So, you know you need corporate ‘head shot’ portraits, but you’re not sure what’s involved? Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions. This page is a work in progress, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for, please contact us.
- How long does it take you to set up the camera and lighting?
- What sort of room or space do you need?
- Do you need much natural light?
- Do you need access to power points?
- What should we wear?
- What sort of make-up should women wear?
- I hate being photographed! Any tips?
- How many photos will you take?
- How long does it take to photograph each person?
- Can we see the photographs as you are shooting them?
- Can you ‘Photoshop’ us to make us look better?
- Can we have different backgrounds for each person?
- When do we get our photos?
Headshot photographs are one of the basics of being in business; the headshot lets people put a face to the name. While this may seem obvious and simplistic, this fundamental little thing – the ability to see the faces of the people you’re dealing with – speaks directly to some very primal, immutable laws of psychology. Like it or not, people make judgements about you instinctively, subconsciously, and very quickly. A good head shot photograph “shortcuts” this process, by conveying trustworthiness and authenticity in a way that words or other elements on their own, cannot.
But you already know all of this – that’s why you’re here. You’re probably wondering who to use for your headshots – and how to choose!
On the face of it, corporate headshots are simple. You stand someone in front of the camera, and away you go. Some photographers may love telling you that they have all the latest and greatest high-tech gear – and while it’s important to have gear that is reliable and capable of high quality results, it’s quite possible to make decent headshots with a cheap camera, one lens, and one light (or even natural light, if used properly).
So if good business headshots are not about the camera, what are they about? Does the photographer need to have some magical gift? Or perhaps years of experience will make it a “sure thing”?
Having an eye for a good image is certainly an asset. Experience even more so (we’ve created thousands of headshots over nearly fifteen years).
This is one job you don’t want to entrust to some kid who’s fresh out of photography college (or worse, has just decided they’re not cut for working in a cubicle, and got themselves a new camera and hung their shingle out). The cost of getting it wrong, is far more than just the price of the photography. Imagine the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to ask everyone to come back and pose for photographs again because you made a poor choice the first time around!
But the truth is, there’s no magic formula to good corporate headshot photography. Anyone that tries to sell you one, is pulling your leg. A top-notch corporate portrait is created by understanding the fundamental principles, and executing all of them thoughtfully and correctly. The technical side – camera, lens, lighting, and digital processing – is one piece of the puzzle. Building a quick rapport with the subject and letting them feel comfortable and participate in the process, is another.
Ultimately the “secret sauce” lies in putting all of these elements together – and most importantly – doing it consistently, i.e. every time.
And then of course there are the “little things”, that are not little at all. A photographer that turns up late, smells strange, or has an accident but no insurance, could all make life uncomfortable for you.
So… at the end of the day, how can you be sure you’ve found the right photographer? There are two simple ways: A solid list of satisfied clients from organisations of various sizes and types, and a “set in stone” guarantee that reverses any risk for you (we have both).
It would be an honour to be chosen to look after your head shot photography. The process is fun (and we always enjoy ourselves!), but we also take seriously the job of helping your people to look their best.
Next step? Take 35 seconds to request a Quick Quote, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours (usually much less) with pricing and availability.
Although we can set up for head shot or corporate portrait photography in 10 minutes or less if necessary, as standard we allow 30 – 40 minutes. This gives us time to fine tune everything and make sure we are able to to produce the best possible photographs the moment the first subject walks in. Please let us know if an ‘express set up’ is going to be required.
The ideal space is a boardroom or large meeting room. The absolute minimum would be about 2.5 x 3.5 metres for “head shots” only or waist-up, or 2.5 x 4 metres for full-length portraits. A standard 2.4 metre (8 foot) ceiling is acceptable, but 2.7 (9 foot) or more is preferable. Lighting and power are not usually considerations (see below).
No. We only need enough light to be able to see each other – and to be able focus on the subject, of course! Normal indoor lighting is fine – we bring all our own flash equipment for lighting the actual photographs, and can work with whatever kind of lighting is available in the room.
No, our equipment is self-contained.
This depends partly on both the corporate culture and/or guidelines at your workplace, and of course your own taste. But there are some rules of thumb that tend to help to create a portrait that will work well. The portrait is all about the face of the subject – so the less distracting the clothing, the better.
Start with what you would usually wear to meet a client. For men, this usually means a dark suit. A dark suit also tends to have the advantage of drawing the viewer’s eye to the face. A grey or brown suit is not a problem, if that’s what you usually wear. A white or light coloured shirt and a reasonably simple tie in a colour that usually works for you (against your complexion and eyes) is good.
