Elevate Your Employment Brand with a Successful Employee Photo Shoot (Quick and Dirty Guide!)

Holland Dombeck McCue Holland Dombeck, HR, HR & Marketing, HR (& Life!) Advice, Innovation

Cell phones, GoPros and highly affordable digital cameras coupled with Instagram, Snap Chat and Vine provide anyone in charge of branding or communications quick and dirty access to employee content. However, your iPhone can only get you so far when you need a set of high-quality images to communicate your employment brand.

Since modern technology and social media has shaped the perception of taking pictures to be easy for the average person, many mistakenly think a professional photo shoot is just as easy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and the success of your shoot lies in your ability to plan and clearly articulate your desired output. Here’s my quick and dirty guide for a successful employee photo shoot:

Before the shoot


  • Define your vision. A quality photograph captures your audience’s attention in ways that words cannot, however, you will only get to that image by defining what you want. Before you select a photographer, perform some research related to the types of images you like and need as your output. One great tool you can use to articulate your vision is a photography brief. A photography brief will ensure that both parties’ expectations are met in a professional, productive, timely manner. Having this information carved out before selecting a vendor will ensure you obtain the best possible fit for your specific needs. Your brief should capture:

– Background of your company and the story you are trying to convey
– Intended use of your photography needs
– Where you will be using these images (print, web)
– Who and what environments should be in your photos (office, collaboration, buildings)
– Shot types (hero, verticals), justifications and overall desired style

  • Select your vendor. Once you have clearly defined your vision using a photography brief, you will be able to more easily research and select a photographer in your market. When looking for a photographer, search for specialists (for employment shoots, “people and environments”) and ensure their current portfolio aligns with your need. Search sites likes Pinterest and Flickr, and send them samples of the look and feel you are trying to achieve up front and ask for portfolio work that matches vs. accepting a “Sure, I can do that… ” without actual validation of their skillset. When selecting your vendor, you will want to clearly understand how many photos are included in your package and restrictions on internal/external/general use. Some vendors may appear to be the most cost-effective, but their price may include only a handful of finished images vs. your full shot list.
  • Cast your models. The beauty of a professional photographer is that they can make even your least photogenic employee shine. To capture the authenticity of your brand, cast your actual employees as models. Encourage them to wear day-to-day looks—both makeup and attire, but avoid jarring colors (red, yellow, neon) and busy patterns. If you have it in your budget, commission a professional make-up artist. If you do not, then use some tips this link to coach your cast up.
  • Prep your models. On the day of the photo shoot, you will be spread thin. It is important to ensure that everyone knows exactly where they need to be and when. Creating a call sheet will help you keep everything and everyone on track. Provide guidance on where and when to meet, breaks, estimated down time, and expectations the day of the shoot. Ask that they bring attire alternates to add more variety to your photographs and allow you options when moving through the different environments. Encourage everyone to drink plenty of water 48 hours before the shoot to ensure their skin is hydrated and photo ready.

Day of the shoot


  • Come prepared. Have a printed copy of your photography brief, call sheet and desired shot list. Pulse check with your photographer as you move through your desired shots and environments, and confirm that you are on track to capture everything on your list and within your agreed upon timeframe. Ensure you have release forms signed by each model before you begin shooting. Even if you work in a relaxed culture, you are better off with a contract in place.
  • Speak up. Just because you are hiring a professional photographer does not mean that you should be removed from the creative process. Request that your photographer capture hero, horizontal and vertical angles of each shot—this will provide a variety of options for you to work with post shoot on varying collateral pieces. Ask to see previews as you advance through the shoot to ensure they are capturing what you want without any surprises post shoot.
  • Take care of your models. Coach your models on what you want, but make them feel comfortable. Have water and snacks on hand to keep energy levels up and their skin hydrated. Clearly communicate when you are moving between environments and stick to the call sheet they were supplied.
  • Have some fun. It may sound cliché, but shoot day is a loonngg day, allow yourself to have some fun. Selfie sticks help.

selfie stick

Photo above from Cox Talent Acquisition July 2015 shoot with Studio1 Photography.

After the shoot


  • Say thank you! Send an email to your models thanking them for their time and participation and provide an update on when they’ll be able to see the final photos. Remind them of where their image will be used so they are not caught off guard when they come across the first piece of collateral they are featured in.
  • Maintain a partnership with your photographer moving into post production. Ask to see proofs before they are touched up, and give honest and constructive feedback on what you are looking to achieve in your finished product.
  • Share your work with boundary partners. Foster internal relationships with marketing, communications, etc. by sharing your photos for their potential needs.

Organizing a photo shoot will take planning, time, and preparation, but it is also a valuable investment to visually take your employment brand to the next level. What would you add to this quick and dirty guide?