As a fully-distributed team, WordCamp Europe is the event where we get the whole core team together and where we meet our extended family of experts at our annual dinner. This year, however, the conference was extra special hectic. Among all the meetings, team activities, sessions, parties, after parties, and Per’s birthday, we also had to pull off a team photoshoot for our new website, which is coming later this year (yes, we’re working on a full rebrand, but more on that in the weeks prior to launch!).

Codeable photoshoot door sign

The brief: playful, but serious

The heart of our photoshoot brief was to showcase the “playful, but serious” essence of Codeable folks. We’re serious about our business, but we do not take ourselves too seriously. We do take work seriously, but we also understand the importance of play and white space in our lives. We’re professional marketers, designers and developers, but we’re also people with our own quirks, interests and hobbies. We are in the business of connecting humans to do quality work together remotely, and we have to be human ourselves. 

The “playful, but serious” concept is something that came up in a brand sprint exercises earlier this year, and we’ve embraced it ever since. It’s something we’ve always been, we now just have the words for it.

In order to showcase all this, we decided to take two portraits each. One traditional, serious corporate shot, the other a shot with a hand-made prop that showcases something unique about our personalities. They will alternate on the new site.

The challenge: 34 portraits in less than 2 hours, no studio

Given our super busy schedule, we had exactly two hours to do all portraits. With 17 people and 2 portraits per person, that gave us around 3.5 mins per person! Going to a studio somewhere in Berlin was not an option, so we had to do it at the conference venue, which also doubled as a hotel. We rented one of the conference rooms at the venue, hired a photographer who brought all of his equipment there, hatched a detailed schedule and off we went! Luckily, all went well, but it was definitely hectic and we learned a thing or two in the process. We thought we’d share some of the lessons learned.

The lessons

  • 15 minutes of setup time is not enough when you’re turning a conference room on the 9th floor of a hotel into a studio. In our case, parking at the hotel turned out pretty impossible and our backdrops almost didn’t fit into the elevator. 
  • Having a solid, written creative brief for both your photographer and your team is key, especially when you’re super short on time. Make sure to show your photographer what style of photos you like and dislike and do not forget to define the dress code for your team members. Here’s a template that can work for both your team and your photographer with some small modifications.
  • As much as you want to go wild with your creative concept, when you’re short on time, you have to keep things simple! Our concept was fairly simple, which allowed us to catch up on the initial delay due to the parking-elevator hitch. 
  • Ask your photographer for a detailed photoshoot style guide in writing, so you can have all your new members joining the team do their portraits on their own later. That’s another reason to keep your creative concept simple and easy to replicate regardless of time and location. 
  • Never compromise on the quality of the photographer you’re working with. Portraits are especially hard, so make sure you work with professionals you can trust. We had never worked with Norman before, but he was recommended to us and after my initial conversation with him and hearing the questions he asked, I was sure we were in the right hands. 
  • Make sure the room you’re going to convert into a studio ticks all the photographer’s requirements. In our case, Norman had room space requirements (at least 15 sq.m empty space), but didn’t care about the lightning of the room, because he was bringing a solid amount of pro lights.
  • Brief your photographer about team members in advance: what’s typical about them, what’s their role at the company, where do they come from. Given that our concept was about showcasing two sides of real humans in less than 3 minutes of shooting time, anything that you can do to help the photographer know the person is going to help them do a better job and capture THE shot. 
  • Have a schedule indicating who’s being photographed when to avoid multiple people (or even worse - the whole team) being present in the room during individual portraits. We’re not professional models and not everyone is comfortable being photographed, let alone with other people around. So, give your people space and time to get comfortable with the photographer and show their best selves. 
    Have fun and never forget duct tape! You don’t know when your back drop is going to fail you :)

Despite the short time we had and the few hiccups, we managed to get it done and both us and the photographer are incredibly happy with the results! We can’t wait to share the portraits with you on our new site! 

Special thanks to Florian Ziegler for documenting the behind the scenes of the portrait session!