Valerie commander in she
Valerie Gordon, Commander-in-She, looking good at a recent speaking engagement.

Dear Innovation Women,

I have a question perhaps you might be interested in tossing out to your group of speakers.
How does one take a decent photo while speaking? I find myself focused on the faces I make mid-sentence and have yet to capture those quintessential shots I’d like for my site!  Latest attached.

Any suggestions? Thanks – Valerie, Commander-in-she 

Bobbie here. There are a million different AWFUL pictures of me speaking.  I always look like I am having a spasm. And I talk with my hands, so there’s lots of flailing. (According to speaking experts, using your hands when you speak communicates your excitement, confidence and knowledge of a topic but it can look odd in certain pictures.) As an example, there’s a picture of me from a recent keynote address for a local chamber event. I was throwing T-shirts into the crowd. There is no way to look graceful while throwing T-shirts.  One night while I was doing an event, I went into the ladies room, looked into the mirror, and ugh, I forgot makeup. The makeup bag, of course, was at home. I feel like staged photos look staged.

The key to getting good speaker photos is to make it your mission over a period of time. It’s going to take some work to assemble a bunch of different ones. (Helpful hint: You don’t want all your speaker photos to look the same, be in the same outfit or come from the same event. What? You only spoke once?)

I talked with one of our marketing people about the topic one night (we were both in the office finishing projects). She came to us from Bose and is a video producer, among other things.  She’s been producing a series on visionary founders, engineers and scientists for a client (we’ve added 4 Innovation Women into the mix). They specifically asked for “more action” so I asked how she and the photographer have been handling it.  She said the secret is the rapid-fire or “burst” shoot.  The photographer shoots dozens of photos over the course of a few minutes, giving her dozens to choose from.  Sometimes you can get good still images from video. The key to any good photo is to have lots of options. And the best photos?  From a trusted photographer. Find the person who can find your best side.

And my feeling about staged photos is only partially true – you can pre-plan the picture. What does the backdrop look like?  I find that when I am on stage often there is a sign as a backdrop – my recent engagement had a huge sign behind me which wouldn’t make a good background. Another, experienced speaker told me that she watches for errant photographers in the audience and pauses just slightly, arranging her arms and hands when she notices someone about to take a picture.
See a great picture of yourself on social media? Ask the photographer before you use it.

Another aspect of pre-planning is your attire. Patterns can work for or against you. Witness the run on so-called silhouette dresses. Side panels of a different color create an optical illusion. A wild pattern can be distracting. Know what looks good on you and in pictures. Snap a picture in the mirror at home and check yourself out before you leave the house.

One trick that works for men and doesn’t always work for women is the photographer shooting from below. (You are on stage and the photographer is below you).  Photographers will tell you that shooting from below makes the subject look towering, bigger and more powerful.  As a woman of a certain age, let’s just say I more appreciate the flattering angles of a photo shot from above. Consider coming off the stage and walking among the audience and stationing a photographer above you (if the setup allows or while you are walking the room, the photographer can go up on stage to get the best angle.)

Different angles can help. I have a great photo of a friend that I took when we were both on stage and she was speaking from the podium. With the audience in front of her and the lighting, she looks like a rock star.

I will often use the speaker selfie option as a way to engage the audience (everyone wave!) but it can give me an extra opportunity to try for a good photo of myself as a speaker.

Speaking of selfies – spend some time practicing your expressions. Do you like your laughing look? Your serious look? When you are onstage and the photographer comes around, pull out your favorite. Also, remember your posture!

Distance can help. Maybe one of my best speaker photos is taken from the back of a video conferencing room while I was speaking, surrounded by both live and video audience. My expression is less interesting than the audience’s and there are some great expressions there. Because, in the end, an event manager will want to see your impact on their audience.
Share your tips for getting great photos while YOU speak. #speakerphotos

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