Are you too cheap to have a professional photoshoot? Here’s how you can get the most out of your session in the studio

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Every business and business owner needs to have a good image, both figuratively and literally, but getting photography done is something often overlooked by entrepreneurs. Many business owners don’t invest in it and yet it’s crucial, because, as the saying from Vidal Sassoon’s advertising goes, “If you don’t look good, they don’t look good.” To put it simply, if you’re representing a company and you don’t have great headshots, that could reflect back on the business.

Why people don’t invest in good photography

One of the main reasons people don’t consider hiring professional photographers is the cost; they think that it’s going to be expensive, but actually, to get good photographs done, it can take half a day and it could cost even as little as £200, although that does depend on many factors such as the location, the experience the photographer has, the equipment to be used, and more. However, even just a basic entry level press photographer might only cost £200-£300 to get some decent shots, so don’t let money be a barrier.

Another reason is people are worried about how long it can take. That, of course, can be an issue as scheduling time away from the business isn’t always easy. If you can’t get half a day away from the company during the week day, you can often find a photographer willing to work on the weekends. In terms of the time it takes to get to a studio, that can be offset if the photographer is willing to come to you. Obviously, it can cost a little bit more time and money if the photographer comes to your own venue, but it saves time as well.

Another reason companies may not want to invest in professional photography is they think they can do it themselves, even using an iPhone or DSLR, but the reality is that taking a great photograph is truly an expert craft. There are many fine adjustments in a camera to do with the aperture of the lens, the amount of lighting, which aspects of the subject they focus on, and so on. It’s not just about having a point and shoot camera. It’s about the expertise in the eye of the camera person. Despite maybe having some of the tools and reading up on stuff online and watching tutorials, having an expensive camera does not necessarily make one an expert photographer.

Another reason is the equipment. Having a digital camera cannot be used to compete with a professional photographer’s multiple lenses or bodies nor with the resolution, the crispness, and the attention to detail that a 60 MB-per-frame camera captures. You might think you can skimp on that but, actually, investing in photography is worth it, because it shows how much you are willing to invest in the image of yourself and the company. If you are representing a company with a low-cost, cheap portrait, then that might say something about how you feel about the company. This is a shot of a person who defines how a company is seen, and a company, of course, wants to look reputable, trustworthy, creative, fun to work with, and high quality, so why would not invest in having a photography session that represents those key values? 

A great photograph has the power to lift up any story

Often, when sending out media releases and clients were unable to provide great photographs, the media chooses not to run the story, and so, in a way, coverage is somewhat proportional to how good a photograph is.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then imagine the message that a great photograph sends. Whatever impact you’re trying to create, great images will certainly help. Remember that media, all media, including owned media, thrive on great content. Tweets with images get twice as much engagement as tweets without, and with Instagram, it’s all images. So, why would you not want to invest in creating great images of oneself as a spokesperson of the company? 

Marcus Ahmad owns the Bristol Photography Studio, and a shoot with him can last only two hours. Professional photographers like him are known to have a huge amount of equipment such as lights, canopies, light reflectors, light meters and monitors, multiple lenses, and more, so it would be more prudent to actually go them instead of the other way around. If you want to really get the most out of a photographer, go to their studio, because they have the space set up with backgrounds, furniture, props, which you probably don’t have lying around the house. Also, it also helps to get you in the mindset that you’re ready for the photoshoot if you’re in an actual studio. Two strategies to have would be branding and a headshot. Branding photography is taking pictures of an individual doing something, for example, like a celebrity chef or an architect, while the headshot is plainly just of the individual. 

Important photoshoot reminders

First of all, consider the location. I personally recommend going to the studio, because the photographer will have locations in and around the studio for specific shots. For example, today when I went to Marcus’s studio, he had bamboo growing in a nearby area, and as my company is called EastWest Public Relations and I started the business in Singapore, he chose this location with a backdrop which looked great. Another friend of mine just told me that they borrowed a couple of cars from their neighbors, so that they could have a couple of Land Rovers behind them in their picture. So always think about the location.

Second is to look at your clothing. Luckily, the issue of what to wear for a shoot is something Nick Hems can help you out with. Nick is a professional stylist that will help you set up the selection of what you’re going to wear, the accessories you should use, as well as the arrangement of all those to find out what works best in terms of the mixture of colors, clothes, and styles for each individual shot. It’s a bit of a luxury, but ideally, you can have someone like Nick on board before the shoot, and they can even bring certain items for you. For ladies, it’s great to have someone there with an independent eye to help with hair and makeup, so that you don’t need to worry about how you luck and you can just relax. Another aspect that is related to clothing is personal grooming. Make an effort to groom and tidy up, because the intensity of that 60 MB photograph will pick up the finest of hairs, and you want to look as though you run your personal life like you run your company, which is with attention to detail.

When you go and see the photographer, or even beforehand, make sure that you’re on the same page in terms of the outcomes. How many shots do you want to get from your session and what are the purposes of those? What is the image that you want to present? Is it serious? Is it humorous? Is it relaxed? Is it tense? You can do both of these in the same shoot, but don’t try to do them all in the same photograph. Next, consider the setup of the photograph itself. You could have three main shots for editorial, for yur speaking opportunities, or for the company advert. This will also help the photographer decide how to compose the shot itself, like whether it will be a closeup or a wide-angled angled shot, what lens that might require, and what to adjust with the background or props as well. Think about whether you will want colored or black and white photos, because the setup can be different based on that. If you’re doing black and white photography, then it’s good to have fabric in your clothing that has more texture. You can even get away with wearing a patent. So, keeping in mind the purpose of the shoot and the photographs themselves will give you and the photographer an idea of how to go about the entire process.

Thinking about how the shoot will go is important, because when you get the photographs back, you’ve hopefully already got all of the different uses planned out. So, think about the output you want, and that will save time. Also, keep in mind whether your goal is to put together a series of photographs or to use just one photograph for one purpose. Sometimes, it can take literally 30, 40, or even 50 photographs before you end up with one you’re happy with, and so the main thing is it’s better to have a professional photographer. It’ll definitely be better than an iPhone or a personal selfie and it’ll be well worth the cost as you put your best face forward, not just for yourself, but for the staff, partners, and especially for the customers. So, that was a roundup about personal branding and personal photography for those representing companies or organisations, because the image you project to others will be an image that speaks to the business’ appearance as well. If you look good, so does the business. 


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by william f. santos on Unsplash

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