I hear it a lot. “Our office is not very big and not very interesting. Are you sure we can do the WHOLE shoot here?”
The answer is always “Yes.”
There are lots of ways to create unique images from a not very unique office space. The camera, lenses, lighting (natural and artificial) are all tools that can be used in different ways to create different images.
In less beautiful offices, it is important to keep focused on the subject, and not the work office space. Blurring out backgrounds is usually the first step. If I use good lenses at low apertures (F1.4 – F1.8), I can blur out the background and keep 100% of focus on the subject. The same effect can be made by using longer zoom lenses at 2.8. If the background can’t be identified, it’s not obvious they’re all taken in the same location and can give a company a larger-than-reality vibe.
One of the first things I do when I walk into a space is scope out where the natural light is coming from. I’ll even walk around and open the blinds on all the big sets of windows. The more natural light I can tap into, the less light I need to add and the more approachable the images will feel. I also turn off all of the overhead (known in the industry as “practical”) lights in a space.
Turning off lights might make it seem a little too dark, but when I overexpose the photos using only natural light, a warm and natural softness comes through so nicely. I love showing someone the image on the back of the camera compared to the room we are standing in and they are always blown away.
To capture the “working shots,” I try to create a natural environment and have them bring something (like a laptop) to be working on. Whether it’s in a conference room or even the front lobby, it appears to be entirely different settings as I pivot around the subject. It’s important to take into account 360 angles, but also to approach the shot from higher and lower levels. Just by changing the altitude and angle of my lens, I can get an entirely different shot without even moving my feet.
Finally, any company that is building an image library is going to want employee portraits. A really good location for me is somewhere that has a lot of depth, which you can actually still find even in small spaces. I’ll have them stand beside a big bright window for light, and have the rest of the office fall off in the background of the photo. It’s also best if I can recreate the shot regardless of time of day.
With these techniques, a really interesting and diverse set of images can be created for a company to use for their entire website.