How to Organize a Photo Shoot for Your Startup

How to get professional photographs of your team and workplace that make a great first impression on prospective clients, hires, and investors.




A great way to build credibility for your startup is through getting professional photographs taken of your team and workplace. These can help make a great first impression on prospective clients, hires, and even investors. At Xtra, Inc., we took the step to hire a professional and were quite pleased with the results. In this article, we’ll share what we learned.


Once you're done reading this primer, continue scrolling down to see examples of the photos we had taken along with some commentary.


Is Hiring a Pro Worthwhile?

If you haven’t directly experienced the difference between amateur versus professional photography, hiring a professional to come and shoot your team can seem like a frivolous expense. Nowadays, smartphones are capable of taking high-quality photos, and you likely have at least one team member who is able to take decent pictures and use Photoshop to tweak the images and make them look even better.


However, nowadays, people are used to seeing the best of the best when it comes to photography. They can easily tell the difference. You only get one chance to make a first impression and, if you can afford them, professional photos will ensure your startup stands out from the rest.


Go ahead and take the DIY approach if you have no budget for a professional photo shoot. Your team will learn from the experience, and it will help you get more out of working with a pro later once you can afford it.



Why Not Just Use Stock Photos?

It’s now possible to get gorgeous free stock photos that can express aspects of your startup. By all means, you should take advantage of these for a broad variety of uses. However, the best free stock images quickly become popular and are used all around the internet. A bespoke photo shoot resulting in unique and professional grade images will elevate your business in ways that stock photos can’t replicate. Seeing is believing, and you can’t put a price on authenticity.



Will You Get Milage from Your Photos?

Once you have top quality photos, you can use them on your website, social media, presentation decks, blog posts, and even attract traffic to your website by sharing them on free stock photo sites such as Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash.


If budget permits, in addition to shooting photos, you might also use the same shoot to compile footage that can be edited into a company introduction video. You want something that is under 1 minute long. The completed video can later be used on your website’s About page and shared with your contacts.


Before the Shoot


For Your Staff:

  • Contracts: If you are going to be sharing photos of your staff publicly, then technically you should have them sign a model release contract. You can search online to find templates which you can then have checked and adjusted to fit your needs by a legal professional in your jurisdiction.

  • Anonymity & Privacy: Some members of your staff may not want to have their photo and full name made available online. In that case, perhaps you can arrive at a compromise such as just using their first name and having their face obscured (shooting them working from behind or have them wearing sunglasses or a hat). That way, you still get to show that there is a person in that position.


For Your Photographer:

It can be helpful to first schedule a pre-shoot consultation session with the photographer.


During this time, you can:

  • Introduce them to your team

  • Show them your work environment and what lighting you have

  • Discuss examples of photos that have a style you would like to emulate

Confirm the type of photos you’ll need, for example:

  • Profile shots (at least for your executives)

  • Team shots (for each department/team)

  • Company (all staff together)

  • Office facilities and features

  • Action shots such as people talking, in meetings, or working

  • Your office building

Explain how you would like to use the photos, for example:

  • Company website About and Careers pages

  • Social media and blog posts

  • Company brochure

  • Photo-sharing or free stock image sites

  • Confirm costs, scheduling, and scope of work

After the meeting, follow-up with a written summary to be doubly sure that everyone is on the same page. Some companies even have a contract with the photographer to clarify all obligations and rights fully.


Internal Preparation

  • Scheduling: Make sure to schedule the photo shoot well in advance, tell all necessary staff that they should keep that time open, and send out regular reminders to them.

  • T-Shirts: If your company has a logo, why not get matching t-shirts made? We did, and it helped show our branding quite well. Vendors such as RedBubble or T-Public will let you make your own t-shirts and order the number and sizes you need. Be sure to do this a month in advance to allow for any delays.

  • Office Cleanup: As part of your scheduling, remember to allocate time for an office clean-up before the photographer arrives.


The Shoot

It’s likely that some team members will find it hard to give a warm and friendly smile on command - especially if they feel pressured or rushed. Furthermore, some photographers feel that their responsibility is just to handle the camera and are not much help when it comes to extracting convincing smiles from their subjects.


The solution is to let the photographer know ahead of time that you’ll need their help to get your colleagues to relax and to schedule plenty of time for each segment of the shoot. Saying or doing something funny behind the photographer can help break up the tension in the room and trigger natural smiles.


Have the photographer take plenty of shots and remind everyone that you only need one good shot of each person or team. Get in as many looks and shots you can so that you have options to choose from. Try various expressions, body positioning, and other changes.


Post Production

After the shoot, it’s the photographer’s job to sort through all the photos, and choose the best one from each set. They can then make adjustments using tools such as Photoshop.


Be sure to reconfirm the type of look you want before the photographer invests time in post-production because this will influence the filters they use and any cosmetic edits they make. Try to confirm with your staff what cosmetic edits they want because overdoing it can be offensive. Typically, minor edits would include making the teeth a few shades lighter, removing stray hairs, and making blemishes and wrinkles less prominent. The goal is to bring out the person’s best without it going to the point where it feels unnatural.


Usage


Once the final set of photos is ready, arrange them into a shared folder and make sure everyone who might need them knows where they are. Have your marketing person plan how and where they are going to use the photos and share with the team each time the photos are used. There should be no unpleasant surprises and your team members should feel proud to be projecting a positive image into the world.


Future Updates

Your company will grow and change, so it’s advisable to review your collection of company photos annually. You may want to re-take some of existing staff, have new ones taken of recent hires, and delete pictures of people who have left. Perhaps your working environment has evolved too.



Our Photos


Here's a few of the pictures from our recent shoot!

Here is a photo including most of our staff wearing t-shirts with our new logo. This took quite a bit of planning to pull off. We had to design and order the shirts in everybody's sizes, and then spend time positioning everyone, and adjusting the lighting. In the end, it turned out well.

This is a photo of our CEO, Yuichi Furuya. He's an easy-going and friendly guy, but wasn't accustomed to photo shoots. It took a bit of coaxing, but we were able to capture his warm spirit in this shot quite well. We took similar pictures for our other board members.

We held a meeting to discuss renewing one of our web properties while the photographer snapped away. After a while, we forgot we were being photographed and the conversations got quite animated, resulting in some natural-looking shots like this one.

Our photographer was very conscientious and was sure to snap any impromptu moments that might look good. This is one such shot that was taken while we were relaxing between sessions.

In addition to our team photo shoot, we decided to get some pictures that could be used in advertisements. We hired an amateur model. She's actually a university student, but was quite photogenic. We signed a model release contract with her and explained its contents prior to the shoot.


Well, we took quite a lot, but you get the idea. We have been using these photos in a variety of situations, and it has been very useful in conveying the kind of company we are.


In addition, we decided to submit some of our photos to these free stock sites: Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash. We found that Pixabay was the strictest and didn't accept most of our submissions. Unsplash rejected a couple, and Pexels seemed to allow all of our uploads. All sites are quite stringent in choosing photos to be part of their curated collections or featured on their top page.


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