You’re not at school any more. Try to look like it.

I blame our schoolyard experience for most of the bad photos I’ve seen. School photogs worked fast, lining us up like fence palings and telling us to stand up straight. That whole straight back, stand still habit we learned is responsible for most of the double chins I see in professional profile shots.

Photogs shooting corporate groups are under the same pressure: No-one wants to be kept waiting. So a lot of us default to the old school sport team method:Line ’em up, tell ’em to sit straight, and everyone’s back to their billable time in fifteen minutes. The problem is, it makes your business – whether it’s a seasoned law firm r a dynamic young startup – look like a bunch of mouth-breathing schoolkids, no different to the mouth-breathers in the class next door. It portrays no passion for your work, advocacy for the client or customer, warmth, adaptability or imagination. It’s not a group portrait; it’s a passport photo for a package holiday to Squaresville.

That’s not your bad habit; it’s the shooter’s. Just like an old fashioned school photographer, their plan is to work as quickly as possible. What’s missing from that plan is the preparation necessary to create a shot that portrays a switched-on, dynamic team of experts. I’ve been guilty of it myself. Making things different comes down to homework.

Nowadays I try to make a scoping visit to my location, and plan how I’m going to pose the group in that space – keeping in mind any significant players and relationships in the group. I’ll also figure a lighting plan, to present three-dimensional figures, not just two-dimensional fence 

Homework done, I arrive well before the appointment, set and test my lights, then arrange and pose my group. It actually takes less time than lining them up like a firing squad and gives me more interaction with them to put them at ease. The shot below of Dunedin’s Firebrand digital agency took me two or three hours, but it took them about ten minutes from first arrival to “lets do coffees in the time left”. They’re dedicated to digital marketing, highly imaginative, warm and totally authentic. They deserve to look like it. After all, they’re not at school any more.

Group Photo


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