Who Are You Shooting For?

I have been working with a lot of businesses lately. I have to say I like working for businesses and corporations. There are a lot of similarities to consumer portrait and event coverage, but there are also some very notable differences you should really keep in mind if you are interested in diving into this market.

First, just like any time you pull out your camera for a client you need to be ready.

The niche I really appreciate about my corporate clients is that they have a product they need from you and a tight deadline to get it usually. This translates into “be ready to produce a masterpiece in 10 – 15 minutes with the client.” If it takes you 30 min to set up your gear then come early. When your appointment time begins there better not be any reason you can't start creating immediately. Never make them wait (A lot of times the subjects are busy and not excited about the process). Take the initiative to prepare adequately. Plan your locations beforehand, do test setups, test shots, test poses, and make backup plans! In this environment the more professional you conduct yourself the more business you'll get.

Even more important than being prepared and capable is knowing who all of your clients are and what they need from your work. With weddings and consumer portraiture your clients are most often the subjects of the images and sometimes their parents/grandparents or friends. In most cases if your images are tasteful and well executed they will have no complaints. Businesses are a little different. Their needs may encapsulate more than just a technically skillful image. They may need to tell a story, evoke and emotion, personify an object, promote themselves, or entice a prospective consumer. I have found that, in some cases, the person hiring you for the business may have had little art or photography training and have a hard time explaining exactly what they need. If you think about it, that’s one reason you are there; to translate their intangible concepts into the sculpted product of the photo. If you want to be successful, it’s your responsibility to figure out how to do that and fast! Time is money after all. This is where the most crucial aspect comes into play… communication.

When photographing for a business it helps to speak their language. Your business clients may use different words than you are used to while describing things. They may speak in very general terms, or talk about lighting when they mean hue. Your ability to effectively communicate with your customer will ultimately make or break your relationship. Effective communication saves time and alleviates any trepidation your clients may have. Done well, it says: “I’ve accurately heard and understand your needs and I can assist you in meeting them.” Learning the correct questions to ask to clarify and refine the concepts that your client wants to convey is essential. However, there’s no hard fast rule for this because everyone is different in their communication style. So, the important thing to do is to ask a lot of questions before the day of the shoot. Try to get as much detail about the use of the product you are providing as possible.

To make things even more convoluted, the person that hired you may not even be the end of your “client chain.” What I mean by that is, while it’s great to check off every box of your contact’s “must-have” list, it will be amazing if you anticipate the needs of the uses of your work. Let me say that in a different way. If you are hired by “client 1” to take a photo of a can of soup there are lots of options. From what client 1 told you, you just need to take a great image of the can of soup. But what is the best way to photograph the soup? If the image is going to be used to entice shoppers to buy the soup (also your clients) maybe you want an image of a cozy kitchen environment with a slightly out of focus mom and child enjoying a bowl of the soup behind the can which is the central focus. That may appeal more to everyone in your “client chain” if the purpose is to sell soup. That image will also have to satisfy the needs of the ad designer (also your client) too! You need to keep all of these client’s needs in mind. If the image will be used to document the can’s labeling, your client chain might include the person who hired you (Client 1), the archival department (Client 2), and the person reviewing the labeling in the future (Client 3). That photograph might be very different. Perhaps it’s a deep depth of focus image of the can lit with studio lights on a backdrop so all the images for the brand will be consistent and comparable.

Regardless of the usage of the image you are hired to take for your business clients, remember to think of all of the people in your “client chain" and what they would like to see from your work. Ask questions about those people and how they will interact with your images. Come to a clear understanding about what would make your project as useful as possible to the business. Once you have the concept, test it out at home, set up test shoots, test poses, and backup plans. If you make your employer look good by being conscious of the objectives they (themselves) will have to fulfill with your product, chances are they will appreciate what you bring to the organization and hire you again.

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