Labels, Distinctions, and Discoverability

We take a lot of professional photos of and for business executives.

I personally prefer to label what we do portrait photography.

That label feels more dignified and valuable than another (more common it turns out) label, head shot.

For the longest time we resisted using the latter term. It seemed superficial. It felt like slang. It felt like what aspiring actors and models seek. It didn’t seem business-like.

But when Google’s pay-per-click advertising began to sound like a practical sales and lead generation tool for our company, I began to listen more closely to the language our clients commonly used. Language they and their peers would presumably therefore use in online searches.

You saw this coming, didn’t you? “Headshot” is what most people seem to call what we do. Or maybe “head shot” if spell check disapproves of the concatenated variant.

So much for dignity and value considerations.

Go where the searches are

When it comes to marketing a professional service, it’s important to see beyond your personal biases or industry-insider terminology and stay attuned to the common vernacular. Potential new business from search results makes this seemingly subtle difference more significant than simply “You like tomato and I like tomahto.

For that reason our web site now uses both forms. If you discover FayFoto Boston while searching online for a headshot photographer, we are more than happy to provide a solid business portrait of you or members of your team.

But is there a difference?

Is the distinction between a head shot and a portrait merely semantic?

Well, actually no. Not in my mind anyway.

The difference comes down to time and attention, both in the image capture and the post production stages.

A Head Shot can be thought of as a high quality ID photo

Let’s say you have a large group of people (imagine a sales meeting, bringing employees from all over the country together in one place). Or you would like to add photos of a department’s worth of people to an internal intranet. You want to have a presentable photo of as many as you can. You need to move along, though. You allocate 5 minutes per person. We can do that. We’ll still bring studio lights and a background, but there isn’t time for the subject to review and select an image. In such cases we frequently edit each subject’s images to 5 or 10 per person and either send you a PDF proof sheet to select from or just simply send you moderately sized and cropped JPEG files of the whole bunch. In the latter option it’s on you to decide which image to use for each person. We will apply color and exposure corrections and custom cropping, but that’s it for post production.

For some use cases this is entirely sufficient.

This would be a headshot.

A Portrait affords more time with the subject and more post production

On the other hand, let’s say you present images of your firm’s Partners or executive leadership team to the public on a web site. Presentation of these executives reflects on your company. The image may also be used for press releases or LinkedIn profiles in addition to the company website.

In such a case it’s more appropriate to schedule 10 or 15 minutes per person, allow him or her to review the captures, take more photos if necessary, and approve one. Significant care and attention is paid to every inch of the image in post production. Several variations of crop and resolution may be applied to the final image to comply with various media specifications.

That, in my mind, is a portrait.

Evaluate your needs

Give some thought to what your needs are realistically. Then give us a call and outline your needs, expectations, and budget. We’ll work with you to give you what you need – nothing more but most certainly nothing less.

FayFoto’s Negative Archive now lives at Northeastern University

boxes of FayFoto negatives stacked in hallway

FayFoto has been involved with Boston’s business, political, advertising and public relations communities for…
well…
we’re not entirely sure of the year of origin but we’re going with 80+ years.

We covered many assignments and produced many many images over the course of those decades (estimated at over 7.5 million negatives!). Our collection of negatives from the late 60’s until about the early 2000’s (when we transitioned to digital) is essentially unbroken. We also had several metal file cabinets filled with much older negatives that aren’t catalogued in any coherent manner.

We’re not hoarders exactly, but neither are we librarians or curators. Our collection hadn’t been maintained for posterity – photographers are pragmatic and we kept them mainly because someday maybe someone would buy a reprint from an image captured back when.

It is a unique time capsule…

Because we aren’t trained to be information specialists and because we don’t have resources to become that, this collection was effectively useless. Our logs maintained a good record of when an assignment took place and who our client was, but very little else in the way of metadata about the images. In other words, locating and retrieving a negative based on its content rather than an internal reference number stamped on the back of a print was next to impossible. Our logs from that era were hand written, so they couldn’t be quickly or easily searched. The cardboard boxes we kept them in weren’t in any way archival, and they consumed significant space.

What to do?

This is where Northeastern University comes in. Giordana Mecagni, a conservator in the Special Collections division of Northeastern University’s Snell Library reached out to us thanks to a timely referral from a contact at the Boston Public Library who was aware of our situation. As soon as we learned of the breadth and scope of the Library’s collection (which includes the Boston Globe’s archive!) we knew our collection would be in the best of all possible hands.

boxes of negatives in moving van
FayFoto’s negative archive is neatly packed in a moving van

Archivist Daniel Lavoie made several exploratory site visits to our office and on June 5, 2018 the collection rolled off in a moving van to a new home and a productive future.

Here’s a link to the story from the Library’s perspective entitled “FayFoto archive acquired by Northeastern University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections”.

FayFoto Boston is grateful almost beyond words for the Library’s willingness to undertake the daunting process of sifting, sorting, organizing, and ultimately making these images available to historians and researchers. We anticipate that one day someone out there will discover just exactly the image he or she is looking for to tell a story about some aspect of Boston’s history during this era.

A new beginning, not an end

This isn’t the end of the story for FayFoto Boston! We continue to produce new work for businesses and organizations in the Boston area – digitally. It does, however, feel like the beginning of a new story for our older images.

Start Here

Blog posts by their nature get pushed down as new articles are added.
While we would like to think that everything we write has value and is useful, we do have some foundational articles aimed at professionals who work with photographers. We want to ensure that this “evergreen” content remains visible and accessible.

A Brief Index to Helpful Content

Here’s a short list of articles we feel are of particular value to people like you.

Related to Business “Head Shot” Portraits

Setting Up a Photo Session

Other Topics

Evolution: FayFoto’s Transition to Digital Services

early digital camera

Office Archeology

We have been working at clearing out old and unnecessary stuff recently. After more than 25 years in our current office, you might well imagine there’s quite a lot of that. Recently Wayne unearthed the very first digital camera FayFoto purchased. That got me curious, so I started sifting through old assignment log books for the first evidence of actually capturing assignments digitally.

They started showing up in the Fall of 1999. Given that we’re into the second quarter of 2018 as I write this, that feels like quite a long time.

We weren’t the earliest of adopters, but our market moved us into providing digital services before a lot of other photographers made the leap (or else said “to heck with this” and moved into some other endeavor). Pro-level digital cameras at that time were beyond our means. We eased into the inevitable by scanning negatives and transparencies for years before investing in digital capture equipment. Our first cautious investment in a digital camera was at the upper end of what was then the consumer level. (It was a Kodak DC265, purchased in the Fall of 1999 at the CompUSA around the corner from our office. You can still read the camera’s review in DPReview’s archive!)

Read moreEvolution: FayFoto’s Transition to Digital Services