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Getting Good Promo Photos

Tony Moore

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I have a photographer who will be taking some action shots at my next presentation. These photos will be used in my promotional materials. For those of you who have done this before, are there any helpful hints that you can pass along to me? Any pitfalls to watch out for, e.g., colors of clothing to avoid? Any assistance that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

-- Rebecca Morgan

  • Call the venue and find out what the background is behind the stage where you'll be speaking. You don't want to wear blue if the wallpaper is blue -- you'll blend right in and be lost in the pics.
  • Ask the client/venue to "pretty up" the stage. For no cost, you can ask them to bring in potted plants from elsewhere in the hotel. Even if it costs you some money to do this, it will make for better photos.
  • Same with "de-junking" the stage area. If you don't use a lectern, make sure it's removed before you begin.
  • Make sure the photographer gets some pics of the audience laughing and looking attentive. Also, some shots from behind you of them looking at you and laughing are great. And make sure he gets one of the whole room if it is a large room. If there are only a few people in a shot it looks like you only speak to small groups.
  • Have someone you trust look you over carefully before going on. Is the same amount of cuff showing on both sleeves? Collar the same on both sides? Nothing bulky in your pockets? Mic cord hidden? Someone else can see if your jacket is hitched up in the back, or other nuances you may miss in your focus to do a great speech.
  • Have the client/planner explain to the audience ahead of time that you are being photographed, and them invite them (insist?) they fill in the blank spots, especially up front. Nothing looks worse than a sparsely populated audience, or one with lots of empty seats up front. Most people will cooperate if asked nicely.

-- Sandy Dumont

  • Make certain you do not blend into your clothing, go for contrast so that your face is prominent. If you want a formal look, a navy blue suit is great with nearly all skins.
  • Also, make certain you do not blend into the background of your setting. Most hotels have gold or other pastel backgrounds in their meeting rooms. If you are a Caucasian, it is the kiss of death, because you will disappear into the background.
  • When I speak, I drag out all the fake or real ornamental trees that I can find and put them on the riser where I will be speaking. I tell the cameraman to make sure for important close-ups that the dark green background will be behind me - not the gold flecked wallpaper!
  • Lastly, make certain you wear a tie that does not disappear into your shirt or your suit. Ties were "invented" to enable you to "make a statement" about yourself. Make certain it "says" something and does not get lost. Small, discreet patterns are best, so that they do not "speak" before you do.

-- Toni Jo Artz

In choosing your clothing make sure you convey the attitude that you want (e.g., causal, professional) but keep in mind the background in which you will be standing in front of. I've seen photos of couples in evening attire that their photo was taken in front of a black backdrop. Just picture two people and all you see are their heads, hands and his white shirt. Too much black. Yuck! You will also want to pack a lint brush and make sure everything is well pressed. Double-check your tie, too. Is it straight; does it end properly?

As for shots, get several action pictures -- alone and with attendees. Make sure some are taken from behind you -- so your back is in view and the attendees eagerly listening.

-- Bob Bevard

Make sure the colors are good for you -- so know whether you are fall, winter, spring, etc., and make sure your wardrobe really works for your hair/skin color. Probably figure out a way to work with three outfits anyway -- w/suit; with jacket-perhaps some with tie w/jacket off, biz casual.

-- Resli Costabell

  • Lighting is everything. If you only worry about one thing, ensure the photographer gets the lighting right.
  • If you wear glasses, dust them with a bit of powder so they won't reflect. If you must wear any form of shiny jewelry, check with the photographer on whether it needs to have a dash of powder.
  • Bald/ing heads and shiny faces also can benefit from a touch of powder.
  • Avoid clothes with small patterns, particularly herringbone. Go for solids instead. On film, they can "ring", that is, look as if they're vibrating.
  • Wear clothes that you feel comfortable and even rather gorgeous in. Avoid clothes that need to be adjusted, or where you know you look unpleasant from certain angles. So don't wear that fancy shirt that needs to be tucked in every few minutes, and don't wear the trousers that you only feel good in if you continuously suck in your stomach.
  • Consider the background on which you're going to post the photos. If your Web site's theme color is orange, you'll want to avoid the red jacket.
  • If there's a chance of any audience members appearing in a shot, get them to sign release forms in advance, giving you the right to use and publish the photos.
  • Ask the photographer to take a zillion shots. Chances are that at least a few will be good! If s/he is present when you're rehearsing, ask him/her for loads of photos then, as well: it'll help you get used to the camera. The first time I did a keynote, it was for 350 people. I had not been warned that as I began, a photographer would stand up from the second row and start taking flash photographs. It was somewhat unsettling, to say the least. I encourage you to get used to having a photographer and having flash photography during rehearsals.
  • Given that the shots are at a live presentation, the photographer is likely to do some long shots. Put on what you're thinking of wearing. Stand several yards back from a full length mirror. Check out your proportions. Does your jacket suddenly look a bit long, so you look as if your body is only 1/3 leg? Do your shoes look ridiculously small and out of proportion with the rest of your outfit? Ask your best friends for honest opinions. For even more honest opinions, ask your worst enemies.
  • Lastly: ask the photographer the same question you asked us.

