Category Marketing

Let your backgrounds tell the story

Portland, Maine Bartender
Andrew Volk, co-owner of Portland, Maine’s Hunt & Alpine Club © Brian Fitzgerald


When it comes to portraits: choosing the proper background environment is as important (and sometimes, more so) than the subject themselves.

Your backgrounds give clues, both subtle and overt, and add contextual information that gives portraits mood and depth. They help to tell a more complete story about your subject. In short, a well-executed background can do some heavy lifting when it comes to conveying information and emotion.

Think about your background environments as deeply as you do your primary subjects. Give that background your attention—with purposeful lighting, frame composition and styling—and let it do the hard work of storytelling for you.

Taking it to the next level with commercial drones

Commercial Drone View
Kennebec Valley Community College

Fitzgerald Photo is an FAA-certified commercial drone operator

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are almost 900,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, registered in the United States. For reference, in 2018—just four years ago—there were 110,000 drones registered domestically. Globally the total drone market is expected to grow from $8.15 billion to $47.38 billion by 2029, as reported by Fortune Business Insights.

Businesses small and large are taking increasing advantage of drones, for real estate, construction, inspection and other purposes.

Starting in 2021, Fitzgerald Photo added full aerial capability for both stills and video coverage. We’re FAA-licensedand fully insured for any commercial projects. The ability to have mobile, aerial cameras has been a game-changer for many of our clients, who can now get professional-level imagery of their locations and operations from a unique perspective. Having views that show scale and context easily also makes it easier to tell the stories we create with stills and motion.

Drones can operate year-round, though their use is affected by weather conditions. In New England spring and summer is a great time of year to create timeless, evergreen aerial imagery for your company or brand.

Contact us for more information about how commercial drones can benefit your brand.


© Brian Fitzgerald

Don’t Hire Me

Firefighter mowing
© Brian Fitzgerald


This is strange advice, especially coming from a photographer.

It may indeed make sense to hire a professional photographer for your brand.  It just might be that the timing is premature.

Signs that you might be pushing too hard to hire away your problems instead of thinking them through first:

  • False Urgency:  An arbitrary deadline is put in place to pressure you to make a decision before you’re ready to do so.  This may be dictated by the photographer or marketing agency, or other party.
  • Bandwagon Thinking:  Pressure to hire a photographer because it’s  ‘what everyone else is doing’.
  • Inner Voice:  A nagging, growing sense that you’ll have to blow your budget because the shoot wasn’t planned for.
  • Lack of Clarity:  You can’t describe succinctly (in a sentence or two) the types of images you need. Even if you don’t know what specific images you might need, you should have a specific use for the images in mind.
  • Unclear Goals: Are you trying to build brand awareness? Or to sell a service or product? The former has no measurable ROI, the latter does. Each requires a different visual approach and different strategies.

Marketing plans, including hiring a photographer can have a certain momentum that’s hard to stop once begun. Make sure you’re considering the downside as well as the upside associated with hiring a professional photographer. These obviously include the expense of doing so but crucially include the time it takes to plan and execute shoot(s) properly to ensure you get what you pay for.

The magic of creative constraints

Parivash Rohani, @Brian Fitzgerald


One of the best ways to engage one’s creativity is to first strip away options.   Constraint, not necessity, is the mother of creativity.   

For portrait photographers, the focus of the image is the subject.  Yet background elements and interesting locations help to tell a story and can result in a more compelling portrait.   They can also be a crutch.   One piece of advice I give to aspiring portrait photographers:  learn to shoot portraits with no background. 

The artist Platon is famous for his high-key white seamless black and white portraits.  They are so simple—just the subject, often shot with a very simple lighting setup—but each one tells a story and compels the viewer to linger over every portion of the frame.   

When you strip away all of the choices, you focus on the essential.  When you strip away the excess background elements,  the focus is solely on the subject.  

The photographer is forced to focus on connecting with the person being photographed and helping them to carry the weight of the image through expression and mood, captured in fleeting moments. 

New England Hyperbaric Oxygen

We recently completed video production for New England Hyperbaric Oxygen.  Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves the use of a special pressurized chamber to heal the body. It’s often used for wound healing, but also to treat traumatic brain injuries like concussion from sports or accidents.

We produced a series of videos showing the process at work as well as hearing from patients who continue to use the treatment to great success. In addition, we produced an instructional video for use with patients who use portrable chambers at home. Lastly, we created several short video stories for Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter so that New England Hyperbaric Oxygen could release those as part of their reveal campaign.

Although the long-form videos will be released later this year, I’m able to share an example of the short, 30-second social media video used for Instagram now.  

Creating a mood with cinematic portraits

Maine Game Warden
© Brian Fitzgerald

As a longtime commercial portrait photographer, I’m thrown into situations where a standard formal portrait isn’t called for.  What’s needed is a portrait that focuses on a subject and has a more “cinematic”—a treatment and approach that may feel more ‘movie-like’, using precise lighting and positioning.  The result is a dynamic, rich portrait with a contemporary feel that grabs attention. 



Tips for great team portraits

lumber mill
© Brian Fitzgerald

The dreaded group portrait. Just the prospect of wrangling potentially dozens of subjects strikes fear in the hearts of many a photographer and can result in images that recall an old-school wedding party photo.

Team portraits in particular are a challenge for companies whose amazing image is no sooner published than invariably one member decides to quit or retire. Such portraits may have a limited shelf life, then, but still can be a powerful way to convey a mood and feeling around the collective that makes your company successful.

