I have a math-genius friend who helps me with spreadsheets. Several years ago, he was running a tutoring business and was able to take advantage of commercial portraits without having to consider the expense. That was a sweet deal we had. He knew it was too, he told me.
As a creative person, I’ve often taken for granted how easy it is for me to manage my own business’ image. I need some new photos, I just go take them. There’s something I don’t like about my website, I just go fix it. These are really important business considerations that come at a premium to most businesses.
I think for a lot of them, this is a worthwhile premium. And no, I’m not saying so because we might make a few dollars in the transaction. If I decided to swear off photography forever and instead opened a pizzeria, you better believe I’d hire someone to make us look great.
Professional staff portraits can act as an important differentiator between your business and the next.
Clients who see real portraits of the business’ staff are given the impression that attention to detail is important to the company. Not just any photos will do, that’s the idea subtly communicated to the client. In a world where every business is using their employee’s social media profiles for their staff photos, presenting your staff professional can make a big difference.
Portraits also say something about a person using unconscious cues. If your clients rarely see you face to face, providing portraits of yourself and the staff can give them a good place to start. If you and your staff appear bubbling and friendly in their portraits, even if your client never interacts with them face to face, that’s the impression they’ll get.
Sometimes people call because of the idea they came up with in their mind about you, rather than anything concrete. If you’re images say a lot about you, you should decide what they’re going to say so that the ideas your potential clients make up in their mind is closer to what you were hoping for.
Staff portraits can give employees and prospective employees the sense that the company cares about its particular employees, not just the skills they provide.
When prospective employees see that you’ve taken the time and energy to have professional commercial portraits made, they get a sense that the employees themselves matter. It’s not just that Jane is an excellent accountant, but that she is Jane: Excellent Accountant. The company wants you to know Jane.
So by investing in professional staff portraits, you help to create the image of a community of real people, working toward a real goal. For a lot of businesses, this is a really good impression, not just for prospective employees and clients, but for the existing employees as well.
I have seen staff portraits become a kind of fraternity, where new employees ‘graduate’ when they get their photos taken. “I graduated and they said I had to get William in here to make it official” a recent hire once said to me. The staff portrait was a part of her becoming a “real member of the team”, and I could see that it was valuable to her in that way.
Many years ago, having professional staff portraits taken would have represented a fairly heavy undertaking. There would either be a very high cost for a custom, on-location photographer, or there would be a massive hassle in rounding up the entire staff and visiting a portrait studio.
The really excellent photographers of the present day are nimble and they can usually work in smaller spaces than was traditionally realistic. And the tools available to photographers today make it possible to work in locations that, in the past, were just not reasonable.
So, capturing staff portraits doesn’t have to come with such a considerable distraction to the staff’s productivity.
When we are shooting staff and employee portraits, we like to stagger everyone so no one has to be away from their desk for more than about 10 minutes. In some cases, we even opt to move our own setup from one office to the next so that the staff member doesn’t have to get up at all.
Staff portraits can make themselves useful in a lot of ways.
If you don’t yet have staff portraits, or have only portraits from many years ago, you might not be appreciating how useful they can be. Here are a few of the ways people use commercial staff portraits.
- Employee listings on websites
- Company directories
- Business cards
- Brochures & Marketing materials
- Digital Communication, both Internal and External
- Industry contributions such as tradeshows and newsletters, both online and offline
- Social media profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Not every business stands to improve thanks to high quality staff portraits. But some definitely do. Here are some questions I think might help answer the question.
How often do my clients and potential clients actually see me? If you’re someone whose business works on relationships, but does much of its communication through digital mediums, staff portraits will help.
How does my business communicate with itself? Businesses that have a lot of digital communication internally can strengthen of their team by using staff portrait within email and messaging.
How does my business contribute to the industry? If you try to make connections in your industry, write newsletters, attend trade shows, or your staff must work with others in your industry, then staff portraits can help strengthen those relationships and improve the outcome of deals.
If you decide that professional staff portraits will make for an improvement in your business, I recommend looking for a high quality portrait photographer, someone who specializes in bringing out a person’s natural character. If you choose to hire a commercial portrait photographer, they will charge a little more. However, they will be considering more than their subject’s character. They will also be taking into account the usage of the images, branding consistency and the goals of the business as a whole