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Kodak Moments: Photos in Marketing, Part Three

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while.

In Part One of this series, I talked a bit about the role that good photography plays in successful marketing efforts, and offered some hints to help you evaluate the current images on your website and print pieces. In my second installment, I highlighted some steps you can take to ensure that your front-end preparations for a photo shoot help yield the photo assets you desire. I planned to write a third part about best practices on the day of the actual shoot, and just never got around to it.

And then I was reviewing a few botched shots from a recent shoot and was reminded that I should probably get back to this topic.

Nothing is quite so motivating as your own blunders.

And so, from me to you, a few things to remember on photo shoot day if you want to get the best possible shots:

Be vigilant. It’s always the little details that mess things up later when you’re actually looking at proofs. That stray hair that is out of place. The one button that came unbuttoned. The little area of chipped paint on the side of the building. The dead leaves on the plant that’s sitting on the desk. Granted, a lot of things can be fixed in PhotoShop, but whoever is editing the images will love you lots if you do your job on the front end and watch closely for things that might spoil the picture. Plus, there are some flaws that can’t be undone. Stay alert and keep your eyes open.

Don’t just trust the naked eye. The shot might look completely different through the lens. If you are working with a photographer, don’t just trust what you’re seeing as a bystander. Ask to look at the shots digitally as you’re going along. Better yet, if there’s a monitor connected to the camera that allows you to see things in real-time, you can make suggestions about framing and angle and more. It’s the worst feeling when you move from one set-up to another, only to realize that you didn’t capture exactly what you needed before moving on.

Be a fashionista. If you’re shooting people, give them good instructions on the front end about what and what not to wear. Or shop for their outfits yourself. Avoid loud and bold patterns. Steer them away from logos and insignias that aren’t your brand. And we all know not to wear all white if we want to look skinny, right? Women DON’T need to be any more made-up than they would be on a normal day, and men DO need to shave as close to shoot time if you’re trying to avoid shadow.

Create a fun environment that puts folks at ease. Unless you’re working with professional models, chances are that your photo subjects are not thrilled about having their picture taken. Everyone has something they don’t like about themselves: a crooked smile, a few extra pounds, a skin blemish. Your job is to get them thinking about anything else than the photo, so that they can relax and be natural. Sure, you’ll need to give instructions about how to stand and angle their face and so on, but try and pepper these instructions with inquiries into their life and hobbies. Tell stories about yourself. Make jokes. Loosen things up.

Keep it candid and moving. Please, please, please don’t pose your subjects in a static posture. No one ever looks natural. For portrait shots, instead of a pasted-on smile, suggest that your subjects give a light laugh on the count of three, and snap the shot just as they do. In shots where subjects are doing something or interacting with another person, no frozen poses please. Give them some general direction (“Brenda, please show Joan what’s in that folder, point some things out to her, and talk about them”) and then let the subjects move as your keep shooting continually. Also, encourage them to just talk about whatever they want. Natural conversation yields natural reactions, and faces tend to loosen up and shine when folks are just being themselves.