Photo Shoot Guidelines for Real People

At Nomad, by and large we have an aversion to using stock photography of people, and, in most cases, you should too. Your customers aren’t just anyone and neither are your team members. Yes, there is some great stock photography of people out there and for some purposes, it absolutely makes sense to use it. But I’d say 90-95 percent of the time, if you are trying to portray your people or your customers, it’s worth taking your own pictures. It forges stronger connections with customers and brings an authenticity that you simply can’t buy.

However, that brings you to the next challenge: photographing “real” people who aren’t used to being models. Let’s assume today that we are going to photograph your team members.

Step #1 Lining Up Your Models

Very few human beings over the age of five will act happy when you tell them you want to take their picture. They will demur or protest, step back, or even cower in fear. Why?

A) They are truly self-conscious and don’t like to get their picture taken

B) They know they will sound vain if they are immediately enthusiastic

C) They are nervous and just need some reassurance

D) They are convinced you are about steal their souls

I can’t help you with “D,” but the rest really just require a little care and feeding. (Not joking on the feeding part. Hungry models = unhappy models, and some pastries or pizza can go a LONG way to getting happy models.) In most cases you need to reassure them with a few genuine compliments mixed in with “Everyone is doing it,” or “You’re really important to the company” and “Don’t worry, we only keep the best shots.”

If you find that after five minutes of conversation, they have a severe case of “A” and/or deeply held childhood trauma that relates to school photography, consider moving on to the next model, unless they are the CEO, etc, and you really don’t have a choice. The reality is that good photographers can make anybody look the best they ever have. It just takes time and someone to keep them loose.

Step #2 Preparing Your Models for the Shoot

Now, with any luck, you have a good-sized group of models. Of course, once you make your selections, you are also likely to notice that at least one person who said they didn’t want to have their picture taken will be jealous when everyone else gets their picture taken. Your line: “Don’t worry, we’ll get you next time.”

Prepare some model guidelines to share with them a couple days before the shoot. First, remind them that we want them to have fun (as best they can) and you are only going to use the best pictures. They don’t need worry about what doesn’t work, because you’ll find something that does.

After going over things with your photographer and/or agency, give you models a schedule. You want them to expect to be there longer than you actually need them. You don’t want them to rush in at the last minute, and you don’t want them to get impatient if they have something they need to get back to. Let them know it’s a “rough schedule” and there may be some hurry-up-and-wait time.

Step #3 Model Guidelines.

Now, the important part. What to wear and how to prepare. Unless you have a very clear aesthetic in mind, here’s what I would write:

Thanks for being willing to join us on ____________

Here’s the full schedule of who needs to be where and when.

(Attach Schedule)

Plan to arrive at least a few minutes before your “call time” and know that we could be running a bit late. We know your time is important, so we’ll do our best to get you in and out as efficiently as possible. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Dress and groom yourself as if you were going on a “first date” at lunch time. Nice, but not so out of the ordinary that your co-workers tease you.

Clothing tips

  • Simple, solid colors are the best for your shirt/top.
  • Light color shades are great, but avoid the plain old white shirt if you can.
  • Please don’t wear anything with a busy/complicated pattern on it.
  • Please don’t wear anything with a large logo or place name (chest sized, etc…).
  • Small brand logos, or chest insignias are fine, but if you can avoid it, that would be better.
  • If you are up for bringing a second or third top, you could mix in a plaid etc…or just another color or two. What we are trying to avoid is a situation where any two people are too similar or wearing colors that are too violently different.

Men: please shave, unless you are intentionally going for a stubble effect – please check with me.

Women: makeup is up to you, and should be a reflection of what you would do in the “first date” situation described above.

That’s pretty much it.

Make sure to get there on time and don’t forget the drinks and snacks.