Ask

Last week I had the opportunity to meet and photograph the executive team at Ask.com in Oakland, California. The popular search site and parent company of Dictionary.com is in the process of updating its corporate information webpage and executive profiles, which currently don’t include portraits.

Back in early August, I was referred to a Senior Marketing Manager at Ask by a mutual acquaintance. She liked the work on my just-released new website, and my bid was submitted and accepted after an email exchange and phone conversation about the project. We scheduled a date for later in the month to do the photography.

Between when she booked me and the shoot date, the number of executive to photograph grew from 8 to 11. Also during that time, the date got pushed—since that many busy executives automatically equals scheduling problems!

Finally, though, the revised shoot date arrived and everything went smoothly. Everyone arrived on time for their appointment, followed the wardrobe guidelines, and gave me their full attention during our time together. (With busy executives, it can be difficult to go three-for-three in these categories!). As an added bonus, the corporate culture was very relaxed and unpretentious, which was reflected in the easy interactions I had and the candid images I was able to create.

A few weeks before the shoot, I had asked to speak with the web design firm that was doing the layouts. It was good that I did, because found out during our pre-production call that the design called for a slightly unconventional off-center horizontal composition, with room for text in the negative space. They also wanted negative space on both sides, so they had the choice of framing subject left or right of center in the frame.

This creative direction had a big impact on my approach to the shoot. Luckily, I was able to set up in the company’s large main conference room, leaving plenty of room for a wide composition with plenty of background.

Here are a few sample images from the shoot:

During the first portrait session of the day, we got some great candid shots where a laugh or break in eye contact produced a more editorial looking image. I pointed these images out to the Marketing Manager, and we agreed that if we tried to capture a few of these type of shots for each person, they might have a great alternative portrait series for other uses within the company.

This moment was an example of how it is not just important to nail down the specs for the shoot in advance. It is equally important to look for and recognize additional opportunities to capitalize on the limited time with the company’s busy executives. In this case, we doubled the output from the shoot—more useful images for the client and more business for me—by tweaking our game plan on the fly.

Here are just a couple of the candid alternate shots:

In the end, everyone loved the candid portraits. In fact, they liked the idea of “off-beat” portraits so much, that they called me after the shoot to request full-on blooper shots. Now that’s an executive team with a sense of humor!

This was a fun and very rewarding project that went well from start to finish. It exemplified what I like about doing this type of portrait work: I got to meet a group of interesting, educated, high-achieving individuals from diverse backgrounds. In my conversations with them, I learned about things like the physics of skydiving and what it’s like to be born in Italy then growing up in Alaska. And I got to know a bit of the inner workings of a locally-based global brand.

Much thanks to my Marketing Manager contact for her great facilitation (and executive-wrangling). The new site featuring these images is not live yet, but I will update this post with a link when it is released!