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.
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.
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.
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
Charlotte’s Discovery Place science museum hired us to create new marketing images of its many offerings. We spent a Saturday this month photographing the cool hands-on exhibits Discovery Place offers. The goal was to show actual visitors enjoying themselves throughout the museum. Discovery Place asked us to apply our photojournalistic approach order to create photographic images that tell visual stories about what visitors to Discovery Place can expect to experience.
A few friends showed up to help during the shoot — in case we needed families/kids to help fill out some of the scenes. Turns out the museum was so popular that Saturday (and so many visitors were agreeable to letting us take their photos and sign model releases) that we hardly needed our stand ins after all.
We photographed the museum from open until close (about 10 hours) and Discovery Place’s marketing team walked away with about 80 production-ready images.
Here are a few of the scenes:
I’m not a snake lover. In fact, they really freak me out. So I wasn’t thrilled when one of our first shoots of the day was of this monster (top photo). Isaac, the guy holding the snake, was a good sport in the photos and clearly didn’t have the snake aversion that I do. Isaac was equally great with the iguana (below).
Parents and kids both enjoyed getting to touch sea creatures in Discovery Place’s touch tank.
As a photographer, it’s always great getting to photograph behind-the-scenes actions, like this scuba diver cleaning the glass on the inside of the aquariums.
This overhead shot (below) was a bit challenging to get… especially since we took it in the afternoon when the museum was pretty crowded. We got the image by mounting a camera to a pole, and then lifting the camera about 15 feet in the air. I focused and fired the camera using my computer. We also strategically placed four flashes throughout the scene to help brighten dark areas and highlight visitors’ faces.
This museum scene is particularly difficult to photograph since, without that overhead context, there is no reason to think the photo was taken in a science museum.
Here is the same scene closer in (had to stand on a chair to get this angle). Having the various strobes still strategically placed around the area really helps the camera capture the features on everyone’s faces. The strobes also helped brighten the entire space and allow the colors throughout the scene really pop. (Thanks to Quinn and Kendall, the two teenage “models” in front who jumped in to help in this scene).
I like the pure delight on her face as she plays in Discovery Place’s water area.
We recently had the pleasure of photographing the veterinary practice of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital in Huntersville, NC (just north of Charlotte, NC). The practice just wrapped up a major expansion, which allowed the vets to increase the amount of animal care and therapy services they had room to offer.
We photographed the new space and expanded services, and also photographed the staff in action (and in portraits).
To give a sense of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital, we created this short multimedia video to highlight the range of medical services it offers. We like to create multimedia marketing pieces with still photos, rather than moving videos, because the still photos give viewers a chance to really absorb the scenes. Still images combined with music and narration invite viewers to pause and contemplate. I’d like to hear if you agree.
The foundation of this assignment was to create an archive of strong images the veterinary practice can use for marketing (brochures, advertisements, press release submissions), on its own website and in email blasts. Our goal was to give current and prospective animal owners a behind-the-scenes view of the medical clinic. We produced 93 photos from the day-long shoot.
Here are handful of images from the photo shoot:
This image shows a German Shepherd getting low-impact exercise in an aqua therapy area.
The genuine connections between the vets and pets were obvious.
The two images above show the process of a dog having his teeth cleaned while under sedation.
This dog was so relaxed during an electroacupuncture session. He hardly cared that we were taking his photo. Here are two detail photos of the therapy below.
Practice owners Donna Warren and Tom Hemstreet.
Portrait of practice owners Donna Warren and Tom Hemstreet.
Photography of the surgical suite… and an operation in session.
Detail photo of sterile surgical area.
Photo of dog in therapy session.
X-ray session in progress…
Lab work going on behind the scenes.
Thanks to the entire staff of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital for their patience and help during the photo shoot!
Photo of LakeCross Veterinary Hospital staff.