Company events that include family members can boost team morale. Here's how to get great photos without hiring a photographer or learning Photoshop.
Holding a company event where your team can bring along their significant others and children can be an excellent opportunity for people to connect. They can also result in photos that show the human side of your company, thereby boosting team spirit and giving prospective new hires a great first impression.
If you don't have the budget to hire a photographer and aren't a Photoshop guru, then the following process and suggestions of simple but powerful tools will help. Since I'm an Apple user, I'll be sharing macOS and iOS apps. However, many of them also have versions for Windows and some even for Linux. If not, you can probably find something roughly equivalent with a bit of searching.
My process assumes that children will be in attendance and that their parents are going to be sensitive about having photos of their kids being shared online. However, rather than just giving up on showing any kids, I'll show you ways to ensure everyone feels comfortable while still resulting in fun photos.
Step 1: Decide/Assign Photographer(s) + Schedule
As soon as you have decided the date and times for the event, assign someone to take photos.
If you have the budget, by all means, go ahead and hire a local photographer for the task, as they are sure to be able to capture much of the precious moments with great skill.
If funds are tight, perhaps someone on your team will be willing to stand in.
Camera: If they don't have a "proper camera" (known by the pros as a DSLR, which stands for digital single-lens reflex camera), then a recent model smartphone will do.
Technique: If photography isn't their strong point, perhaps they would be willing to check out some free smartphone photography tutorials for beginners on YouTube so that their technique can go a little beyond the standard "point and shoot." You can even find tutorials specific to particular smartphone models.
Backup: Be sure to assign a backup person, so that they can step in as needed.
Side Note: Ten years from now, we might all have tiny and silent AI-powered drones that we release and have hovering around snapping photos and shooting videos for us. The technology already exists to an extent, but for now, a human is recommended!
Step 2: Inform All Participants
Not all attendees are going to feel comfortable being photographed — even if the photos are only meant to be shared internally. Parents are often particularly reluctant to have people taking pictures of their kids and then sharing them online. If you don't tell the attendees in advance that one or two of your team members are going to be buzzing around taking photos the whole time, they might feel weird about it.
Thus, be sure to tell people these key points:
You've assigned Person 1 and Person 2 to take photos.
If they are just using their phones, mention this; otherwise, people may think weirdos are going around snapping pics of their kids!
There will be two versions of the photos: One for sharing internal, and another that has been run through an artistic filter to "anonymize" the faces for sharing.
Everyone will get a chance to check the photos and say if they don't want a particular picture to be shared.
Note that most people will miss this announcement the first time, so be sure to include it again when you send out your reminder notice closer to the date! Err on the side of over-communicating.
For the rest of this guide, I'm going to assume that you are the main on tasked with taking photos, doing the post-production, and the other steps required to share them publicly without drama.
Step 3: On the Day
Make sure your phone is fully charged before people start arriving so that you'll have enough juice to get through the event.
It's tempting to take photos of the setup and how beautiful things look arranged before the event starts. However, I have found that such photos don't attract much interest. Instead, people want to see each other connecting and having fun.
Once everyone has arrived, you'll likely have someone give some welcoming remarks and outline the schedule for the event. Get them to repeat the points above about the photography so that nobody feels uncomfortable or creeped out by you sneaking around taking photos.
Step 4: Gather all Photos
In addition to the persons assigned to photograph the event, others may have also taken random snaps — some of which might be particularly good. When you're trying to get good pictures of multiple people in a scene, the more shots you have, the better because there is so much going on and it gives you more options to find the best one.
Put out a group message via Slack or your email list asking for submissions.
Depending on how responsive your team is, you might want to give them some time to respond.
DM specific people who you know took photos just in case they missed the group message.
Gather all the photos into one folder for sorting.
Step 5: Culling
Even a little event can result in a lot of photos. Generally, people will be reluctant to look through more than twenty. Culling is the process of sorting through all the images to select the best of the bunch. The goal is to be left with just the best photo for each set.
As a Mac user, I find that Apple's Photos for macOS is handy for this, but feel free to use whatever works for you.