Allowing enough time for the portrait is critical. Lighting—enough to make your team members look great and minimize any distracting details in the background—is a must. Careful posing of team members can make even large groups look manageable: I do this by arranging large groups into smaller clusters of people, typcially no larger than five, placed at varying distances from the lens to create centers of interest. Last, backgrounds are critically important to telling the story of your team and the group being photographed. Keep them simple, graphic and relevant.

You may not be able to control how long your employees will stay with the company, but with some planning you can turn your team portraits into something they’re proud to be a part of.

Don’t Just Do It: create a winning social media strategy

Dog on Copier
© Brian Fitzgerald


If you’re responsible for marketing at your company (or one-person shop), one single word can induce sweating, bouts of self-doubt and even some wistful headshaking: content.

Since online content platforms (i.e., social media) are both inexpensive and readily available, any bottlenecks in producing consistent, high-quality (and brand-appropriate) content is usually on the production side (you), not on the delivery side.

So what’s your content strategy? What tactics will you need to take to produce great content and to share it consistently? When you hire a photographer to produce amazing images and video, are you asking questions like these?

You should be.

Tactics—like hiring a photographer—are easy and fun, or at least distracting and engrossing. They are all about the ‘doing’ part and it’s tempting to skip ahead. But strategy happens first. What are your social media goals? That is, what does your brand want to actually accomplish, long term? All of the following goals require different tactics:

Brand Awareness
Also known as, Getting Your Name Out There. Your content should be authentic to your brand, convey your brand personality and values…ie., your ‘voice’. It shouldn’t be overly promotional.

Grow Your Audience
You have to engage on your social media channels, and looking for ways to introduce your brand to people who haven’t heard of you before. Monitoring channels for specific keyword phrases will alert you to conversations that you might be able to contribute value to.

Engage Your Community
How are you interacting and staying top of mind with your current subscribers? Asking questions, being responsive and promoting user generated content can all help.

Generate Leads and sales
Integrate your service offerings and products into your social profiles. Run exclusive deals for your followers. Alert customers to new products and promos.

Drive traffic
Promotional posts and social ads that point viewers back to your website.

One last thing. You can’t do all of it all at once. Pick just two of the goals from the above list, and work on those exclusively as you measure your results.

Whether you are creating original content yourself, hiring a professional photographer, or simply curating and sharing, make sure to keep your goals in mind.

Want better portraits? Work on your backgrounds.

Boxing Coach
Portland Boxing Club owner and head coach Bob Russo.  © Brian Fitzgerald


To most photographers—those whose focus is on people and portraits, certainly, but also those who specialize in structures, food and products on location—the subject is the star of the show.  

Location-based photographers know that the unsung hero of any successful portrait is the environment behind and around the subjects.   Often, the environment offers clues and context that tells the story better than the subject themselves can.  

In short, your backgrounds matter more than just as a place to put behind your subject.  

Give thought to the environment around your subjects as deeply as you think about your subjects.  Make sure that anything that shows in the frame is there for a reason.  


Five photography tips for content marketers

Editor’s Note: The following is a reprint from a peice written for a Maine Public Relations Council (MPRC) newsletter. It’s practical tips, relevant for all content creators, whether photographers or marketers.


One of my favorite photography-related quotes is from National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson. “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”

Richardson stood in front of plenty of interesting stuff during his long career.

With a decent digital camera (or an iPhone), standing shoulder to shoulder with Richardson—say, on one of his trips to Cuba, photographing a wedding—you and I both would come away with something we’d want to hang on our walls.

The problem is, most of the time, we’re not in Cuba. Instead, we’re working an awards ceremony in a dimly-lit ballroom. Rather than capturing a portrait of a campesino standing in a sugar cane field, we’re snagging a headshot of an unfortunate new hire in the spare conference room.

Your work may never end up on the pages of National Geographic. That doesn’t mean you can’t elevate your images to something you’re proud represents you and your brand. Here are a few tips that can help you improve your images, today, with the gear you already have.


Watch your backgrounds

Before clicking, do a visual check of your background. Is there a pole back there, looking like it’s growing out of your subject’s head? Analyze your backgrounds and then position yourself in order to clean them up.

Simple backgrounds keep the focus where it belongs: on your subject.


Lose the horizon

Examine your images. Does the horizon line —the line separating the ground from the sky—appear right across the middle of your frame? Get rid of it by squatting down low and photographing at an upward angle. Or, get up on a chair and angle the lens down, until only the floor fills your frame. This trick can make your background simpler and cleaner and result in more interesting images.

american Flag
Angling your camera up or down will result in a cleaner, more interesting composition.


Use the Rule of Thirds

Divide your frame into a grid of nine squares. Place your dominant subject in one of the the top, bottom or sides squares, creating visual tension and interest.

Racing Pigeons
Utilize the Rule of Thirds by placing your primary subject into the left or right third of the frame.


Go Outside

Make outdoor images during the “Golden Hour”—the magical time just after sunrise or before sunset—when the sun is low and the light horizontal. This warm-toned light will flatter any subject.

Maine Fisherman
The low angle of light early in the morning offers pleasing tones and angles.

Turn off your Flash

Turn off your built-in camera flash. Find a location with sufficient ambient light, and use that light instead. Even after color-correction, your portraits will immediately look a thousand times better, I promise.

Flash looks great when it is used to emulate or enhance available light.