Client specifications

collage of lighting diagrams

Client Specifications

Please note that this article is directed at corporate clients. We’re accustomed to getting a tight layout from advertising agencies. We are less likely to interact with a creative director in the day-to-day interactions with corporate marketing and practice development professionals.

This topic is on my mind because this year we had one client unhappy over an apparent misunderstanding about who was supposed to silhouette the subject (the client or the photographer), one new client who didn’t have a clear idea of what would best suit their various needs, one client for whom the background brightness and color specification turned out to be exact and inflexible, and one new-ish client who asked to have revised files because they neglected to mention that their primary presentation is a circular crop.

FayFoto Boston takes pains to provide images which meet client needs. Almost none of our clients need the same thing, so today I’m thinking about how those requirements can be developed and communicated.

Matching or Developing a Style Spec

What do you need from your photographer? At FayFoto Boston this matters, because we’re in the business of giving you what you need. If you know your requirements in concrete terms, and can communicate that to your photographer, the odd are better that you’ll get what you need on the first try.

Long ago in the days of film…

…when a 5×7 black and white print was ubiquitous (at least for business headshot portraits), things were less complicated.

In today’s digital era, with so much marketing taking place on the internet and with every website striving to be at least a little bit unique, conventions don’t exist like they used to.

If I’m expecting you to use a portrait as a traditional vertical rectangle, cropping a bit into the shoulders, but your design presents bio photos in a circle (or, even more unexpected, a horizontal rectangle), what I send you might not be ideal unless you tell me in advance.

How does a client convey specifications to a photographer?

The information our clients provide comes in various ways.

  • Sometimes we’re provided with a detailed specification in the form of a PDF document developed by the client’s creative department. (One of our clients, bless them, took this up a notch by providing a clear cropping guide in the form of a Photoshop file, including clear guides for head size and placement. Amazing.)
  • Sometimes we’re shown an image to match, or a URL to reference.
  • Sometimes we’re asked to make a recommendation.

If you are a new contact, reaching out to FayFoto Boston for the first time, expect to be asked what you need for a final product. If you don’t know, see if you can find who does. Failing that, we have some generic defaults.

Generic vs. Specific

If we aren’t given any specifications, our default for a business headshot portrait is to photograph the subject against a charcoal gray background, and send a JPEG file saved as a vertical rectangle at 4×6 inches at 300 dpi. That default works well for general PR usage but…

  • unless you have someone in-house who can resize an image, that’s quite large for a web page,
  • gray might not match preexisting portraits on your website, and
  • a vertical rectangle might not be the ideal shape. Why? Because if it turns out you need a square (or a circle) and we have cropped to a nice vertical rectangle, the rectangular crop might not leave you with enough room on the sides to get a comfortable square crop.

Providing Multiple Versions

It’s not at all uncommon for our clients to request multiple versions of each finished image. For example, we might provide a square crop for a LinkedIn profile, another version for a web bio page and a third for print and press releases. We can give you just about anything you need if we know what that is, preferably before taking the pictures!

FayFoto Boston will help develop a spec if your marketing department doesn’t have one

Here’s a bit of reality: every client has a specification, even if our direct contact doesn’t know what that is.

It saves everyone time if you can clearly communicate your needs for final product in advance, before the photo session.

Absent a clear specification, we are more than happy to make suggestions. Here’s one example we proposed to a new client. For each selected image, we will provide the following variations:

  • 500px square for LinkedIn, “LastName_FirstName-linkedin”
  • 200x300px for web use, “LastName_FirstName-web”
  • 4”x6” at print resolution for press releases and media distribution, “LastName_FirstName-print”

Bottom Line

In order to get what you need from your photographer most efficiently it’s critical that you share your requirements clearly. And if you don’t have requirements, ask your photographer for recommendations or live with that photographer’s best guess. If your business is in the metropolitan-Boston area and you need portraits of your team, we invite you to get in touch. We know this discipline, and we’re happy to provide you with exactly what you need!

File Size: What website maintainers should ask their website developers

Photoshop jpeg compression setting dialog

subtitled…

How Much Should Your Photographer Think For You?

( tl;dr: Ask your website developer for an optimal image size in kilobytes; then share that with your photographer )

When shooting for an ad agency, I would never crop too tightly, sharpen very much, or compress an image. The expectation is that someone downstream from me is going to do additional work on the file, and that professional will expect some latitude to work with.

Expectations are different with our corporate clients. The file I send will very likely be posted to a website immediately, exactly as I sent it. The expectation in this case is that the file we send should be ready to use, as-is.

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Evolving Business Portrait Background Styles

collage of views used as business portrait background

It used to be easy…

Not that long ago a “business portrait” meant placing the subject in front of a roll of Thunder Gray studio background paper.

Times change, and so do styles. Although we still do many, perhaps the majority, of our business portraits in front of a studio background, today it’s not unusual for a client (or a client’s designer or brand manager) to prefer an environmental setting instead of a solid tone studio background.

What environment?

