Kim Kulish is one of America’s premier CEO portrait photographers. An award-winning photojournalist, Kulish has become a sought after portrait artist for major news outlets like Forbes, Fortune and BusinessWeek. Kulish, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, has photographed popes and presidents, CEOs and celebrities. The photojournalist and artist in Kulish compel him to do much more than set up some lights and snap a photo.
“When you go to take a picture of someone, you want to tell a story,” said Kulish, whose subjects have included Microsoft’s Bill Gates and musician Tom Waits, among many others. “Clients like to work with photojournalists because they want to capture real moments and create great, story-telling images.”
To achieve that level of art and craft, Kulish offers five practical keys to compelling CEO portraits:
1. Discuss your objectives with the photographer. The public relations team and others involved with the project must make sure the photographer understands what the client wants to achieve. What is the objective of the image? Is it for the annual report to instill confidence in the leadership? For rebranding the website with a hipper, more approachable look?
2. Define the budget. Make sure you understand the uses being purchased with the shoot. Unlimited use can be expensive, but worth the investment, if the company needs to use the photos across many platforms.
3. Give the photographer time to scout. Where will the shoot take place? What are the site and time constraints? Kulish scouts the location at least a week ahead to identify potential issues of the setting or lighting.
4. Allow the photographer to set up early. CEOs have no tolerance for lack of preparation. Kulish has had cases where he has less than five minutes with the subject to get the shot. Where the client needs a series of pictures, Kulish stages and lights several sets in advance.
5. Hire a groomer. Having a single person dedicated to wardrobe, hair and, if needed, makeup, lets the photographer concentrate on the image, rather than tie-straightening and hair-smoothing. If the photos will be used extensively and in high profile ways, Kulish urges clients to invest in a groomer.
The CEO portrait requires more than a point-and-shoot mentality. Selecting a photographer who combines artistry a photojournalist’s eye will create a memorable image that draws the reader in and showcases the brand.
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