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19 Creative Director Secrets for Your Next Photo Shoot


By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Today, healthcare brands have more photography and videography options than ever. For many situations, hiring professionals, such as a professional photographer, a production company, or a videographer, will be best. 

In other instances, you and your team can utilize a high-quality smartphone camera, affordable software programs, and inexpensive starter equipment to quickly, cheaply, and easily create excellent photos and videos.

Deciding whether a professional approach, a do-it-yourself (DIY) effort, or something in-between is best largely depends on your business goals, desired aesthetic, timeline, and budget.

In this post, I share updated recommendations on how to get the most out of a professional photo shoot. 

But before we get into our tips, here’s why you need to start and organize your own image library – if you haven’t already.

Why You Need a Digital Image Library 

While you can undoubtedly use stock photos in your marketing materials (e.g., websites, social media, brochures, newsletters, etc.)—so can your competitors, who may select the same image. 

This is why I always recommend building a library of branded images. 

Keep in mind your image library might also include manipulated stock photos. 

We consider this an economical middle ground option that provides additional proprietary / ownership and works to build brand recognition.

Whether you use stock photography that’s manipulated or custom images, I recommend that you build a library of branded images for your marketing materials.

A custom library:

  1. Creates consistent branding, quality, and tone
  2. Represents real physicians and staff
  3. Promotes leading-edge technology and equipment
  4. Reflects your brand’s story accurately 
  5. Increases conversion rates
  6. Remember, people are more likely to continue reading when you break up copy sections with engaging, contextually relevant images. Marketer Jeff Bullas says that articles with compelling photography receive 94% more views than those without. 

With your cohesive image library in mind, here are some of our best insights on how to plan and execute a successful photo shoot.

19 Creative Director Secrets for Your Next Photoshoot

High-quality, custom images are invaluable marketing tools. Planning and executing a first-class photo shoot can represent you and your business as professional, credible, welcoming—and an appropriate choice for healthcare consumers.

Showcasing high-quality, compelling photography on your website, ads, and marketing materials helps you engage your target audience, stand out from the competition, and tell your brand story.

1. Know your target audience

When planning and conceptualizing your photo shoot, it’s imperative to keep your target audience in mind and the demographics you might want to target in the future.

For example, if your target audience is suburban men and women in their 40s and 50s, be sure to depict that demographic in your photos rather than younger generations and cityscapes.

It’s also essential to review the types of photographs your competitors use and aim to do them better.

2. Determine present and future needs

It’s important to consider your current or immediate needs and any anticipated future applications to save time and money. Think about how and where you will use new photos across your marketing efforts. Try to cover as many people, places, and things as practical.

3. Conceptualize

What is your business mission, and how do you express that concept visually? What is your brand story, and how do you want to share that message with your audience? 

Translating concepts into a visual expression may be one of the most challenging preparation steps. The core idea is identifying the benefits and super benefits that consumers want you to deliver.

4. Tell a story

Visual elements communicate quickly and can easily be part of storytelling imagery. What pictures help show a caring purpose and/or people engaging with people? Is there a beginning-middle-end sequence that communicates a storyline?

5. Seek professional help

An experienced, professional photographer brings several advantages to the table. 

First, they have all the quality equipment—cameras, lights, reflectors—and they know how to use them to your best advantage. 

What’s more, a professional will help with planning, spot (and avoid) potential problems, and anticipate achieving maximum results with the greatest efficiency.

Remember, prospective patients are more likely to click away from your website if you don’t have a solid design with high-quality photography.

6. Picture the environment

In addition to the head-and-shoulders “people pictures,” you should include images that reveal your facilities’ exteriors and interiors. Seeing real-world locations and environments reduces the unknown and helps to demystify the patient experience.

7. Lighting is essential

Lighting is a key ingredient in creating beautiful, well-exposed photos. When shooting indoor photos, take advantage of natural, diffused light as much as possible by positioning your subject near a window or other natural light source. 

If natural light is too harsh or in low supply, try a different time of day or opt for artificial studio lighting. 

Assuming you’re working with a professional photographer, they should have professional lighting equipment.

For exterior photos of signage, facilities, or staff, avoid direct sunlight. Direct sunlight is harsh, makes your subject squint, and creates harsh shadows—instead, time your photos early in the morning or around sunset. 

Many outdoor photographers prefer shooting at the “golden hour,” the last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise. These times provide optimal, warm, diffused lighting and make capturing stunning outdoor photos easier.

8. Be selective

Plan to take lots of photos, confirm they’re relevant and attractive, and communicate your needs. It’s better to select one great shot from a dozen options than to be stuck with limited options.

9. Ensure everyone signs a photo release

Before your photographer takes any images, a current and signed “model release,” “photo release,” or “personal release agreement” is a must-have. Simple model release forms are available online, but I recommend talking with your legal counsel about HIPAA or other regulations to ensure your photos can be used as needed in your online or offline marketing efforts.

10. Plan “lifestyle” shots

Carefully consider how to illustrate physicians and staff doing their daily jobs. What are the “in action” service photos that reveal the culture, personality, and environment—without being ordinary or boring?

11. Include important technologies

What facilities, technology, or products help represent your services or benefits to patients? Are these unique to your business, location, or market? Is this the current, cutting-edge equipment that sets you apart from the competition?

12. Street view photos

Include pictures of the front of your buildings, outdoor signage, and/or a pedestrian-level view from the street. These images can orient a new visitor and are useful to include on a website location page.

13. Take head-and-shoulders images

Sometimes the best “head shots” come from a slightly wider composition—with room for cropping. Consider how profile photos of you and your staff (everyone, really) can come from everyday activities.

14. Vary the wardrobe

Plan to take many pictures with about two changes of clothing. Ideally, photos should include lab coats and suits or professional attire.

15. Hire a hair and makeup professional

A completely “normal and natural” appearance almost always requires careful preparation for both men and women. Have your hair and makeup professionally done. Consider a haircut the day before for men or a makeup/hair salon for women.

16. Remind your subjects to smile

A casual, friendly, and welcoming appearance comes through with a simple but sincere smile. This is always appropriate to reduce anxiety but is especially helpful for medical specialties that may be “scary.”

17. Observe these simple but important rules

Tell your subjects in advance not to wear bold prints or patterns, and also not to over-accessorize. (These distract with “visual noise.”)

18. Incorporate a graphic designer

A graphic designer can take your custom, high-quality photos to the next level by incorporating custom graphic elements (e.g., marketing messages, infographics, charts, stats, etc.) to promote your products and services.

They can also take average or mediocre photos and improve them with cropping, filters, etc.

19. Other simple but important tips

Eliminate all visual clutter in the frame. Even a messy desk can be a visual and mental distraction from what’s important. You want your business to look its best. 

Shoot casual shots, such as informal company events or activities, when appropriate. 

Images that are “behind the scenes” can be interesting and good fuel for social media.

High-quality images are invaluable marketing tools. Planning and executing a first-class photo shoot can represent you and your practice as professional, credible, welcoming—and an appropriate choice for patients.

If you are looking for a marketing agency and production team to help with larger projects like television commercials or corporate videos, I invite you to contact us.

Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success

Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation’s leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, “Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business.” Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally’s Total Fitness.

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