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Photo full circle with United Way Day of Caring event

CSR photography charlotte north carolina at united way day of caring event

It’s always wonderful seeing a project come full circle. That happened this weekend when a pro-bono photo project we’ve been helping to drive came to fruition. On Saturday, the Lake Norman/Mooresville United Way held its annual Day of Caring volunteer event. We got involved several months ago to spearhead the communications work. Here are some of the images. For anyone interested in seeing more, I’ll post the link to the entire gallery at the end.

charlotte event photography of volunteer united way day of caring celebration in lake norman and mooresville

Several hundred volunteers showed up to spend the morning landscaping public spaces, handing out food at the Mooresville Christian Mission food pantry, working on Habitat for Humanity houses and more. So much more.

corporate social responsibility photography capturing employees and employee families helping their communities during the 2013 day of caring with the united way

My photo team jumped from work project to work project in order to capture volunteers in action. The United Way will use the photos to drive excitement for next year’s event and to help tell stories about how the United Way helps in the Lake Norman community.

Images to show how to photograph employee volunteers working in their communities at volunteer events

A few take aways I can share about the photography… Being involved throughout the event planning process gave me the chance to help shape a visually attractive event. We pushed for bright t-shirts and the colorful logo.

corporate storytelling and event photography charlotte north carolina, mooresville photographer, lake norman photographer

Notice there isn’t a date on the t-shirt. Avoiding the date was last-minute advice that will keep the photos evergreen. Imagine wanting to use these photos to advertise a 2017 Day of Caring event. Someone would have to PhotoShop the 2013 date away. Now they don’t have to.

photographs illustrating how to take strong event photographs at volunteer events. images made during the 2013 United Way day of caring celebration around the lake norman and mooresville areas.

probono photography and event photography by charlotte photographers patrick schneider photo. who is the best photographer in charlotte nc? who is the best event photographer in north carolina.

How to brand your event using photography. How much does event photography cost? How to find a great event photographer.

See the full gallery here: http://patrickschneider.photoshelter.com/gallery/CSR-event-photography-of-the-2013-United-Way-Day-of-Caring/G0000mrwv66tz4V4

executive portrait TES

Tiffany Eubanks-Saunders, sr vice president Bank of America

Portrait-palooza

Coming off a two-week stretch of back-to-back corporate portraits reminded me of the fun — and frustrations — of executive portraits.

On one hand, shooting corporate environmental portraits really gets my creative juices going. I start each assignment questioning the most-important story my client wants to tell. This is the fun part… especially when I can push the envelope or think outside the box.

executive portrait Brett Carter Sr VP Duke Energy

Brett Carter, senior vice president Duke Energy

Frustrations? These can be a lengthy list, topped off with uber-busy business executives who arrive saying “you have five minutes to photograph me… and they began three minutes ago” to skittish security guards who nix location requests because the images might “be used to help advance security threats.” Really?

My recent photo subjects were great to work with, especially those times we had to work in public spaces (it’s never easy to have your portrait made while people are looking at you).

But schedules were tight and we had to work quickly. All told, I easily spent more time hauling in gear from the downtown Charlotte parking garages and setting up lights than actually photographing my subjects. Nonetheless, the frustrations add to the challenge of making photos that support creative corporate communications. And that’s why I love being a corporate photojournalist.

Check out this sampling of my most-recent executive portraits.

We photographed Brett Carter at the top of the Duke Tower in downtown Charlotte. I've always liked how the architectural lines of the space really enhance the visual interest of the images taken in that area.

We photographed Brett Carter at the top of the Duke Tower in downtown Charlotte. I’ve always liked how the architectural lines of the space really enhance the visual interest of the images taken in that area.

Sonya Dukes Wells Fargo corporate communications portrait

Sonya Dukes, senior vice president of Wells Fargo, wasn’t at all phased by the non-stop foot traffic passing by just a few feet away. I asked to photograph Sonya in this hallway because I liked how the bright panels complemented her attire.

corporate communications portrait of Sonya Dukes of Wells Fargo.

Another view of the colorful hallway and Sonya Dukes.

corporate communications portrait of Sonya Dukes of Wells Fargo.

Although we had only about 20 minutes to make Sonya’s portrait, we jumped over to the Wells Fargo atrium area in order to capture a second look (and to help the designer with more options).

corporate communications portrait of Francisco Alvarado, owner and CEO of Marand Builders Inc.

Francisco Alvarado, owner and CEO of Marand Builders Inc., a general contractor firm serving the southeast.

executive portrait of Vinay Patel, president and CEO of SREE Hotels.

