The end of the financial year is upon us and, for many working pros, this means we’ve just emerged from a long sojourn in the world of corporate photography. February and March are the season of the elusive ‘annual report’ – that wonderful job where clients will pay a decent amount of money to have their Board of Directors and company photographed to capture its ambience.
Corporate photography – the bread and butter of many a tog – is a strange beast. As a fresh, starry-eyed photographer, I thought it would be a great opportunity to put my mark on a company, and produce innovative new work for them. Oh, the excitement when told that they wanted something ‘wacky’. And the bitter disappointment when I realised that ‘wacky’ means using a grey background instead of a white one. Corporate photography is not always the most glamorous of work.
A fact proven by the retouching aspect of many a corporate shoot. Do the Directors of companies not own a single pair of nose trimmers between them? When you start out as a photographer, it’s unlikely that you consider the hours you’ll spend zoomed in on a client’s nostrils. Apologies to those of a sensitive disposition but forewarned is forearmed and all that…especially as I’ve yet to find a way to brandish a pair of trimmers mid-shoot and suggest a tidy-up.
Companies have a distinct tendency to organise photo shoots on the same day as large meetings – probably because it’s one of the few times all the directors and big-wigs are in one place. We photographers understand this but it can lead to complications. Photograph them before lunch and they’ll be hard to keep in the room for more than five minutes, for fear of the free buffet vanishing. Photograph them after lunch and, if it’s been a liquid one, you’ll have an equally hard time keeping them propped up. Of course, plenty of places are consummately professional from start to finish, but they don’t make for amusing stories, do they?
You might expect that, as a female photographer, my biggest problem is dealing with sexism from men of a certain generation. In fact, you’d be wrong as the only time I’ve ever encountered sexism was from three directors all barely five years older than me. Having all greeted my male assistant as the photographer; they proceeded to make fairly derogatory comments throughout the shoot. I’m not known for my calm attitude to these sorts of things, but revenge is sometimes a dish best served cold. And, once I’d blacklisted the firm to every photographer round London and left the misogynistic wombats looking slightly ‘glowing’ in their shots, I like to think I’d proved my point.
Of course, the annual report doesn’t just include portraits. One must also capture the ‘ambience’ of the company, in order to show investors the go getting and alluring facets of the organisation. Fine, if the company you’re photographing has far-reaching views from its roof across the London skyline. Less fine if they’re based in an industrial estate in Croydon. And it’s not as if you can resort to the inside environs either – unless you think cubicle dividers suggest a ‘thrusting’ environment. Don’t worry though – you can always cover things up by photographing groups of employees having meetings, or working industrially at their desks. Once you’ve cleared the detritus of fizzy drink cans and crisp packets off their desks, that is.
I’ve been shooting corporate photography for around 20 years and, whatever this article may lead you to believe, I actually quite enjoy it. Good money, good stories – just don’t expect your creativity to flourish. Save that for the other genres!