I was contemplating what to write for today’s post, and just thought of common problems that I, and I think may communicators, have – poor photography of events by employees outside the communications department photograph events.
Let use a common scenario to make the topic a little clearer – one that you have probably encountered: There’s a celebration or other important event within a department in your organization. You want photos to post on the intranet to highlight the group’s achievement or milestone, but you don’t have anyone in the communications department available to take them. So you assign someone within the department who will be at the event as part of the celebration to take photos and group shots of the team. Most people will simply use their phones and email the pictures to you. When you get the photos, they are of poor quality – too much/too little light, people with their eyes closed, etc.
Photo editing software can help mitigate some of these errors, but it helps if the photographer can keep a few things in mind when taking photos. Here are a few checklist items you can pass on to your would-be photogs to ensure they’re properly prepared.
Hold the Phone Horizontally
Phones are naturally designed to be used vertically. Unfortunately, this means the instinct of many people is to hold them that way even when taking a picture. This is fine for “selfie” purposes, but photos used in communications are most visually effective in landscape mode. So the first thing to let your amateur photographer know – hold the phone horizontally. It’s the most effective way of allowing more of the environment to be captured within the frame.
Use Natural Light/Turn Off the Flash
Flash photography can often be unflattering. It can wash out skin tones, make eyes look as if they’re about to fire laser beams, and can be distracting when reflected off certain backgrounds. That’s why I encourage people to take photos with the subjects facing natural light. So tell your photographer to stand with her back to an open window, turn off the flash on the camera, and let the natural light do its job. The pictures will look 10 times better and more authentic. Of course, this is mostly for staged photos. Candid pictures of people enjoying the event will probably require flash photography unless it’s held outdoors. The main idea is to use natural light as often as possible in order to mitigate the sometimes harsh effects of flash photography.
Don’t Shoot Against a Reflective Backdrop
When people are in a hurry to take a photo, they tend not to evaluate their environment. I have seen many employee photos with a person or groups of people standing in front of a window, mirror, or highly reflective backdrop. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, except when that flash goes off, and you see that big white blob staring at you in the background. Given that most people are casual picture-takers at best, they don’t notice it. But for someone like me who enjoys the art of photography, it’s really off-putting. So make sure you instruct the employee to take photos against a neutral, flat background to reduce the effects of a flash firing when the picture is taken.
Take Multiple Shots/Review Them
You don’t want to take up people’s time by taking their photo – especially if they’re trying to enjoy themselves at an event. But when your photographer is capturing a picture of an individual or group, be sure to tell them to take a few of the same photo. You’ll almost certainly get photos in which people have their eyes closed or there is some other kind of visually distracting element. So instruct the employee you’ve assigned to take images to take at least three of the same shot and review the shots right after they’re captured to give you the greatest chance at a good photo.
It’s not groundbreaking stuff in today’s post, but hopefully a good reminder that it’s not always a good idea to just assume employees will send you useable photos. It’s a good idea to remind them of these four tips before you unleash them on their assignment. Do you have any other tips you’ve found to be helpful in ensuring you get good photos? Let us know in the Comment section!
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