Author: Caroline Olsen | Lead Producer
We all want to provide an authentic window into our company -- what it’s like to work with us, a glimpse of the employee experience. We want to celebrate the real people that make work special.
Sharing photos is one way to provide an immersive and “real life” experience. But for the amateur photographer, sometimes time limits and lack of know-how get in the way. Sometimes, stock photos are just easier. Need a smiling face for the website? Boom, a million options at the click of a google search. A little picture for an advertisement? Stock me up.
But stock photos fail us. While beautifully lit and gloriously diverse, they’re not real. They don’t share the real stories of the people who make your work world go ‘round. Taking photos of your workplace doesn’t have to be difficult.
We take photos and videos for a living, so I asked some of our expert workplace photographer friends PJ and Joel to share their best tips on how to snap authentic photos of your own workplace.
1. Create your “wish list” of photographs.
PJ is on the Yelp culture team. She’s had a lot of interaction with people throughout the organization and at all levels. And, she leveraged those connections to identify a wish list of who and what to capture.
We wanted the visuals used in our internal communications to accurately represent the multidimensionality of our employees. This encompassed all the situational examples we knew we’ve needed in the past and a few we’d only dreamed of. These include Yelpers meeting the way we meet (rarely in boardrooms wearing suits and ties) and working the way we work (often standing up!). -PJ
Now you can see these photos in everything from trainings and welcome decks, to all hands on meetings. The Yelp team couldn’t be more stoked about their library of real photos of their employees.
2. Capture candids over staged photographs.
Joel is a photographer and social media content producer at Skill Scout. He has had a longtime passion for capturing stories behind the camera. And, has a particular knack for capturing movement and expressions.
I look for facial expressions, and how they change while performing different tasks. I pay attention to body language and even focus on the skill a person has for their craft. I try to capture the person candidly in action rather than a staged pose. I get excited when I can capture a person in action, their facial expressions, and body gestures all in one. I feel this tells a good story of what a person does, how they do it and even, how it makes them feel. Same goes for environments—I try to find the details within the general image. What are the details and dynamics within an environment that makes it interesting? - Joel
3. Don’t try to capture something you are not.
The second you try to emulate another company or another photo, is the second you start losing what makes your company authentic. Take time to think about what makes your workplace special and what makes your people happy, then amplify that. You want to showcase what someone from the outside could recognize the second they came in. Another tip I would give is to try your best to accurately represent your workforce. You want your employee, above all, to look at these photos and see themselves in them. - PJ
4. Prepare your people ahead of time for what they can expect.
Caroline is a Lead Producer at Skill Scout. But her passion for photography goes all the way back to high school. For her, building rapport and trust is key to ensuring a successful outcome.
The most important part of the prep is to make sure you've let people know who you are, why you're coming, and when you will be there. You can do this over email or even do a video intro if in-person isn't an option. When you don't come as a surprise and people understand who you are and what you'll need them to do, they'll feel a lot more comfortable when you come with your camera. - Caroline
5. Get to know your people. A little conversation goes a long way.
I introduce myself and empathize with them when they, more often than not say, “I’m not good with pictures.” I smile, spark up casual conversation and find a way for them to share a story, though the questions that I ask. Always within conversation, I’ll ask questions about them: “How long have you worked here? What do you like about what you do? Do you live in the area? How’d you get to doing what you do?” I’ve found that leading them in conversing about themselves already gets them in the mindset of telling stories. This, I’ve found, helps in easing a person and even makes storytelling photography more fluid. - Joel
Never underestimate the value of building in the time to talk with people before you take their photo. Everyone likes to feel like someone cares about and is noticing the work they put in every day. A little conversation can go a long way. Not only will they feel more comfortable and you'll capture more authentic photos, but you could also uncover stories about the workplace that you would have never known before, and your job as a photographer will be much easier when you know what to highlight. - Caroline
6. Let the people guide you. Expect (delightful) surprises.
Understand what makes their workplace special to them. There might be artifacts or special spots with memories or events associated with them that an outsider might miss. Once I understand what people are most excited to show off and feel most sentimental about, it's my job to capture those feelings in a photo. I've also photographed a few workplaces that did not necessarily have the most exciting physical space, but had a great culture and vibe. In that case, the focus is more on personal interaction, making people feel comfortable with you, and getting creative with lighting, angles and possibly photographing off-site. - Caroline
7. Create opportunities for people to interact with each other.
It doesn’t hurt if some of the people you chose have already interacted with each other on some level. I’ve found a lot of success in providing prompts that allow subjects to interact with each other rather than with me, the photographer. - PJ
8. Take more photos than you need.
Especially for beginning photographers, take way more photos than you think you need. Photograph each scene from multiple different angles, and don't be afraid to get close up just as much as you move back to capture the whole environment. -Caroline
9. Workplace photography requires a different approach and mindset.
When capturing workplace photos you have to use a holistic approach. Shooting portraits, couples, or even street photography typically allows you to focus on one subject you want to tell a story for. Workplace photos typically include several subjects that aim to represent a place that can be a home for many. Keeping that in mind, creating natural environments where people can be their whole selves is key. - PJ
Work is where we spend a significant part or our day, let alone our lives. Because of this, we all develop a way of flowing within our work spaces. I try to pay attention to the details of one’s work. Not just what one does but how they do it.
Capturing workplace photos is more than just taking a good picture. This is about telling a story. As Joel explains “constantly ask yourself, “What is the story within this picture?” Let story guide you, help you and support the overall message you’re trying to convey. And in this case, it’s a story that can help candidates and employees alike see the possibilities of where they can take their careers at your company.
Meet our workplace photography experts