Gather similar photos together into sets, then arrange the sets in chronological order of the event.
Next, go through and delete any that are not worth keeping. I tend to scrap any photos where people are looking awkward — perhaps they randomly blinked or were making a weird expression or gesture. Other times, you may catch a moment where people looked bored or like they weren't enjoying the event.
Side Note: If you have no choice but to go with a photo where people look bored or serious, one option is to try "making them smile" using an app like FaceApp, but it may not look natural, and people will be weirded out (or, it might work, and nobody will realize you faked it hehe).
Step 6: De-Noising
Having noise in photos is more of an issue for smartphones than for "proper cameras." It's mainly an issue for night photos when lighting conditions aren't ideal.
My go-to app is DeNoise AI by Topaz Labs. It's a bit pricey, but once you've got it, you'll get all the updates for life. It's also super easy to use and works with Apple Photos so that you can revert to the original version of the photo later if you change your mind. Warning: It may crash if your computer is old and low on memory or processing resources.
Step 7: Color & Light
The next thing I usually do is work to fix the lighting, shadows, and colors. Any photo editing tool can do this. I find that Photolemur saves me a lot of time. It attempts to automate this process. It can do photos in bulk, but since different scenes often have different lighting conditions, I prefer to adjust the intensity for each photo individually. Furthermore, if I use it form within Apple Photos, I can still go back to the original photo later if I want to start over.
Side Note: We can expect that de-noising and optimizing the colors and lighting will be issues that are solved within ten years. You'll take a photo, and your camera will just take care of factors such as noise an instant before it saves the picture. However, if you are a purist who wishes to do these things manually, there will always be the option of shooting and saving in raw image format.
Step 8: Touch-ups & Object Removal
This won't apply to every photo you take, but sometimes you may notice that there is something you would like to remove from the picture. TouchRetouch is an app that makes it relatively quick and easy to make touch-ups or remove objects from photos. It works best if there is a single object on a relatively uniform background. For example, a mark on a wall, or an object placed on a table.
Alternatively, most other image editing apps will have something similar. Hunt around its menus for a tool named something along the lines of "touch-up," "blemish fix," or "healing."
Side Note: If any of your photos show people's faces clearly and relatively close up, you might consider doing some beautification. I use Portrait Pro Studio Max, but it only works on well faces turned towards the camera that are in a relatively high resolution. The key is to only enhance subtly so that people would only notice if they carefully compared the original photo to your edited version.
Step 9: Crop/Rotate
Not every photo needs to be perfectly level, but sometimes, changing the angle can improve how it looks. Similarly, cropping can also make a big difference in the composition of the photo. If you're not familiar with it, you may find the Rule of Thirds to be helpful. Experiment and go with your gut on these adjustments. You can always go back to the original later.
Apps I use for this include Apple Photos (it sometimes auto-suggests a rotation/crop combination), Polarr Image Editor (has various aspect ratios to choose from), or Polarr Memoir (uses AI to suggest creative ways of cropping images that are surprisingly good).
Step 10: Filter + Vignette
Most photo editing apps have filters built-in that can help to make images look more stylish or bring out more life from them. Apple Photos has a few that sometimes work well. Another I like is the Polarr as mentioned earlier.
A vignette effect adds shadows around the edge of the image and can add atmosphere and help draw the viewer's attention to something in the center. Again, I like Polarr for this because it lets me set the center of the vignette, which is helpful if the subject is not in the middle of the image.
Since you're producing these photos for other people, you'll want to remember not to get too carried away and artsy. Use filters and vignettes only to the extent that they enhance the photo's realism.
With this step, you should be arriving at a completed set of photos, and you're no doubt eager to share your masterpieces. However, I suggest you resist this urge until you've been through the next few steps. You'll understand why soon enough.
Step 11: Setting the Display Order
If the photos are still lurking in your Apple Photos or another photo manager, you'll want to export them to a folder as JPG files. Next, number the files to ensure that, as someone goes through them, they are seeing them in the order that best tells the story of the event.
