation.
But personality, and rapport, are also paramount, and here’s why.
A commercial photoshoot for a new website or advertising campaign, in my experience, generally does not have up to year or many months planning behind it. In fact, on many occasions, the project will take place to quite tight deadlines to meet website go live dates and advertising copy deadlines. You’ll brief the photographer, and then the campaign will go ahead. So your photographer needs to understand you and your needs quickly and if you’re in the picture yourself, get you prepared and comfortable, fast.
As it’s not your wedding day, if you are having a profile shot taken for your website or LinkedIn, the chances are the shoot won’t be proceeded with several hours of hair and make up by top stylists. And it certainly won’t if you’re a man.
Now I’ll let you into a secret here. Most people aren’t that comfortable being photographed. And, most people are not over the moon about their own looks – especially women.
This is where the relationship with your photographer really comes in. Making people feel at ease is crucial, otherwise what should be a natural shot can look pained and uncomfortable. The client won’t get the shot they’re happy with, and it will run into many reshoots taking up time and money.
There are many tips and tactics that a good commercial photographer should use to put people at ease. Talking with them to understand their concerns (‘’I hate my teeth’’/’’I always look awful on the right side’’), keeping the process relaxed and lighthearted to extract some natural smiles, keeping the conversation going so the subject forgets themselves and relaxes, asking whether it’s ok to move a hair or reposition the hands, giving the subject something to hold if it makes them less fidgety, and much more.
And a good commercial photographer will need to be patient and accept rejection, taking as many shots as are necessary to make the client feel happy and proud of their final image.
Your photographer needs to do more than photograph. They need to understand your business, the brand, the tone, the marketing messages that you wish to portray. In order to do this, they need to work closely with you, and get a feel for what you like and dislike.
It’s your business, you know how you wish it to be presented. Corporate, funky, quirky, creative, serious, artistic. Largely containing people and movement or objects or landscapes. But if you’re not a marketing guru yourself, you’ll need the photographer to draw out this information through clever questioning and research – what you do, who your audience are and what you want to achieve.
Once the preparation is done, there is a lot that goes into managing the shoot on the day if in a work environment or elsewhere.
If professional models are being used, the photographer will need to brief them and have them understanding quickly what’s required and what the campaign is all about. After all, models are expensive and you’ll want the best results in as little time as possible.
If a shoot is taking place in a work place, using you and your staff, the need to put people at ease becomes crucial.
At a wedding, people expect and know that at some stage their champagne drinking will be interrupted by the call from the photographer to start the photographs.
But in a workplace, a photographer will be an alien species. Suddenly everyone’s on edge, worrying about what they look like, acting unnaturally. But it’s the photographer’s job to ensure this doesn’t happen. They need to make the day enjoyable and fun. Understand concerns. Get the best out of people and boost their confidence. There may well be some hidden gems among your workforce who really shine in front of the camera – the photographer needs to spot them and make the most of them.
If you need further proof of why personality is so important, then look no further than the skills listed on the National Careers Service site for young aspiring photographers. After technical and artistic skills, in third, fourth and fifth place, come ‘excellent communication and people skills’, ‘patience’ and ‘ability to put people at ease’.
And this message is replicated in hiring criteria for photographers in all types of photography, where people are to be the subject, whether it’s weddings, children or commercial.
Ultimately, if your commercial photographer doesn’t click with you, the photoshoot will fail. Whether you’re commissioning the photography for a commercial project, or being photographed yourself for a professional shot, you’ll need your photographer to both understand what you are looking to portray and how you wish to look - whilst keep you comfortable and involved in the process.
"Amanda's professionalism shines through in her work. If you are considering a corporate photoshoot (or updating your existing gallery), and want someone who can bring out your character rather than dull standard photos, Amanda is highly recommended." Ges Ray
For an informal chat about how I can help you and your business look great, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org