Photography isn’t just about taking pictures; it’s about engagement and experience, says our Head of Photography Alan Barton.
I know that’s an odd thing to say when 95 million photos and videos a day are uploaded to Instagram.
I’ve always felt that professional photography is about engagement. It’s about creating visual full stops so that people engage with the message or the story related to that photo.
It should work in partnership with the copy and the design to create a holistic vehicle for any given message. This can be as simple as ‘this is a great place to work,’ right through to behavioural change – like embracing diversity, or reconsidering health and safety.
The engagement comes down to taking a genuine interest in the people I meet. I want to make people feel at ease and enjoy the shoot. A photoshoot doesn’t have to be a scary thing…
And it’s not just the people I’m taking pictures of. I build relationships with our clients’ facilities managers and reception colleagues to ease the challenge of gaining access to a building or location. It’s even involved locking up after a shoot!
I also need to understand and be aware of our clients’ health and safety guidelines – anything from having the right safety shoes, to knowing you can’t use flash on a railway platform.
Know your story
I strive to understand the story or message that the final image will deliver, catching up with our content and design teams ahead of any shoot. I change my style and approach to fit the campaign, end product or client.
As a photographer, I need to balance our clients’ expectations and our creative team’s vision with the reality on the ground. It’s my job to tick all those boxes, and snap an image that draws traffic to both the image and more importantly to the message.
Changes in technology are an opportunity to push creative boundaries, whether that’s using fast wide aperture lenses that create a certain look, to taking battery powered studio style lights on location. I also draw on styles in films, TV productions, and any visual media I soak up.
A big part of my role is about making the visually dull interesting. Being at a big event like the Olympics is so different from being in a corporate meeting room and creating a stand out image. Often, it comes down to moving the furniture and then putting it back again afterwards.
It’s about seeing every shoot as a new opportunity to create a fresh new image rather than re-working an old idea. I look at how light and locations can be mixed to create something that stands out. I’m always alert, seeing the detail from the strand of hair to the missing safety goggles.
My job’s often the best job in the world – a unique insight into ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Plus, there aren’t many jobs where you get paid for just pressing one button every day! But, to balance that out, I see far too many service stations when I’m travelling.
I hope that my experience, and my perspective, allow me to create images that stand out among the other 50 billion pictures now on Instagram.
Top tips for photoshoots:
The 3 W’s – Who, Where, Why?
Who’s the right person for the story? Who brings the message to life and makes it feel real rather than corporate? Who will the target audience identify with? This adds so much to the delivery of
Where’s the right location to illustrate the story? It could be anything from the cab of a train to a local supermarket.
What’s the message? Should the person be happy or serious,
natural or lit up? And are there any company photography guidelines
Alan Barton, Head of Photography at W&P