I use this kind of file naming convention:
I'll explain what the "a" is for a bit further below…
Oh, and if you're a Mac user, one great tool for automating the naming or renaming of multiple files at once is "A Better Finder Rename."
Step 12: Anonymize
Many of the adult guests won't mind photos of the event that contain them being shared internally, but they may feel uncomfortable if you release them to the public via the company blog or social media. Parents who brought their children will often not want photos of their kids being shared publicly.
One solution is to share the photos internally and call it quits. Another is to find an artistic effect filter that alters the appearance of the picture to the point where it's hard to identify people's faces, but the overall vibe of the moment is still understandable.
There are many apps that offer this. My current favorite is a web-based app called BeFunky, which has a filter called Oil Painting DLX. Here's an example of a group photo that taken at Xtra, Inc.'s recent family day event.
After sharing this anonymized version internally, one of the parents still wasn't comfortable, so I added further blurring to her child's face using BeFunky (see the girl on the far right).
Referring to the file naming process above, the "a" is used for the photo version. You can then save the "anonymized" versions using "b," so the list will look like this:
Step 13: Preparing Files for Sharing
We'll assume the following for the images you want to share:
The photo version is just for internal sharing, and you prefer to keep the original full-size image
The anonymized version is going to be for sharing publicly (after you get permission — more on this later) and so you'll want to down-size them to enable faster uploads to various places where you want to put them. If you're going to keep a version at the original size, you'll want to make a copy of them.
If you have a mixture of vertical/tall images and horizontal/landscape ones, you'll first need to separate them before using the following bulk approach.
To bulk down-size the anonymized versions, I use the Preview image viewer, which is a standard part of macOS.
Select all the anonymized pics and open them with Preview
Select all thumbnails in the left-hand sidebar of Preview
From the top menu, Select Tools > Adjust Size
Set the shortest edge to be 1080 pixels
Close Preview to automatically save all pictures with the shortest size as 1080 pixels.
Next, to minimize storage space and further speed up uploads/downloads, I optimize the images using a free app called ImageOptim.
You can just drag and drop an entire folder in there, and it will do them all.
Warning: If you want to keep the Exif data (information about the photos saved by the camera in the image file), first double-check the Preferences of ImageOptim to make sure you're leaving it intact. Otherwise, it may strip it out.
Finally, you'll want to put the files somewhere that your colleagues can review them, such as a folder on Google Drive, Dropbox, or other cloud storage.
The link can be set to only be visible to either people within the organization or to those who have the link (the latter may be required for non-employees such as spouses to review it).
Your company may have stricter information security policies, but this is likely how most smaller businesses would handle the situation.
Don't share the pictures yet — even internally — we still have some more things to do!
Step 14: Sharing the Photos Internally
If you have a small team and everyone is in the same place, then perhaps you can gather everyone and show them the photos. If not, you'll likely be sharing internally via Slack or a group email. In this case, you'll want to draft a note to explain the following points.
The photo versions (filenames ending in "a") are for internal sharing and won't be published.
The anonymized versions (filenames ending in "b") will be shared publicly unless anyone objects.
If approved, you intend to share them via (i) the blog, (ii) social media, and (iii) a slideshow video (on YouTube and other social media).
If anyone is uncomfortable about a particular photo, they need to tell you (perhaps via DM within 48-hours): The filename, and, whether it's ok just further to blur their face or if they want the photo completely left out of the batch to be shared.
Mass emails or notices on Slack are often missed or ignored, so be sure to also DM everybody who appears in the photos (or whose kids are included), otherwise, you may have trouble later when people discover a photo that includes them was shared publicly.
The relevant staff should also be asked to consult their spouses if necessary.
If you are asked to blur a face further, I suggest repeating this permission confirmation process again in its entirety to avoid issues because people may change their minds once they see that someone else requested a change.
It's better to over-communicate and pester people a bit about this now rather than have to deal with the consequences later — trust me!
Once you're 100% confident that nobody is going to object to the anonymized versions being shared, then you are ready to move onto the next steps.
Don't share anything publicly yet — we're still not ready!
