Guide to Corporate Portrait Photography
While the impact of modern technology on the fortunes of professional photographers may be debatable, there is one aspect of our digitised lives from which a business-minded photographer can reap the benefits: as social networking expands into the corporate world, there is an ever-growing need for the corporate portrait. Whatever the industry, everyone needs a good picture for their blog, newsletter, press releases, company website or networking page.
As a professional photographer, if you can grasp the basic principles and refine your technique, corporate portraiture can become a steady source of income.
Know your client
A good corporate portrait, although it may be formal, should also ‘speak’ about its subject. We’ve all seen far too many bland business headshots that carry nothing of the sitter’s character. As a photographer, you need to create some sort of rapport with your client; if you understand who they are and what they do, the best way to photograph them will become clearer.
Fulfil their expectations
Your client knows their business, they know where the portrait will be used and they know the image they want to project – so ask them what they want and listen to their answers. You might take the most artistic shot in the world, but if the CEO wants a power image, you’re not doing your job. Are they expecting a formal portrait on a plain studio-style background or would they like a workplace shot, complete with hard hat? Discuss this in advance so you can bring appropriate equipment and lights.
Try to schedule your appointments during the morning. In the afternoon, your subject may look tired and not quite so freshly groomed, while the end of the working day could put time pressure on you.
Office lighting: the photographer’s challenge
The vast majority of corporate photographs are taken within the subject’s office and as corporate photographers quickly find out, this can present its own unique set of challenges. Some of the features of modern offices that can make photography difficult include glass walls, reflective surfaces, strip lighting and white backgrounds. Multiple lights sources and reflections need to be taken into account when setting up your own lighting.
- Although ambient light can give a more pleasing result than flash, it is less easy to control. If you want to use natural light, pick a spot that offers plenty of light without being in direct sunlight, as it creates harsh shadows.
- If you want to use the scenery beyond the window for your backdrop, you will need to use flash to avoid an over-exposed background. However, minimise the number of flashes to reduce the number of reflections. The best way is to use a soft box angled directly at your subject.
These can provide an interesting or dramatic background, while ambient light can easily be used to create a more flattering interpretation of your subject. Steer clear of direct sunlight as it throws harsh shadows on the plains of the face.
You’ll need more space, more light and more patience to get a good result with a group shot. Find out before hand how many people will be in the picture and where your client would like it set – then you can work out how you will position your subjects and direct them into place with a minimum of fuss. Shooting outside will allow you to take advantage of an abundance of ambient light. And take more pictures than you normally would of a single sitter – the best way to get a good shot of everyone with no one blinking.
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