A few years ago, I would have sworn that I would never do business headshots or corporate portraiture. It seemed BORING. I knew that I was going to take over the world as a child photographer but I quickly had a change of plans and learned that me and kids were like oil and water! They ran me out of the studio. No more! I was already in school and portrait class was scheduled to begin that fall. And once it did I never looked back. See I love business! I love headshots and after that class everything fell into place.
People are often more willing to pay for a stylish portrait for their business website than they are willing to pay for glamour photography, which is mostly for private or gift use.
For me, capturing business portraits is simple and straightforward compared to family and Boudoir Photography. – no need to over-think and come up with a ton of creative ideas, it’s a nice way to enjoy photography and connect with people you meet. Even the editing in photoshop is more simple.
Before you get started – know the message
During your first connection with the potential client, find out what they are looking for and discuss opportunities. Personally, I prefer to photograph inside for headshots, on a white clutter-free background. This is mostly because of the weather…it can be very difficult to get a pro headshot on a stormy day :-). Shoot inside and you have much more control over the situation. The white background is timeless and fresh – it´s a safe choice! But the colors gray and black can also work well.
Make sure to ask what the headshot is going to be used for. Does it need to fit a book-cover, a website or an add? Knowing so can help you to advise your client on styling and location.
I always ask my client “ what message would you want this portrait to send to the world?” The answer will give me some great indications of how I should coach her when she is in front of my lens. If her message, for example, is “friendly and welcoming”, I will coach her to smile during our shoot, to smile with her eyes and to be aware of open body languages.
When it comes to styling it´s important that the client looks like herself – but challenge her to experiment with colors and styles which will fit the overall message she wish to send out to the world. The portrait should fit in nicely with the clients brand.
I ask the client to avoid dark colored clothes. Pastel colors or fresh solid colors in soft fabrics are great. Also, small print patterns like stripes or polka dots can work really well. Go easy on accessories and choose either a pair of earrings or one statement necklace. Be careful that the clothes are not too baggy – even on plus-size women, clothes that fit and emphasize the figure look most flattering.
My suggestion is, that you ask them to bring a minimum of three/four different outfits – with and without accessories. That way you´ll learn what works and what´s not working at all.
TIP: Remember just because it´s for business, does not mean it has to be boring! Don´t be afraid to mix patterns and colors. Look at my favorite suggestions below.
Hair and make-up
If possible, make sure to take pictures with at least two different hair-styles.One with lose hair and one with an updo. You might be surprised about the change it will do. What looks good in real life, doesn’t always look good in camera and vice versa. So don´t be afraid to test out different hairstyles.
I will ask the client to come with her hair down, but to bring something (a hairband ect.) to pin it up as we go – I tell her, that I want her to have at least two looks.
Background and Location
As mentioned before I love the simple white background, but if you wish to create more atmosphere in your photos you can experiment with placing your subject in an environment (for example a work area or studio). Make sure to shoot wide open (low f-stop between f/1.4 – f/4) to blow out the background. When the background is out of focus, it puts all focus on your subject + it creates beautiful professional light.
If you are on location, look for a white wall near a window with a good steam of natural light. If there´s no white wall, make sure to bring your own paper; for example white or grey seamless paper on a roll. You can easily put it up on the wall using masking tape or you can put the paper roll on a background stand.
Besides getting the focus right on the eyes – SOFT LIGHT is what matters the most! – no direct sunlight!
Place your self with your side to the window or directly facing the window.