Line Production Portraits

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by mattman944, Oct 5, 2016.

  1. I work for a large company as an Engineer. Once a year, I shoot simple portraits of award winners for an internal website. About 25 portraits, I use my own equipment, I do this as a favor for my managers.
    Now, I have been asked to shoot head-and-shoulders portraits for all the employees at my site (many hundreds), for organizational charts and Skype. I have a demanding job, I cannot afford this distraction, and I have declined. I could offer advice, but right now, that would be: find another experienced person, or outsource.
    If I was to do this, I would do it as most of you would, a DSLR and flash. Studio flash if my company would fund it, or my speedlights off-camera. But, this is overkill, these are for internal use only, the maximum print size will be 8 x 10, and most of them will only be thumbnails on computer.
    Now for my question: Assuming that dedicated space is provided for a permanent setup, is there a simpler way? Like a photo-booth? Something that is so foolproof that an experienced person doesn’t need to be there. Maybe continuous light? How to keep people from accidentally moving the lights? What is the simplest camera that could do this job (I personally find that most Point-N-Shoots to be more difficult to use than my DSLR)? Something with simple tethering software?
  2. The company I worked for last used a web-cam and dedicated software to take ID photos and create badges. I would think that a permanent setup like that, perhaps with a better camera than a webcam would do the job. No need to make it complicated for the simple needs, i.e., low-rez photos for intranet, badges, and skype/meetings.
  3. A friend quit his job at Apple to work at Google. He described how Apple is careful with the lighting and background for employee portraits whereas Google does it casually (and badly, with "clown lighting"). If it is worth doing at all it is probably worth doing reasonably well. Why not set up a Background in a Bag, a softbox, and a $500 DSLR with a $400 85/1.8 lens? Who can drive this operation? Find a person who works at the local shopping mall or department store portrait studio! For a few hours every day before going to the commercial studio this person can come into your company. I don't think these folks are accustomed to a princely wage.
  4. If you work for a large company, do you all wear photo ID badges? If so, why not suggest that they just use those images?
  5. I've been involved with this sort of thing before, and David makes a good point. Initially it seems like the photography is the difficult part, but
    eventually maintenance in a database, keeping the right names and titles, as well as employee status (hey, this guy quit two years ago,
    what's he doing in the current org chart) may be a bigger deal. If you have commercial ID badge software, this stuff is probably built in, as
    well as the ability to handle just about any camera (you'll probably have to install a camera driver).

    If you have an HR department, I'd suggest to pass the work off onto them - they're already dealing with new hires, so shooting them is just
    one more step; no need to schedule photo sessions. Or if someone wants to update a photo, they just visit HR. They (HR) can also be
    responsible for the equipment, so that little bits here and there don't disappear. I'd use a cheap camera, otherwise people will constantly be
    wanting to borrow it ("we need a camera for the company xyz event, and that nice camera is just sitting there unused"). Have a second
    identical camera for a spare if it's a "time critical" operation; otherwise when the camera fails the original model may no longer be available
    and they're coming back to you for help. Run everything on AC power so no need to maintain batteries.

    However you do the other things, I'd suggest that the camera/lighting be set up all manual. Make a set of instructions as to what every
    setting should be as well as the distance from subject to lights, etc. Give the operator two f-stops (or flash power settings) to choose from,
    saying that "if image is too light or too dark, use the alternate setting..." This way you can accommodate light or dark skin tones without
    anyone stirring up racial issues. If you want the work to look "professional," you'll want consistent head sizes; commercial ID software will
    typically have an auto head-sizing and centering option, otherwise you'll have to specify what to do in your instructions, etc.

    I don't think that there is any simple way to do this, at least if image quality has any significance. Even just writing the instructions and
    training someone in HR is probably more work than shooting several hundred people, at least for me. The instructions should also include troubleshooting and where to get replacement parts, at least if you eventually want to wash your hands of the operation. Best of luck.
  6. Thanks for the tips. ID software is a great idea. Our security dept does the badges, I'll see if they will share the images.
    Cost cutting has cut our support departments to the bone. Many, many, years ago we had a photography/graphics arts group and a $100k studio/lab, all gone now. HR would be a good group to lead this, but they are shorthanded also.
    @BillC: yes they have seriously underestimated the amount of time involved. After the initial shoot, there will be a make-up shoot, and another, and another. Then there will be new-hires. Certainly if one person manages the images, that alone is a big job. Maybe there is some flow that would automatically put the images on a server and the users would be responsible for finding the images.

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