Vinay Patel, president and CEO of SREE Hotels.

portrait of Vinay Patel, president and CEO of SREE Hotels.

Vinay Patel, president and CEO of SREE Hotels.

corporate photography Louis Romero, owner of Network Cabling Systems

Louis Romero, owner of Network Cabling Systems

marketing photography Louis Romero, owner of Network Cabling Systems

Louis Romero, owner of Network Cabling Systems

executive portrait of Tiffany Eubanks-Saunders, senior vice president at Bank of America

Tiffany Eubanks-Saunders, senior vice president at Bank of America

portrait photography Tiffany Eubanks-Saunders, senior vice president at Bank of America.

Tiffany Eubanks-Saunders, senior vice president at Bank of America.

What the heck is corporate storytelling anyway?

Our last post touched on what visual storytelling isn’t. [Find that post here]

Now the much-harder question of what it is. In the 1960s, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was asked to describe his threshold test for obscenity. He said: I can’t describe what it is, “but I know it when it see it.” Perhaps the same thing can be said for storytelling photography.

In many ways, visual storytelling can be defined not for what appears within the photo, but rather for the feelings and emotions the photo evokes. Does the photo make you stop and pause to figure out what’s going on? Or do you quickly click through to get to the other items on your must-do list?

Stories get told when photographers make images that go beyond what’s obvious and expected. Like here, instead of the expected people-at-table-making-announcement photo, this wide-angle shot puts the event in context. Notice all of the corporate branding.

Or this side angle, which carefully includes the stacked-up boxes to make readers wonder what might be inside. (They’re stuffed with donated school supplies).

And who wouldn’t look twice at the employee newsletter to see which of their co-workers dressed up like superheroes to race Red Radio Flyer tricycles for a good cause.

Next blog: What makes one storytelling photo better than another? Hint… think branding.

Image

How to engage with corporate storytelling

Lately, every time I turn around, my corporate clients are talking about corporate storytelling. It seems their bosses — and their bosses’ bosses — heard somewhere that storytelling is a great way to engage employees. It’s true, I say. And then we all nod our heads in agreement.

But then the other day, a new-ish corporate communications professional pulled me aside and asked, “But what exactly is corporate storytelling?” Trying to figure out what her peers were talking about, this young internal communications manager had searched the Web for examples and explanations of how to leverage storytelling in the business environment… but she had found very little.

Looks like storytelling is one of those things that everybody secretly thinks they are really good at. Unfortunately, the ability to tell stories is also one of those things that few people are really good at.

So let me take a moment (and maybe a few blog posts) to explain what corporate storytelling is — and what it isn’t. Later, in another blog post, I’ll give my 2 cents on how to find a storytelling writer, photographer, multimedia developer or whatnot and make the most of his/her talents.

First the easy part: What corporate storytelling photography ISN’T. It’s not the:
~ Execution at dawn photo, with team members lined up against a wall and “shot.”
~ Grape leaves photo. Similar to the execution at dawn photo, but here the team members have their hands clasped together in front of their groins in Adam-and-Eve-grape-leaf fashion.
~ Important person with oversized check photo.
~ Employee at work photo, where the obviously posed worker looks self conscious as he/she avoids looking at the camera.
~ Giant-scissor-yielding executive about to cut the giant ribbon photo.

Boring, right? But damaging too. A corporate Webpage, newsletter or annual report with a boring photo is worse than not having a photo at all. Why? Because the reader’s eye is drawn to the photo first. Therefore, a boring photo = boring story = boring event. Yawn.

Now the hard part… defining what a storytelling photo is. I’ll tackle that one in another posting.

P.S.: Are you wondering what’s going on in the image at the top of the post? Excellent! That’s a piece of storytelling photography. A photo should make readers look twice and study what’s going on. In this case, musicians perform among museum statues during the Wells Fargo Community Celebration event held in downtown Charlotte, NC.

You can check out the photos from this and other corporate-sponsored events at http://patrickschneider.photoshelter.com/gallery/Wells-Fargo-Community-Celebration/G0000x2v_e86hR00/C0000sLejZ1oE1sY

Engage readers with Shadows and Silhouettes

Many corporate communicators have shared their struggles with how to create photos that will engage their stakeholders, who might include employees, customers, shareholders and the public. This is especially challenging in today’s digital communications environment, which demands frequent updates.

They ask, “How can we keep our photos fresh and interesting, so people will come back to see what’s new?”

My advice is to throw shadows and silhouettes into your box of tools. You don’t want to do this every time you’re taking photos, but it’s good to be aware of how helpful this technique can be. Now and then, try throwing a shadow or silhouette photo into your corporate communications news cycle and see what reactions come in return.

Some suggestions for creating photos with silhouettes or shadows:

Had this photo exposed for both the juggler and the background buildings, there might have been too much activity for the eye to absorb your message. Placing the street performer in silhouette creates interesting contrast while also quickly showing readers that the performance was taking place in downtown Charlotte.

Notice how including just a bit of the footwear in the image below helps to quickly explain the unusual shape of the shadows. The goal is to make readers pause to study the image… and then jump into your text to learn more.

This next image is a partial silhouette. Notice how well the clean graphic lines of the frame and hammer offset the features of the woman, who is volunteering her time at a Habitat for Humanity build.

Getting low while shooting this silhouette eliminated background clutter (including the bunching up of the other boaters), and created an image with nice graphic elements.

Patrons at the Mint Museum of Art Uptown seem to become part of the artwork because they are captured in silhouette.

The shadow of this barbecue chef against his smoker.

Lowe’s jumps in with flooding relief in Florida

Photo of a Lowe's employee volunteer holding an American flag pulled from the mud during cleanup of Tropical Storm Debby in Live Oaks Florida.

In the 20+ years I’ve been covering natural disasters as a staff newspaper photographer (and now freelance photographer), I often come across companies and employee volunteers jumping in to help their communities recover from flooding, storms, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and other catastrophes. Their instinctive responses are heart warming.

Still, even in today’s world of ubiquitous communications, I’m often struck by how few corporate do-gooders take time to document and share their efforts. Lowe’s (the North Carolina-based home improvement giant) is an exception worth pointing out.

Photo of the hoovercraft used by First Response responders. Lowe's donations helped buy the vehicle.

In full disclosure, I’ve been hired by Lowe’s dozens of times in recent years to create photos for annual reports, marketing materials, public relations/corporate communications needs, and also community-service activities like I’m showing in this blog. I’m hired as a freelance photojournalist (I’m not a staff photographer for Lowe’s).

Photography of Lowe's employee volunteers in action. Employee volunteerism and CSR photography.

In this particular event (Lowe’s employees helping to clean up Live Oaks, Florida after Tropical Storm Debby flooded the area in June 2012), Lowe’s donated money and products to the American Red Cross and first responders. Employee volunteers (called Lowe’s Heroes) jumped in to lend a hand. It was a spur-of-the-moment response, but Lowe’s also thought to give me a thumbs up to document the rescue and cleanup efforts. (I was in Chicago wrapping up a shoot for another client when Lowe’s called. A helpful US Airways ticket agent quickly got me re-routed to Florida and everything clicked into place).

Photo demonstrating how photography helps companies communicate their employee volunteers in action.

Lowe’s gets my professional respect not just for jumping in to help, but also for taking steps to tell employees elsewhere in their footprint about what’s happening in and around their Florida stores.

At many other events, such as with Rebuilding Together or Habitat for Humanity builds, Lowe’s employees volunteer side by side with the employees from other major corporations. Often, Lowe’s is the only one who hired a professional photographer to capture their efforts.

Photography of employee volunteers helping a flood victim move possessions from a flooded house in Florida.

As a photojournalist, I’m naturally biased when I argue that all companies should photograph their community efforts. If anything, they are great for the corporate historical files. Many times, the photos are helpful in annual reports or on the corporate website or blog. Always, strong photos help connect the companies with their single largest stakeholders: their employees.

In an August 6, 2010 article, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that many corporations have changed their corporate giving practices in response to economic difficulties. Some 54 percent of corporations were encouraging their employees to volunteer more, The Chronicle reported. Unfortunately, the article didn’t show how this percentage had increased from better times.

What caught my attention in the article was a paragraph connecting corporate communications about employee volunteer efforts with increased worker satisfaction levels. In that case, according to the article, Microsoft found that just publicizing its volunteering program to employees in Microsoft’s Egypt operations sparked workers’ satisfaction with the company’s commitment to society there. Microsoft told The Chronicle that workers’ satisfaction jumped from 61 percent to 91 percent (as determined by an internal survey).

A year earlier, in a November 15, 2009 article,  The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported interesting findings from a poll by LBG Associates and LBG Research Institute. Polling more than 8,000 workers and 213 managers of volunteers from 36 companies, researchers found that nearly 71 percent of employees surveyed said their employer’s volunteer program made them feel “more positive” about working there.