Avoid fussy patterns or fine stripes. Patterns tend to distract the eye, and fine stripes can cause moire problems when the photographs are reproduced at certain sizes. If your preferred suit has fine pinstripes, that’s usually OK.
Clothing choices are of course a bit more complicated for women, but the same general rules apply. If you have a dark business suit that you would wear to meet a client, that will do nicely. And a plain, light-coloured blouse/shirt to go with it. If you prefer a different style of top, that’s OK as well, but plunging necklines should usually be avoided!
In general, it’s wise to stay away from fashions that are very “today”, as it’s nice to get a few years out of your portrait if you can. If you go for “classic” rather than “trendy”, it could save you some embarrassment in 18 months’ time.
Like your clothing, jewelry should be kept minimal and simple to avoid be distracting, or going quickly out of fashion.
When it comes to make-up, less is definitely more! A thick layer of foundation stands out as unnatural, and actually attracts attention to itself. The same goes for excessive eye make-up. A light application of “day make-up” works best. Do not be too concerned about spots, bags under the eyes, etc – these are more easily dealt with in Photoshop than with make-up (see Photoshop below).
Probably about 10-20% of people we photograph for corporate “head shots” come into the room looking forward to the process, 70-80% can take it or leave it, and fully 20% are terrified. So if you fall into that last group, don’t worry, you’re not alone! Our job is to help you to feel comfortable, and get the job done quickly and with a minimum of fuss. We’ve lost count of the number of headshots we’ve now done, but if it’s not 10,000, it’s certainly in the thousands. And no-one has managed to break the camera yet.
We bring a laptop with us (see ‘can we see?‘ below), so you can see exactly what we’re doing, and we can adjust anything we need to, to get your best photograph.
If you have a particular feature that you’re worried about (“I hate my teeth”, “I’ve got too many chins”… we’ve heard them all), please do share that with us, if you can. It may feel a little awkward to share this, but if we know about it, we may be able to help diminish that feature and/or accentuate your positive ones.
How many photos will you take, and how many will you send?
As many or as few as it takes to get a result you’re happy with. Sometimes we meet people who seem to be blessed with photogenic looks and super-confidence in front of the camera, and we may only need to shoot half a dozen pictures. Most people require a lot more, and that’s quite normal! Our job is to help you get comfortable in front of the camera, help you with a pose that looks natural and feels comfortable, and get you a picture that you’re happy with. To keep prices affordable, our standard service includes only one final photograph – the best one, which is selected on the spot collaboratively with each subject. We could always “pad out” our delivery with extra (less flattering) frames, but all this serves to do is waste our client’s time wading through all the unwanted extra pictures.
For standard “head shot” portraits, we usually we allow 5 minutes per person. That may not seem like long, but bear in mind that before the first subject walks in, the lighting and everything is pre-tested and ready to go, and needs no further adjustment. So all of our focus is on quickly getting the best out of our ‘models’ for their portrait. We find that most people spend the first minute just getting used to the idea, but by the five-minute mark, their enthusiasm and interest starts to fade (busy executives are often keen to get back to work!). So that gives us a nice four-minute “window” within which to have fun and produce great photographs while the energy level is still high.
Yes! – In fact, we encourage it! We bring a laptop with us, which is tethered to our camera for near-instant feedback. This helps to make the shoot a collaboration between the photographer and the subject. The subject can take some ‘ownership’ in the process, and most importantly, feel confident that they know exactly what they’re getting.
The capabilities of photo manipulation software in the hands of a skilled retoucher are quite remarkable. While we won’t be adding any extra heads or limbs, we do apply subtle retouching to help you look your best. As standard, this includes things like a slight whitening of teeth if needed, and removal or reduction of spots and blemishes, bloodshot eyes, bags under eyes, lines and wrinkles, dust on clothing, etc. Our preference is usually to keep these adjustments subtle and natural – so if you’re concerned about looking like someone out of an American toothpaste commercial, fear not!
Occasionally we’re asked if we can “take a few pounds off” in Photoshop… this is sometimes possible, and needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but as with all of our retouching, we are wary of practices that end up producing unnatural-looking photographs.
Multiple backgrounds can be arranged, but this is outside the scope of our ‘standard’ had shot portraits, and will incur an additional cost, due to the added complexity of the setup. Please let us know your requirements in advance, and we’ll be happy to provide an updated quote.
Our standard service includes a promise of delivery within three business days. Depending on our workload, it’s often much sooner. Please let us know if you have a specific requirement for turnaround of your images, and we’ll do our best to accommodate it.