Things to consider when you are commissioning a corporate team or group photograph.
In our opinion the team photo is the most tricky photography commission as unless you plan it correctly there is a real risk that the shoot will not go they way you imagined.
Over many years we have been involved with plenty of corporate team photographs and the more people involved the harder it becomes to arrange it properly. Small team shots are much easier to get right as they have fewer elements. One of the main problems that can ruin your team photo is getting everyone who features to be looking at the camera and smiling all at the same time. Fine if you have three people to arrange but when you anything over double figures this becomes a problem as you are unable to see everyones face at the moment the shutter is clicked so you have to make sure you take a series of shots to be sure that at some point all the people have right expression and are looking to camera.
If we go through the process of a large team photograph. The corporate photographer arrives and will recce the offices to suggest the best location for the photograph. This is normally decided as the largest area available and where the photographer can get an elevated view of the group or team. This is essential with large groups as you can not have fifty people lining up like a football team as the photograph will be a very wide format and not suitable for their website or as a printed hard copy. The next stage is the really important one as we have witnessed repeatedly that if you do not organise people and tell them where to stand they will drift into a random shape and once they have formed this shape it is very hard to move people around. The expression ‘like herding cats’ springs to mind. The best plan is as people emerge into the area you are using for the corporate team photo, break them into groups of 10 approx and then have areas you want each group to occupy. That way if you want a triangular or circular shape to your team photo you can control where people stand.
One of the largest group photo we have worked on was for IMO whose HQ is near the Thames in London. As this was going to be a very large team photo we budgeted to recce the offices prior to the day of the shoot so we could work out where to situate the people and our best vantage point. The IMO had a large auditorium which would have suitable for the shoot but it did not utilise the fact that they had wonderful views of London from their offices. An external shoot was suggested and after finding a fire door out onto their roof we decided to capture the team photograph outside. This involved the photographer on the roof and then the team of people standing on a courtyard area with the London backdrop behind them. We had to plan a day where the sun was not too bright as this would be too contrasty at the time of year we were planning to do the shoot. We arranged to have a member of staff with a megaphone on the roof with us and five members of staff in the group ready to move the smaller groups into position. You can see from the sample team photograph that we needed to get the group into a triangle so we used security tape to create the shape and then moved people in. Once everyone was in position we removed the tape. We captured around 30-40 images of the group on two cameras to be safe and knew that we would have to do some photography post production work in photoshop. One of the problems is getting everyones attention and keeping it. Large groups take time to arrange and people start to chat with each other and often if they do not want to be in the photo will stand directly behind a taller person in front of them. Having to sort all these problems out takes a while and then when you feel you are at the best point to take the photograph you need to get everyone looking at you. We took around 20 images of the team looking at the camera and then to pep things up we asked them to wave to camera as well. The shoot went very well and I made sure that in some of the photos we had a red London bus and a black cab in the background. The shot that was chosen did not feature the red bus so we dropped this in photoshop and had to adjust 10 people expressions by pasting them in again from other group photos where they had a correct expression.
With this particular corporate group photograph was printed and framed as it was a present to one of the directors who was retiring. The photograph was also made available for all staff who appeared in the shoot as momento of the day. Many were ordered as prints large and small and this serves to prove that people like to be part of a successful team and a great group photograph is an ideal way to record unity, pride, scale of success and your friends.
Of course not all corporate team and group photography commissions are on this scale but the rules apply as the number of the people get smaller. For press releases we often photograph a team of directors who have just formed a company or won a large contract or pitch. These are normally taken in London offices and need to show the team looking professional and successful. Always think of the composition of the corporate photo. The background plays an important role in framing the group and a good background will be the difference between an average team snap and a professional team photograph that all those involved in are proud to be associated with.