Personally, I argue that companies must go beyond just encouraging volunteerism and helping employees find volunteer opportunities in their communities. They should — no, they must — share those volunteers’ stories. Don’t just say X number of employees turned out to help flood victims move their possessions to higher ground.

Instead, share the words of the military vet as he pulled an American flag from the mud.

Charlotte based corporate photographer specializing in photographing employee volunteers in action and other corporate social responsibility efforts/CSR efforts.

 

Talk about the smiles an employee brought to flood victims’ faces as he belts out an impromptu song while strumming a child’s pink plastic guitar with bright blue butterflies.

Photo of an employee volunteer bringing levity during the flood cleanup in Florida.

Share one employee volunteer’s quiet utterance that “there but for the grace of God goes I.”

Photo of an employee volunteer's hand holding a photo salvaged during flood cleanup in Live Oaks, Florida.

As humans, we instinctively want to give and help others. Applaud employees when they do. If you are in corporate corporate communications, take steps to share their stories in order to inspire others to help as well. The key, I believe, is communicating these stories across your corporation.

CSR photo of Lowe's employees removing personal possessions from a flood-damaged home in Live Oaks Florida.

And when you do, strongly consider photographing their efforts. The photos you get back just might become a valuable tool in your communications tool kit.

CSR photography of Lowe's employees loading bottled water to be donated to flood victims after Tropical Storm Debby hit Florida in 2012.

Lowe's employees survey flood damage while being boated in to help homeowners carry out possessions after a hurricane.

Photo of first responders working with Lowe's volunteers helping after flooding from hurricane debby in florida.

Symphonic Sounds at McGuire on Lake Norman

Photo of Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos as he led the Charlotte Symphony in a free outdoor concert in June at the Duke Energy McGuire Nuclear Station EnergyExplorium on Lake Norman.

Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos led the Charlotte Symphony in a free outdoor concert in June at the Duke Energy McGuire Nuclear Station EnergyExplorium on Lake Norman. Many Charlotteans are familiar with the Charlotte Symphony’s Summer Pops series, which takes place at SouthPark mall’s Symphony Park venue. The symphony orchestra’s outdoor concerts in Matthews, Huntersville, Pineville, Kannapolis and Cornelius are equally good.

Hundreds of music lovers turned out to enjoy the outdoor concert by the Charlotte Symphony.

A rain storm passed through the area about an hour before the outdoor concert began. Fortunately, the rain (and thunder and lightening) was long gone by the time the musicians took the stage.

The McGuire nuclear energy station is packed with visitor-friendly amenities, including walking trails, a nature trail, picnic areas and Duke Energy's EnergyExplorium, a hands-on science center about electricity generation.

The McGuire nuclear energy station is packed with visitor-friendly amenities, including walking trails, a nature trail, picnic areas and Duke Energy’s EnergyExplorium, a hands-on science center about electricity generation. During the June concert, boats rocked gently nearby as their passengers listened to the music.

Photo of Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos, who is known for his passionate dedication to music education and community engagement.
Associate conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos is known for his passionate dedication to music education and community engagement.

Photo of children playing tag at the McGuire energy station summer pops concert. Image is not model released.

A member of the Charlotte Symphony warms up before the outdoor concert at McGuire energy station on Lake Norman.

A member of the Charlotte Symphony warms up before the outdoor concert at McGuire energy station on Lake Norman.

The Charlotte Symphony performing during an outdoor pops concert at Lake Norman.

Another photo of the hundreds (thousands?) of music seekers who turned out for the June 2012 performance at Duke Energy's McGuire nuclear energy station.

Another view of the hundreds (thousands?) of music seekers who turned out for the June 2012 performance at Duke Energy’s McGuire nuclear energy station.

Photo of the Charlotte Symphony in an outdoor summer pops performance. The Charlotte Symphony is the largest and most active professional performing arts organization in the central Carolinas

A bit of Charlotte Symphony context (taken from the symphony’s website): Founded in 1932, the Charlotte Symphony is the largest and most active professional performing arts organization in the central Carolinas, giving nearly 100 performances each season and reaching an annual attendance of 200,000 listeners. Now in its 80th season, the orchestra employs 62 musicians on full-time contracts and is led by the acclaimed conductor Christopher Warren-Green, who began his tenure with the CSO in the fall of 2010. Mr. Warren-Green’s nearly four decades of artistic accomplishments most recently included serving as music conductor for April’s royal wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton, an event viewed by more than two billion people worldwide.

Photo of boats moored along Lake Norman at the McGuire nuclear energy station at dusk.