Step 15: Slideshow Videos
Creating a slideshow video is easier than you think and doesn't have to result in something cheesy or cringeworthy. On some platforms, such as Twitter, you can only upload four photos at a time, so a slideshow video can work better. Video is also said to get more reach than other media types on the likes of Facebook and Instagram. Obviously, with specialized video platforms such as YouTube, you don't have any other option.
There are many tools for making slideshows. One of the best-known is Animoto. It's no harder than using PowerPoint and saves you time by automating much of the process. Beyond the occasional event highlight slideshow video, you may also find it useful for your various marketing efforts.
Animoto makes it easy to output both square and horizontal (landscape) versions of videos. Square videos are said to perform better on the likes of Facebook and Instagram because they occupy more screen space when viewed on a smartphone that is held vertically. Horizontal still tends to be most popular on YouTube and LinkedIn. Sprout Social has published an excellent guide to social media video specs.
Here's the one I made for Xtra, Inc.'s recent family day event using Animoto:
Despite your efforts in getting the photos approved earlier, there's still a chance that someone important missed it all and could object. Use the excuse of sharing the slideshow video drafts internally to get everyone's attention once again. Ask that if anyone has any issues, they should tell you within 48-hours.
Don't share anything publicly yet — sorry, but we're still not quite ready!
Step 16: Event Report Blog Post
Using the photos, draft an event report blog post and share it internally, asking for people to confirm within 48-hours if they have any issues. I find Google Docs to be handy for this because the link can be set to only be visible to either people within the organization or to those who have the link.
By this stage, there shouldn't be any hurdles, but you'd be surprised at who comes out of the woodwork with issues or requests at the last minute. Better to over-communicate and triple-check rather than suffer people's wrath!
Step 17: Draft Social Media Post Copy
For the social media posts, you'll be sharing either the pictures or video. For the accompanying description, you're most likely going to be using a cut-down version of your blog post, which means the content has already been approved.
The length of the description you post will depend on the character limit of the platform.
Facebook: Its limit is so generous, you don't need to worry about it. If you do hit it, try a Facebook Note.
Instagram: 2,200 characters
LinkedIn: 700 characters for company pages, 1,300 for personal profiles. If that's not enough, you can select to Write an Article.
Twitter: 280 characters
You'll also want to include some relevant hashtags to achieve further reach. If you're new to the best practices for hashtags or would like a refresher, check out HootSuite's detailed guide.
Step 18: Releasing Publicly
Once you're 100% sure it's ok to do so, move forward with releasing via all relevant channels, including the company blog, social media profiles, and video sharing platforms.
Slow down and take the time to make sure you've set all relevant options, as they can help with boosting your reach and making your post look better:
Blog: Depending on what CMS (content management system) you're using, you may be able to set various options such as keyword tags, a thumbnail image, an excerpt for social shares, and perhaps even the post URL. Here's one we published for Xtra, Inc.'s recent family day (in Japanese because almost all attendees were Japanese-speakers).
YouTube & Facebook: Thumbnail image, title, description, location, keyword tags, and date.
Instagram: Thumbnail image and location.
LinkedIn: Thumbnail and title (only for company pages —and not for posting from your personal profile).
Step 19: Share that You Shared
Not all members of your team will be following all of your social media accounts. This definitely goes for their significant others. So, once you've done Step 18, go ahead and share the links to each profile with everyone and encourage them to Like and Share so that you get some additional reach.
Everything should be fine, but it's still possible that some objections might come out of the woodwork — even after all the care you've taken up until this point. Sometimes it's because someone finally worked up the courage to speak up, other times it's because they had a change of heart once they realized that the photos really were being shared publicly for the whole world to see. Fingers crossed this won't happen to you, but if it does, be prepared to repeat the appropriate steps above!
Events can be stressful to organize and manage. I certainly hope everything goes smoothly for you and all involved. If you do a great job, you'll become the go-to person whenever your team has an event that needs photos — whether you like it or not (I hope you do)! And, you'll be improving your company's public image while producing some pictures which could contain treasured memories for people in the years to come.
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