Achieving the Perfect Team Portrait: A Step-by-Step Guide

Have you ever wondered why most team portraits look more like a police line-up than a high performing team?

But why is it that so many companies just can’t seem to get it right when it comes portraying a relatable and authentic front for your super-squad…

Hold that thought, because we’re about to take a deep dive into the world of group portrait photography and what you can do to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.

1. Find the right photographer for your team portrait.

If you were to only take away one thing from this article, this would be it:

Hire a photographer who’s a gun at taking team portraits!

The truth is, other than hiring the photographer and organising your team, everything else is largely out of your control, so this is the one element you’ll want to make sure that you get right.

Hiring the right person for the job will mean that everything else will fall into place and most things will just happen organically with timely prompts and guidance. This will also mean that you won’t be left on your own to work out details like logistics, locations and the elements.

Hero Shot Photography photographing their signature ‘corporate-cool’ portrait for the team at Dewcape in Sydney.

2. Planning

Most team portraits are taken without proper planning and consideration of the environment, lighting, and background. This, more often than not, will lead to lack-lustre portraits that do not do your team justice.

Deciding it would be a great idea to get a team portrait on the day of your company’s headshot session is a bad idea for many reasons, least of all because it will most likely be rushed and so will end up looking rushed.

Planning from the customer’s side starts with understanding:

  • Why you need a team portrait.
  • Where you’ll be using your team portrait.
  • What message you want to give when people view your team portrait.

The answers to these questions will have a profound impact on your final team portrait, what it should look like and whether it will deliver you an ROI.

It will also form the basis of the creative decisions moving forward.

Having this worked out and communicating this to your photographer is the best gift you can give them to ensure that the outcome from your photoshoot meets your expectations and business needs.

Outdoor team portrait for Ray White Real estate in Sydney | Hero Shot Photography©

Top left: Morton Real Estate, Sydney  |  Top right: Upflowy, Sydney Bottom Right: Jigsaw Talent Management, Melbourne | Bottom right: Meridian, Sydney | All images by Hero Shot Photography ©

3. Allow enough time

Whilst this essentially comes under the planning segment, it’s so important that it deserves a section of its own.

Most people have little appreciation for what it takes to achieve an exceptional team ‘hero shot’, even on the perfect day when the guns are out and everything’s going your way.

    • Lighting
    • Composition
    • Background
    • Posing
    • Straightening clothing
    • Engagement
    • Weather
    • Pedestrians/passers by
    • Execution
    • Someone blinking every 5 seconds
    • an unwilling participant..

the list goes on…

These take a while to get in check!

Consider how important your portrait is and everywhere it will be used. This may help put into perspective the time you’re willing to invest to get it right.

Team portraits of Tik Tok Leadership Team in Sydney

Press shots for Tik Tok Australia. Hero Shot Photography©

Expecting to come out with a solid team portrait of 20 people in 5 minutes is.. let’s say.. “highly optimistic”. 

And if something doesn’t go to plan you can fuhgeddaboudit.

Talk to your photographer and find out what’s needed before imposing hard timeframes that you need to stick to. Of course, sometimes theres no other choice but adding additional pressure to your team portrait shoot could backfire and not give you the goods that you need.

Block out time and then some

Block out enough time in your teams diary to account for the unexpected, perhaps even booking in a 30 minute team huddle after your shoot, that can easily be reconvened if necessary, to give you a buffer.

The last thing you want is for a team member to be worrying about the client meeting she’s running late for whist the rest of your team is focussed on trying to execute the perfect shot.

If you don’t end up needing the extra time, you can always try a second look in a different style or location, giving you more options to choose from..

A mix of smart casual attire, an industrial setting and casual poses give this portrait a cool, modern and relaxed vibe that’s still professional and ready for business. Laid back team portrait taken by Hero Shot Photography in Sydney.

5. The Plague of the Awkward Pose

It’s amazing how one person’s awkward pose can ruin the entire team portrait. I’ve seen it a million times (and counting). From the classic “I’m-trying-to-look-cool-but-I-just-look-constipated” pose to the “I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-with-my-hands” pose, these awkward poses have no place in a team portrait and will make you cringe every time you look at it.

tech-start-up-group-portrait

Upflowy Team Portrait for a tech start-up. Taken infront of their heritage listed headquarters in Surry Hills, Sydney. It was a bright sunny day so we waited 15 minutes for some cloud coverage to get beautiful and flattering lighting. The gust of wind was a happy accident that happened at just the right time to lift the female’s hair and add some movement.  Hero Shot Photography©

6. Devising the right method for your group

It’s not uncommon for photographers to rely on the “just stand there and smile” method, resulting in a sea of stiff, uncomfortable-looking team members that look like corporate drones.

Let’s face it, unless your team is made up of mannequins, the stand and smile approach will fail 99 times out of 100.

A creative composition, paired with a relevant or interesting background will go a long way in making your team come off as welcoming… and one that has the all important “human” element we hear marketing experts talk about all too often.

Even with the most conservative corporate team portrait, having a portrait with heart and soul should should always be your goal.

Happy and relaxed team portrait of Rumble Studios taken by Hero Shot Photography in Melbourne

7. Natural lighting doesn’t always work and lighting a large group is no small feat.

Sure, your photographer may have a professional camera and fancy equipment, but if they can’t use it effectively, specifically in a group situation, leaving half of your team shrouded in darkness, your new team portrait will end up being a game of “spot the vampire lurking in the shadows.

8. Coordination and communication.

You’d think that getting a group of people to stand in a specific formation would be easy, but alas, it’s not. It’s a challenge for even the best photographers to wrangle a group of individuals of varying heights, weight and clothing colours into a cohesive unit. Let’s be real for a minute, you’ll want to achieve harmony and balance in your composition, instead of it looking like a game of Twister.

large team portrait of professional people sitting and smiling

Team portrait for crown furniture croup taken at their warehouse with no natural light present. We took over 200 frames to get the perfect shot.

9. Get Creative

Sure, a straight-on, standard shot of your team may be okay, but where’s the fun in that, where’s the energy? How does this show the passion your team have for their work and why they work so well together? If you’re not able to articulate these attributes in your team portrait, why bother doing it in the first place?

There are lots of ways to showcase your team, your fancy office or your culture. Knowing what message you are hoping to convey with your group photography as well as how you want people to feel when viewing these images may rule out the need for formal group portraits altogether.

Check out the in-situ, collaborative group hero shots we did for the team at Google in their high-tech Sydney headquarters.

Could this be a better fit for your team, or help you in achieving another business objective?

Photos for Google at their Sydney Offices. Hero Shot Photography ©

10. Creativity vs Pressure

Creativity and pressure are like oil and water; they may be in the same environment but they never mix well.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with taking a group portrait (on both sides of the camera).

Sure, when you’re backed into a corner with nowhere to run, there’s bound to be the odd happy accident, but that’s not what we’re talking about here and not something you ever want to risk.

With the nerve-wracking social pressure of entertaining a group, it’s all too easy for a photographer to lose their creativity somewhere between “the box” and “outside of it, especially when working with something that has more moving parts than a jigsaw puzzle made out of spaghetti!

Getting everyone to look perfect, with flattering poses, composed beautifully, with energy and warmth in their expressions, at exactly the same time is no small feat.

It takes a solid photography plan as well as a contingency plan or three for if something falls out of line.

Various team and in-situ portraits taken for Fortius, an investment management firm. The Images were to serve a wide range of purposes including annual reports, press, websites and brochures. We maintained a clean and corporate style in keeping with their industry and customer expectations. Taken by Hero Shot Photography in Sydney, Australia

11. Give your photographer room to breathe

Unlike individual portraits, where we have direct control and influence over single person, group portraits are much more demanding, requiring a great deal of focus as well as a show-stopping performance to get a crowd warmed up, engaged and peaking together at just the right  time.

It’s like being centre-stage, with an audience, who might only be there out of a sense of obligation to the company they work for.

Everything we say and do in this time will either bring the portrait together or make it slowly fall apart.

If mistakes happen or a curveball is thrown, we need to be able to respond quickly and appropriately, all the while watching out for double chins, blinks and people losing interest and looking at their watch, phone or the person next to them.

Make sure you allocate ample time in everyone’s schedule to account for any unforeseen surprises from the Gods.

We know that groups can be difficult to bring together and you’ll want to make sure you’re leaving with the goods that you’ve hired someone for.

Summary and Tips 

If you are getting group portraits of your team, make sure you’ve done your prep and your homework on who you’re using.

Carefully review your photographers work to see that this is something they can handle. Whilst they may be good at photographing your headshots, it’s not a given that they can do justice to the whole team together and the multitude of challenges this brings.

1 . Plan ahead

One of the worst things you can do is decide last minute that you need a team portrait and throw your photographer in at the deep end.

To do your team portrait justice, it should be decided in advance allowing time for preparation of your team, your photographer and the sourcing or preparation of an ideal location.

It may also require a change of clothing as what looks good in a headshot may not work as well in your team portrait and this is something your team will want to have figured out before the shoot, not during it.

2 . Relax and focus on yourself

The next time you’re posing for a group portrait, the best thing to do is relax and focus on yourself.

And feel free to crack a joke or two, after all, laughter is the best form of group therapy.

For more inspiration and ideas, head over to our team portraits page.

This article was written by Sammer Affridi.

Sammer is a Headshot and portrait photographer based in Sydney Australia and founder of Hero Shot Photography

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