Ah, picture day. You either love it or hate it. If you’re the one taking photos, though, you may be falling more towards the “hate” side, and that’s completely understandable. Snap a few photos, and you’ll start hearing complaints. “My eyes are closed,” or “I look terrible!” are both pretty common complaints. One thing to keep in mind is that there is no way to avoid all of them. There are some people who will simply think that every photo looks terrible, which is why imposing a limit to the number of retakes is probably a good idea.

As the photographer, you may not want to have each and every picture come out looking less than professional. Luckily, there are some super-simple tricks you can use that will help. Your models may not look like professionals in a magazine, but they can still come across looking their best.

Choose Your Spot

I’m assuming that if you’re taking employee photos, you probably won’t be taking a field trip off into the sunset. However, there are still some things you can do to make it a little bit easier on everyone. You want to make sure that it’s not too bright or too dark. No one looks very good under fluorescent lighting, so find out if going outside is an option. If it is, try and get your employees so they aren’t looking directly at the sun (but you don’t want it behind them, either). Count down so they know when to open their eyes and click away.


Can you frame your shots? Many workplaces have some trees or grassy areas outside. So long as it isn’t too dark there, that kind of centering can work wonders for simple positioning. If you get really lucky, there may be a picnic table or bench that you can have people sit on. That’s a fantastic way to frame full-body shots. However, if you’re only doing head-and-shoulders shots, it’s more important to keep the lighting consistent.


A relaxed subject naturally photographs better than a tense one. This is a great time to get to know your co-workers a little bit better, so try and make a few new friends. Idle chit-chat while you get set up to take some pictures tends to make everyone feel a little more relaxed. If you have someone that just cannot keep their shoulders or eyebrows down, have a Rubik’s Cube or stress ball handy. It almost always gives them something else to focus on and will calm their “angry eyes.”

Classic Mistakes to Avoid

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made with any kind of photography, but most are easy to avoid if you just keep them in mind. Forgetting about the background is one that even professional photographers make. My mother was very unhappy one time when a whole set of photos came out with her looking like she had giant rabbit ears, since she had stood in front of a banana plant.

Another problem that’s easy to solve is focus. Once you have a decent background, the picture is on its way to looking good. That, however, is ruined by a fuzzy shot. Most digital cameras have auto-focus, which makes this aspect much easier. However, auto-focus isn’t foolproof. It may well decide to focus on something besides the subject of the shot, and that is pretty much the opposite of what you want.

Last, many, many photographers forget about directing their subjects. You don’t need to get all crazy with it, but if someone keeps sticking their neck out or hunching forward, a simple reminder to “please sit up straight” will often correct the issue. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then sometimes you can simply show them the last image you took and they’ll realize what the issue was.

Hopefully that will be enough to get them to stop, but even if it just makes them look more awkward, you can still help. Ask them to cross their legs, scoot forward in the chair or otherwise change position. It’s amazing what a little coaxing can do. Oh, and now’s a good time to toss them that stress ball.

I’d like to thank Design Roast contributor Leah Rutherford for this great post! If you enjoyed the post, give her a shoutout at @leaharutherford on Twitter or visit her blog, JetFeeds. Want to write for Design Roast? Take a look at our guidelines here.

About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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