Need Employee Photos? How to Safely Coordinate an On-site Photoshoot During a Pandemic

Can you launch a new employer brand during uncertain times?
Even if the employer brand relies heavily on authentic employee photos?
How can you safely host a photoshoot during a global pandemic?

These are just a few of the questions our clients and other employers around the world are asking themselves. During the early months of COVID-19, many organizations put employer brand activation on hold. Now, nearly one year after the massive shutdowns, we are starting to see employers re-engaging in employer brand activation work; specifically, employee photoshoots. 

Recently, we partnered with Danone North America, a leading food and beverage B Corp™. Their team, led by Lindsey Ault-Authier, director of employer branding and campus recruiting, and Erin Soi, talent acquisition manager, offered us the amazing opportunity to help them localize and launch Danone’s global employer brand, “One Planet. One Health By You.” The employer brand is centered around engaging employee imagery and telling the stories of Danone North America’s people (whom they call Danoners). Hosting a photoshoot was a critical component to launch the employer brand and their careers website. 

exaqueo employee photoshoot at Danone North America
During employee photoshoots, open spaces that allow for social distancing is one key to success. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Ault-Authier.

How to Prepare for an Employee Photoshoot During COVID-19

"Hosting a photoshoot in a pandemic wasn't without its challenges,” advises Erin. “But the measures taken to ensure our employees, staff, and crew were as safe as possible means we will now have our employees represented in authentic ways on our career website.” As a team, we discussed key concerns and how to navigate the current environment, everything from how to keep employees and crew as safe as possible to the month and day for a photoshoot based on recent national holidays. Working together, we created a template for a safe and successful employee photoshoot during the pandemic. 

Eight pro tips for snapping employee pix while staying safe: 

  1. Timing Is Key: When possible, avoid hosting the photoshoot in the immediate weeks following a holiday. As seen in many areas, COVID-19 cases seem to spike after holidays when people may choose to get together more frequently or in larger groups.

  2. Scout Big Spaces: If you have the ability to shoot outside, consider outdoor spaces as the backdrop to your people photos and/or to capture unique, outdoor areas. When shooting indoors, choose wide open spaces like cafeterias, auditoriums, or large conference rooms to allow for everyone to social distance and have good ventilation. If the office isn’t being used right now, you may want to find and bring extra props for environmental photos.

  3. Send Smaller (and Local) Crews: If working with multiple local crews for shoots in different locations, create a photo guidelines toolkit so every photographer is capturing the right content and in the same way. We reduced our crew to two team members, plus the Danone North America team and employees, and instead of flying, participants and crew were all within driving distance.

  4. Follow COVID-19 Guidelines: Throughout the photoshoot, we adhered to six feet of social distance between the Danoners and our crew. Everyone wore masks, with the exception being the individual employees during his or her actual shoot time. Hand sanitizer was available throughout the photo locations and the team cleaned in between each employee photo session.

  5. Allow Extra Time: Check that the office set up hasn’t changed due to COVID-19 precautions and if it has, allot yourself some extra time to rearrange furniture and set the scene so the images represent your typical office environment. Additionally, when preparing the schedule, allow for extra time between employees to avoid overlap. 
  1. Prepare the Shot List: In the past, it’s been easy to have a ‘shoot as you go’ mentality. If you see something interesting, you take the candid photo. For the foreseeable future, you may want a more fleshed out shot list including the type of portraits, candids, and environmental photos you need going into the day versus letting it unfold organically. Especially since those organic moments of people bumping into each other in the hallway are few and far between right now.

  2. Focus on the Individual: Close together group shots may not be possible with social distancing, so you may need to rely more on individual images or images of individuals spaced apart. Think through ways to make those individual images stand out (e.g., pictures of them carrying out their daily tasks on a manufacturing floor or working in front of a computer) versus just headshots. Vary the backgrounds and locations throughout the day (with the same person) to capture different elements for more visual variety.

  3. Masks or No Masks: No one can predict how long we’ll be wearing masks in work environments so if you’re already putting time into a photoshoot, capture images of both masked and unmasked employees. Having both sets of photos will give you maximum flexibility with your employer branding content now and in the future. 

The global pandemic hasn’t eliminated the need for employee stories and images. In fact, it’s accelerated their importance. Showing the human side of your organization has never been more critical as candidates look to find a place where they’ll feel welcomed, supported, and safe.

We’re encouraged by employer brand teams who are using their creativity to continue sharing their organization and employee stories—even amidst uncertainty and complexity. "Since most of us had only seen each other on video calls this past year, everyone commented how much they enjoyed seeing other Danoners in person at the shoot,” shares Lindsey. “It was a morale booster for our team and our employees!"

Photos are courtesy of Lindsey Ault-Authier. This post is co-authored by Shannon Smedstad, senior employer brand strategist at exaqueo, and Jill Shabelman, partner and director of client service with Stories Incorporated. Together, they have more than 35 years of hiring great people and bringing employer brands to life. To learn more about full-service employer brand offerings and see work samples, visit exaqueo and Stories Inc. 

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