-- Stephanie Angelo

Just two quick things to mention: one is that I find meeting planners to be pretty shaky about letting a photographer in the room. I have had to have audiences sign disclaimers that I can have pix taken and that they will be of me -- no audience faces will be shown.

As far as the pix go, have the photographer move around the room for different angles, close ups and body shots. Try not to have a lot of clutter around you, but also avoid plain curtains behind you. Never wear stripes. They come out grainy and fuzzy in the pictures. For a man, a light blue shirt is nice. The tie can have large stripes because it's a limited view. It can also have a medium pattern or design.

-- Dick Dale

Make sure that there some shots of the audience from behind you showing size and good reactions. Your back should be in the shot, someplace. Get some interactive shots with you at a meet-and-greet or chatting with an audience member (or members). Another good shot with a sizeable audience is from the back, over their heads, showing you in action on stage but with the backs of their heads visible lower frame.

-- Michael Lee

Find out what color the background will be and wear a contrasting color. If the background is deep blue consider light gray, if light colored background try a dark color. Everyone, including men, should wear professional make-up. This evens-out the color of the skin and can eliminate shine which can ruin pictures. Let your photographer know approximately when your most animated sections of your presentation are. That's when you want the photos taken.

Tell your photographer to take a variety of "framings". Lots of close-ups but also medium and wide shots for variety.

-- Dennis Snow

I learned this the hard, expensive way. I worked with a very nice professional photographer who was careful not to interfere with the seminar. He stayed in the background and even avoided using a flash so as not to distract the group. Well, I ended up with a bunch of dark photos from odd angles. I would suggest that getting it done right will likely cause some distraction for the audience. Perhaps you can prepare the group and/or have some fun with it. If I were to do it again I'd probably offer a discount to the sponsor, letting him/her know that I appreciate the fact that it will be slightly distracting to have the photographer there.

-- Daniel Alexander

If your skin color is anything like most white westerners go briefly on a sunbed (think healthy and rejuvenated rather than bronzo-man!). Have a haircut. Have a woman pick out your clothes unless you are very confident you can choose suit, shirt and tie that complement your complexion. Do you wear glasses? Do you have heels in your shoes? Studies have shown that we perceive people with glasses to be more intelligent and trustworthy and taller people to be more successful and attractive.

-- Matthew Clulow

Photography is all about 'painting with light'. If your photographer knows how to manipulate light you're halfway there. I generally try to make sure the subject is against a solid or uncluttered background. It makes it easier to edit the image later.

If you're using a slide show or working in front of windows, or in a badly lighted room, your photographer will require special lighting to compensate. Flash and flood lights are still common. He/she should scout the location ahead of time, and come prepared.

The next, and by far the most important thing is to shoot hundreds and hundreds, of pictures, at a minimum resolution of 300 DPI.

I learned from studying each frame of video shot at 29 frames per second, that even in thousands and thousand of frames there are only a few where your best side, the best light, the best framing, and the best expression converge to make a high impact image. Each frame has its own character and invokes its own unique message and feeling. Your face will do a lot of contortion in a split second. Each of 29 frames shot in one second will be remarkably different from any other. The more you shoot, the more likely you are to capture that one stunning image you're looking for. I would suggest a minimum of 500 shots. Digital photography makes this easy. Watch a fashion photographer work with a model and you'll see what I mean. They set up shots in terms of background and light, then they shoot a lot of images as the model moves.

300 DPI resolutions is a standard press format for your printed material. Then highest-quality material might require 600dpi, but that's not common. You can scale any 300 DPI image up or down for any format.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions