Using photographs of employees can add some authenticity to marketing. Showing those who answer the phones or make the products you sell gives people reassurance there’s a real business behind the website. If you’re tempted to grab your phone and snap shots around the office, hold that thought. There are legal, privacy and practical issues you need to address before you can start.
Find the right style
For cornerstone content, such as adverts and product pages, staged images may work better. Using professional equipment and staging will give you more control over how the images match your message. Candid shots taken with mobile phones can work well for blog posts and other informal marketing.
Professional or not?
Whether you use a professional photographer or rely on a hobbyist from within the team comes down to budget. Professionals will usually produce better results and offer ideas and styles that can make your work stand out. Knowing who your hobbyist photographers are will give you flexibility for ad hoc fill-ins, blog posts and updates.
Who owns the copyright to the images isn’t clear-cut. A professional photographer will probably own the rights, although they may sign them over as part of the contract. If you use staff to take the images you can’t rely on employment contracts, particularly if it isn’t part of their day-to-day duties and they use their own camera. A sensible compromise is to ask the staff member to grant an exclusive licence for a small bonus payment.
Get a signed model release
Everyone who appears in a shot should sign a model release. This confirms the subject has given their permission to have their photo taken and used. Relying on a general clause in an employment contract can be problematic when the employee leaves, and employees could argue you invaded their privacy.
Have a Plan B
Employees will leave. When they do, you must decide whether to remove their images or reshoot. For informal blogs this might not be such an issue, for cornerstone content you may harm your branding. It’s sensible to shoot variations of your formal images using different members of staff, either on their own or in groups.
A word of caution. I have seen companies try to edit in other employee’s faces or crop departing staff out of images. One company went so far as to put a sales sticker on the face of a former employee on nearly 1,000 leaflets. If the employee’s gone either remove the image, or accept they’re no longer part of the business.
Using employees in your photography can add some authenticity to your marketing. It’s not a cheap fix though, you need to approach it in a structured and managed way. Find the right mix between formal and candid shots, decide whether to use a professional or in-house hobbyist, and get the copyrights and releases signed before you publish.
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