It’s the way that you do it…
“It ain’t WHAT you do, it’s the WAY that you do it” – As the Bananarama song goes.
That’s probably true in most businesses but it’s certainly the case with photography. It’s not just the end product which counts, but how you get to it.
I’ve been shooting business folks for almost a decade now and with the odd exception, no one really likes the idea of it. We are second only to dental root canal work to many!
It’s totally different from shooting models like Andy Taylor Boocock here.
Models are trained, they know what looks good, they can turn it on instantly and look like a Vogue front cover, then turn it off and start talking about their pet bulldog. They don’t have the usual hang-ups about a lazy eye or double chin like we mortals.
So what have I learned in all these years?
- Talk a lot
- Set lights up and keep chatting
- Be friendly and patient
- Show them the photos on the camera back (or laptop) regularly
- Have fun
- Give people stuff to do – or get them to use their imagination
- Don’t get hung up on perfect poses
- Take LOTS of photos to give LOTS of options
Talk a lot
I’ve always treated my shoots almost like a 1-2-1 chat with a new business connection. Grab a coffee, chat about their business, find out more about what they do and where they’re going. You’ll be amazed at who they know, where they’ve been and all sorts – just like any 1-2-1, so it’s a great way to start.
Set lights up and keep chatting
This helps take their mind off the camera and lights and you avoid all those long silences whilst you’re setting up. You should be able to set lights up on auto-pilot really.
Be friendly and patient
This is really important, keep things light and enjoyable. If things take a bit of getting going, let them take as much time as needed – it’s not their expert area, so lots of encouragement and positive messages helps build confidence. If something’s really not working, then move elsewhere, a change is far better than persevering with a bad idea.
Show them the photos on the camera back (or laptop) regularly
I do this all the time. It works brilliantly – your client can take a look and instantly see whether
- the outfit is working,
- they like the background,
- they like their hair, makeup and anything else they want to check
- they need to smile more, or look a bit more serious!
It also means that you’re getting feedback on whether the look, lighting and locations are right, so you can change things. The end result is that you should have got shots that the client likes and avoid any issues down the line with them hating all the shots!
This is the #1 key to my shoots really.
I’ve been photographed and know what it’s like if you’re faced with a quiet photographer who just doesn’t say anything. It’s painful and you really want the ground to open up and eat you.
So on my shoots, it’s more about creating an air of levity and really interacting with people – especially if you’ve got groups of people.
If they’re all having fun, you’ll get far better photographs.
Give people stuff to do – or get them to use their imagination
This follows on from the “fun” comment – if you expect a business person to just pose amazingly first time in front of your camera, you’re probably going to have a hard time!
They need something to do, think about or look at to get them going. For me it could be anything from asking “what does a fairy do?” or “can you pull a face like Pob?”, to “how high can you jump?” or “look at that door…. imagine #appropriate celebrity# is winking at you”.
Sure they’re strange things to ask someone who runs an SME, but they’ll certainly stop thinking about the photo shoot and give you a new expression to capture!
If you’ve got a few people in the photo, then just think of things you can get them all doing – could be all looking at one of the group, looking at their watches and yawning, opening their eyes as wide as they can (a personal favourite that) or all jumping at the same time.
Giving people weird stuff to do lightens the atmosphere, makes them all forget about the camera and hopefully gets a lot of laughter!
From that, warm, friendly photos follow…
Don’t get hung up on perfect poses
I bought books on portraits when I set out.
They were usually American and had “senior” photos – people leaving their high school – and they all followed a really strict formula. Hand positions and head positions were discussed, sitting and standing debated… and they all looked very “cheesy”. Many of them make great twitter memes.
There is definitely a need for a little helpful guidance. The body angle is often worth sorting straight off, get their feet to point at 45 degrees to you and them looking slightly over a shoulder.
But if you venture into too many instructions, you lose the client. They get concerned about the hand and chin positions you’ve given them and start looking really confused. That smile goes and they start feeling self-conscious.
Think in terms of “micro prompts” – little easy things they can do, I often look around me for something they can look at – “look at the clock as if it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen” – they look the right direction and you may just get a “Wow” expression.
But a little “try lifting your chin a little” is easy for them to do – whereas the 50 things you need think about in my old posing books would really flummox them!
Take LOTS of photos to give LOTS of options
I now take LOTS of photos when shooting clients, this is so you can let the best moments happen naturally. You have the lens to your eye and are talking away to them, expressions come and go fast – get them, get as many as you can and keep going.
I used to take a few shots and then move – take a few more – which was fine, but I found there was more energy and flow if you just kept going and encouraging them all the time.
It costs the virtually same to take 100 shots as it does 1000 – there’s more hard drive space needed and more time to filter the good ones out, but you don’t need to develop/edit all of them.
Zap the duff shots quickly, then you’ve got a raft of proofs for the client to choose from.
So that’s kinda how I do it
The best thing I can hear on my shoots is someone who started out saying “I hate having my photo taking” tell me they “really enjoyed it” at the end of it.
Fancy a Try….?
If you’re reading this thinking I’m mad, then you’re probably right!
But if you run a business and fancy this experience for a change, then get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re brand new, a solopreneur and need photos of you with other people or just like networkfing and need some shots of yourself… I’ve got a new event called SHARE THE SHOOT which embodies everything in this blog at an amazing price… follow this link for more details