Updated: May 11, 2022
Before becoming a professional photographer I spent over a decade in the corporate world of marketing at Fortune 500 companies. Advertising and marketing campaigns were always things that were methodically planned out to achieve our business goals and reflect our brand personalities. Switch now to my new world of running a small business (where I'm jack of all trades), and it's not surprising that I feel whiplashed by being pulled in so many different directions. While I can relate to this feeling that so many of my clients express, I also know the very real benefits you get from taking the time to do the right level of planning to get the most out of your small business photography session. Planning ahead doesn't mean a lot more work, it SAVES time and avoids costly re-shoots. It's more about asking the right questions and getting on the same page as your photographer. Here are a few tips that I've pulled together to help you along the way.
HIRE THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER - Photographers like any other creative field come with a wide range of pricing, services, styles and areas of expertise. Make sure that you take the time upfront to review their portfolio, read their reviews or get references for work they have done with similar types of clients. You may love a photographer's family photography, but the carefree go with the flow attitude that makes so many family sessions great, could be a disaster with a business photo session. Beyond just photographic style, make sure you talk to your photographer about the process, timelines and roles and responsibilities. What exactly do you want to photograph? Are you hiring a photographer just to take and edit the pictures (and you direct what they will be shooting) or are you looking for a photographer that can create a shot list that transforms your brand into impactful visual story telling? Or maybe you're looking for a collaboration with your photographer where you brainstorm ideas for the shoot together. All of these are reasonable approaches, just be clear about what you want, and ask the questions ahead of time to make sure your photographer can deliver it.
KNOW YOUR BRAND AND BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR COMMUNICATION OBJECTIVES - This sounds like a big OF COURSE kind of comment, but it's not always a given. There have been numerous times that I've received a phone call from a weary, successful small business owner who calls me up and says " I need to update my website and I want some new photos". That's a great start to the conversation, but it's critical that through the communication and planning process that you and your photographer are clearly aligned specifically to the kind of imagery you want to get out of your photos. Do you want your business and employees to look warm, personable and welcoming, or are you looking for a more official, polished and professional vibe? What aspects of your business do you want to promote? If you're opening a new doctor's practice, showing key areas of the office space is really helpful. If most of your employees work remotely and you want to project a "unified, central, presence", then having a consistent look to all of your headshots on your website goes a long way to doing that. Shoot location, wardrobe and posing all come directly out of your business objectives and the clearer they are, the more successful your shoot will be.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS - PLAN AHEAD - Know the details of your shoot and make sure they fit with your plan. There is no point in hiring a photographer if their lead time to have the photos ready is past when you need them for a time sensitive event promotion. Who is responsible for securing the location and/or property releases if needed? What props do we need? Do you need "stand in models" for the shoot to act as customers? Who will develop the shot list? How will your gallery be delivered and what's included in the package? The more time you take to know the details ahead of time, the less surprises you'll have on the back end.
YOUR HAIR, WARDROBE AND ACCESSORIES ARE ALL A REFLECTION OF YOUR BRAND IMAGE - Don't leave decisions on what to wear to the last minute. Some people love this part of a photo session and other people hate it. Getting yourself ready for a photo shoot that you will be featured in can seem like a daunting, intimidating task, but it doesn't have to be. Trust your photographer's advice on how your wardrobe will photograph and flatter you. I give all of my clients a guideline on what to wear and I'm always open to collaborate on wardrobe choices. You don't have to figure it out alone.
The best part of all the upfront collaboration and planning ahead is that when shoot day comes you can just sit back and ENJOY the session and have a little fun with it. All this talk about preparation doesn't mean that the photo shoot can't divert from the course at all. Almost every sessions I've ever done has taken advantage of candid moments or unplanned opportunities. But with the right upfront planning you can have peace of mind knowing that you are not going to be left with a collection of disappointing images or missed opportunities, long after the shoot is done.