Thoughts on Law Firm Photography

I don’t claim to be much of a photographer, myself. But I do have a rather odd recurring theme in my life with regard to the profession and working with the end product.

It started many years ago helping out in my father’s photography business, where I ran around as a teenager schlepping power cords and photo lights. In undergrad, I was able to parlay my ‘vast’ experience into a part-time job working in the University Archives, cataloging historical photos, slides and negatives. And later on while working in-house, I began dealing with the various professional photographers outsourced by my firm. Being responsible for cropping, sharpening, or color correcting these images for the website [Anyone remember web safe colors? :)], I began to develop a few opinions with respect to how firms could better handle their photography.

Below is my personal list of “tips” for managing firm photos:

  1. Decide on a ‘firm look’ before the shoot —  Regardless of whether you choose traditional head-shoulders shots or something more creative, not enough can be said about photo consistency. The firm photos need to have “a look” to them that spans across multiple types of marketing materials.  If you decide on profile shots, where 6 inches of shoulder will be shown, then do that. Don’t suddenly flip to facial closeups, or half-body shots.
  2. Ensure the photographer’s approach can be replicated as new lawyers arrive at the firm. I now know a couple firms who have purchased the background canvas used in their profile pictures. One went as far as shipping the background between different office locations, as needed. If you’ve ever tried to have a background canvas color replicated between photographers, you’ll realize how smart an idea this is!
  3. Document color correction and photo filtering routines — Start by using the same photo editing software and sticking to it.  Write down any added color corrections or photo filters; noting which filters, what order they are applied, and how much. Then document how to apply this routine the same way on every photo.
  4. Get all the extra shots you can — Lots of firms ‘make a day of it’ when it comes to photo shoots. And just like family pictures, getting everyone dressed up — even in a law firm — can be no easy task. So do yourself a favor:  Take more candid photos. Take more group shots. And even if your lawyers hate to pose, make them. The more material your firm walks away with from its photo shoot, the less reliant it will be on stock photography.
  5. Consider hiring a professional photographer — This is probably my number one tip.  So many firms try to cut their budget by asking someone in-house to take their photos. This in-house person may handle a camera very well; some may even sell their services ‘on the side’. I still wouldn’t advise it.  Your end product is rarely as good, and you will end up flipping photographers more often than you care to.
  6. Consider hiring ‘the same’ photographer — The best law firm photos are the by-product of long-term relationships between firms and their photographer. Having a ‘firm photographer’ lets you define and maintain that consistent “firm look”; and do so over a period of years. It’s also good business: your photographer gets regular work; and in return, the firm gets a reliable product it can weave into its digital and printed materials.
  7. Take serious photos first. Everyone thinks getting their picture taken is easy and fun. It’s not! Don’t take it seriously, and the end product suffers. Candid photography should be scheduled later in the day, in my view, and those lawyer profile photos should be taken first thing, when everyone is fresh.
  8. No alcohol! Tip from Dad — At weddings, my father would ask the Bride (never the Groom…), “Please don’t let anyone in your bridal party drink between the end of the wedding and the pictures.” And it was true!  Bridal parties who drank prior to the photo session? They had fun, alright. But the pictures were never as good as they could have been.
  9. No photography outside the firm’s approved routine! Law firm marketers will be familiar with this scenario: “Partner A” hired a family photographer a couple weeks back, and now has a great shot he wants to use on his profile page on the website!  The differences? Well, it has a different background color, it was posed differently; oh, and he’s wearing a baseball cap while his fellow partners are all wearing suits! Make a rule early on: no matter how great the picture is, no picture gets used in firm materials unless it runs through proper channels.

So, those are my 9 tips for firm photography.  And while I wasn’t able to come up with a 10th tip, I am hoping one of our readers might chime in with another in the comments.

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