Sometimes an “environmental setting” is inside the client’s office with a softly focussed suggestion of a nicely appointed corporate setting in the background.

More often though, an “environmental setting” puts the subject in front of a large window with something interesting in the background. In Boston’s urban setting, that something is often adjoining office towers, suggesting the upscale, urban setting the client inhabits.

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Keeping Track of Client Details

Whatever the business term is for a business that’s smaller than a small business, that’s what FayFoto Boston is. We have a full-time staff of three. However, even three is a lot more complicated than one when it comes to saving, retrieving, and sharing information each of us know individually. We have many of the same needs as any of our larger small business colleagues. We just don’t have the resources for enterprise-level solutions. Consequently, to keep chaos at bay we have developed numerous DIY solutions.

Client Preferences

We operate in the B2B sector. We don’t offer packages as a wedding or family portrait studio might. Every one of our clients has a slightly different preference, either for background, or file size, or both. It’s not uncommon for a client to ask for two, four, or even more variations for each selected portrait image. Web, print, LinkedIn, color, grayscale… Each with specific pixel dimensions, and often at different aspect ratios. And each variation has to have a consistent file name to indicate unambiguously what it is. (“lastname-firstname_web.jpg” or “Firstname-Lastname_print.jpg” for example.)

In other words… instead of telling our clients what they can have, our clients tell us what they need. And it’s on us to deliver that repeatedly and consistently.

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Managing a Successful Group Photo

empty room waiting for group to arrive

A group photo is like a piece of performance art

I personally find group photos at once terrifying and exhilarating.

If you have never observed a professional photographer organize and capture a group photo, let me outline the stages so that remark makes sense.

The Stages of a Group Photo

  • Your photographer arrives early to get ready. The set is empty.
  • People gradually assemble and make small talk. There is amiable chaos.
  • Your photographer encourages people to pay attention, and starts to arrange people by height so faces aren’t obscured. (This stage is often humorously described as “herding cats.”)
  • Chaos gradually diminishes and the group quiets down.
  • Your photographer fine tunes the placement of subjects.
  • For 5 or maybe 7 minutes there is an splendid sense of order.
  • After the last exposure, people mill about, resume conversations, and gradually drift away. Chaos resumes.
  • The set is empty. Your photographer packs up and departs.

It’s predictable, and yet it’s magic every time I witness it.

Why would you want a group photo?

University reunion groupFayFoto is called to do groups for, among other things, College and University reunions, graduating classes, professional organizations, business units, award recipients, and workshop attendees.

What can you do to ensure that a group photo goes smoothly?

Advance Planning makes all the difference. Following are some key areas to consider when planning and preparing for a group photograph.

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Your Expression Matters

a grid of various degrees of smile in portrait images

Should I smile?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to business head shot portraits. The subject has already wrestled with what to wear by the time he or she arrives to face our camera. Concerns about expression, however, don’t generally surface until the last minute. That concern is, specifically, whether it's okay to smile.

Some subjects come into the set smiling, and it’s clear we couldn’t ask this person not to smile. But not everybody wants to smile. Some subjects are self-conscious about teeth, or dimples, or eyes that close up when they smile. Some feel it’s fine for Facebook but undignified for work. Some are self-conscious because they have been told by friends or loved ones that they look goofy when they smile “for the camera.”

On occasion, a subject will arrive announcing that he or she wants to look fierce. As in "I want to look like a tough and intimidating lawyer."

Our Answer

I tell subjects “Yes, most of your colleagues do smile, but I haven’t been told it’s mandatory. Consider who is going to be looking at these images. Most of the time it will be a potential client or customer, not your business or courtroom adversary. You want to look like someone I’d consider spending a day in a conference room with.”

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How to Give an Award

How to Give an Award

Alternately titled:

Giving awards with your photographer in mind

Recognizing your team by giving awards is an important way of expressing the value your company places on achievements or other contributions. Sharing these moments on the company website or newsletter or press release is an important way of sharing. With just a little bit of foresight you can improve the odds of getting great photos of your award presentation.

You might be the presenter. Your might be the event coordinator, needing to “coach” the presenter. Whatever your situation, you probably want usable photographs of the award presentations or you wouldn’t be reading this article. We have witnessed great award presentations and hopeless ones (from the point of view of the photographer), so here are a few tips.

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What to wear for a business head shot portrait

collage of various business portrait wardrobe choices

What to wear for a business portrait

This is probably our second most asked question (second only to “what will it cost?” and maybe “when are you available?”).

We only have one universal response, and that is “unless your work attire demands it, avoid solid white.” If you are a chef or a lab technician or a physician you might need to wear solid white. Otherwise, if you don’t need to, please don’t. Getting a good exposure for a normal complexion generally causes solid white garments to wash out. That being said, a white shirt or blouse or dress under a darker jacket is almost always fine.

I’ll get into some more detail in a moment, but our second generalized response is “wear something you feel good in.” Seriously, if you’re feeling good – confident and professional – that will reflect in the appearance you project.

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