Making Photo Magic

Jun 1, 2024 | Toolbox

Showcasing captivating photos of products and employees can say a lot about your business.

By Mike French

One of the most important things you can do for your company’s image and brand is to display great photos of you and your employees everywhere you can. The old saying “A photo is worth a thousand words” is true. And it’s also true that you’ll never get a second chance to make a great and positive first impression, especially in business. Your photos instantly cast a judgment on your business, either positively or negatively. So, take and place lots of positive photos everywhere you can.

Why It’s Important

For many years, as I produced flyers and direct-mail campaigns for the automotive recycling industry, I did everything I could to make them look great and positively reflect each company as well as the recycling industry. During those early days, most people thought of automotive salvage yards as junk yards, and I worked hard to change that negative image with beautiful advertising products. I knew that reliable marketing studies indicated that most people sorted their mail over the trash and made instant judgments such as like or dislike, toss or save, based on four things: the photos, the products, the coupons, and the offer. Of everything on this list, people’s photos are the first thing they notice. Do they know any of the people in the photos? Do they look friendly and professional? Do they look like someone they want to do business with? They make these evaluations in mere seconds.

Making a Great First Impression

Often, I heard my clients say, “Mike, you always make us look good!” I achieved this by strategically showcasing positive photos on their flyers and direct mail pieces. Sometimes this was hard to do because I only had the photos that they sent me to work with. These were the days before digital cameras, email, and the internet, so company owners just used old-style film cameras. They took a bunch of random photos of their buildings, delivery vehicles, counter staff, other employees, and salvaged vehicles, and then they put them into an envelope and mailed them to me. Most of the time, the photos weren’t very good, and I had to do a lot of creative cropping to remove unwanted things from the photos. This was before photo editing tools were available, and I was pretty much stuck with what I received and often had to use bad photos anyway.

Modern Technology Makes It Easier

Today, everybody has a cell phone camera to take photos instantly, and seconds later they can post them on social media for the whole world to see and comment on. This is very different than it once was. It used to be expensive, and it took a long time to take and get photos. Even though everybody takes photos in today’s world, most still don’t understand how to take good ones. And in business, you need great photos of your employees to reflect and promote your brand in a positive way. These may be your company’s only images that future clients and even potential employees will see. So, photos must be good and consistent with the value and energy you want people to feel when they come across your business. Additionally, a solid modern headshot is a tool that will make your employees feel confident and proud to be with your company.

Your photos instantly cast a judgment on your business, either positively or negatively. So, take and place lots of positive photos everywhere you can.

Where To Use Photos

Use them everywhere you can: on your website, social media platforms, and in advertising pieces such as flyers, posters, business cards, and billboards. Post them on your website’s “About Us” and “Team” pages. Use them to introduce new hires with welcome posts featuring their photo, bio, and a blurb telling what makes them a great fit in your company. Weave them naturally into your other content – case studies, promotions, community involvement, events, and new product trials to demonstrate your culture in action.

How to Create Better Photos

The secret to capturing the perfect photo is often found in three things: staging, timing, and sometimes it’s just some old-fashioned luck in capturing the perfect moment. Here are a few things that you can do to improve your photos.

Lighting: Make sure you can see people’s faces and eyes clearly without shadows. Notice which direction the light is coming from, and then adjust your subjects accordingly. Usually, it’s just a matter of turning people slightly to one side or the other. If guys are wearing ball caps, have them move their caps up slightly, or just raise their chins until their eyes are visible. If you’re outside, select an angle with the sun toward faces but not directly in their eyes or reflecting off their glasses.

Smile: A genuine smile is the biggest game changer when it comes to capturing terrific photos. Usually, when I take them at an event and see a group of people talking to each other, I quickly grab a candid shot or two of them before they notice. Then I get their attention, say “smile,” and take that photo, too. Even though this often makes for a great photo, it may not be the best one yet because it looks posed. This is often the difference between “catching the moment” or not, and why even though someone is smiling, something seems off; if the smile isn’t natural and genuine, the eyes will show it. By the way, the next time you see a smiling face in a magazine ad or on a poster at the mall, cover the face with your hand so you only see their eyes. If the smile is fake, the eyes will look scary.

Here are a couple of ways to fix this. First, keep on clicking. Once you’ve said, “Smile,” and you’ve taken the photo, quickly say, “Thank you,” but continue to click a few more times. It works because once they’ve heard “thank you,” they relax and revert to a genuine smile, which you secretly capture. I use this method a lot when taking roving conference photos. Secondly, just before you click, instead of the usual “say cheese,” say something like, “Say hello, you good-looking photographer,” or something else that’s unexpected or funny. It works because you get a genuine smile.

Body Language: The way a person stands, sits, or leans in a photo sends a message all by itself. Have them lean forward slightly into the shot. This will make them appear more positive and dynamic.

Nervous Nellies: When cameras focus on them, some individuals experience unease, exhibiting nervousness and self-consciousness; others may display a startled expression, akin to a “deer caught in the headlights” look. Some will fold their arms (the stubborn “I’m against this pose”) or will stand stiffly with their hands folded in front of their lap area (the “fig leaf pose,” subconsciously protecting themselves from public exposure). You correct this by taking a few moments to help them relax, engaging them in friendly conversation, and teaching them how to stand or sit comfortably. By the way, the best look for standing people is for their hands to be by their sides, facing inward, not with their hands or thumbs in their pockets.

Finally, the art of capturing those special “magic moment” photos is usually just a matter of luck. You get an unexpected shot when the camera just happens to click at the perfect moment to capture that perfect smile, or the twinkle in an eye, or the spark of some spontaneous moment, and the more photos you take, the more of those moments you will get. So, just keep taking lots and lots of them. And, of course, post them everywhere! 

Mike French is retired after 39 years of business in the automotive recycling industry. He is an author, publisher, consultant, and speaker. Mike is the founder and executive director of the Christian Auto Recyclers and Vendors Association (CARVA) and will be at upcoming recycler trade shows and events. Mike is available to speak at your group, conference, or event. He loves to share inspirational stories that demonstrate how the Word of God actively changes lives. He can be reached at Visit and/or

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