9 ways we create a flattering corporate headshot for our clients
A flattering corporate headshot requires technical skill and excellent human interaction. These photographs are for uses in corporate and commercial work, small to big business, websites, technical and research papers or news media, social media like Twitter and LinkedIn. They need to hit the mark and tell your story quickly in the best possible way. Here are a few things we consider to make your flattering corporate headshot.
Lighting might be the first thing that makes or breaks a flattering corporate headshot. Fabulous light has so many benefits that it’s hard to get enthusiastic about anything else. Great lighting highlights the face, flatters the subject, smooths skin, reveals character, hides a background.
We’re searching for new ways to make our you, our subject, the emphasis of the photo in the most flattering way possible. That quest has been paying dividends over the years, especially for our female clientele. We’ve worked on techniques that go from soft to super-soft that produces a very distinct and pleasing look, while above all, being gentle enough to not bring attention to the “flaws” that too many of us want hidden. The result is that the light is flattering.
2. Lens choice
We shoot with a moderate telephoto length, usually from 85 to 200mm. What’s lovely about that is that apart from the fact that the face is generally perceived as it would be in real life, we usually set the focus on the eyes (where it must be) and then have a drop off in focus towards the back of the head. That helps create a lovely three-dimensionality. Instantly we are people with depth.
Perhaps more than anything else this might be the way you sort out whose images work best for you. If we could all get this right, there’d be no need for professionals. At Into The Picture, our posing tends towards showing you as being open, warm, friendly, approachable. We’re eschewing the photographic symbology of the calculated uber-professional who is aloof, cold and commanding. We do lots of styles, but this visible “warmth” works for most of our clients. After all, most of us deal with other humans.
The direction from the photographer is reassuring, easy to replicate and to correct. Moreover, if you already fear the headshot process, we’ll put you at ease and coach you through the entire session. We’ve got lots of tricks to help you look fantastic.
4. Clothing and Jewellery
We might need a caveat. We don’t make or enforce the rules. We observe, and we notice different patterns and trends throughout industries. Tie or no tie? Jacket or no jacket? Plain shirt, striped, checked? Neutral colours, dark, light, warm, more cooling?
Wear what you love. Wear what gets you compliments from your friends. But don’t wear something that is so eye-catching that we’re looking at your clothes. For business and corporate headshots make more conservative clothing and jewellery decisions, not because you shouldn’t be wearing something bright, colourful, provocative, stripey, Paisley and so on, but because we’re genuinely trying to throw the emphasis onto your face.
There’s a compelling argument to ignore wearing jewellery. Maybe limit yourself to simply designed earrings. Peruse enough photographs, and we soon realise that the fewer distractions we have, the better off we are. People are making judgements (for better or worse) about every aspect of you where they can. A necklace that you love becomes the bête noire for someone else. Others may see it as gaudy, tacky, cheap, ostentatious and so on. On the other hand, an unadorned neck is merely human. If in doubt – don’t.
There’ll be excellent reasons for some people to be less conservative in these choices depending on the industries they work. Creatives, especially, can ignore this advice (actors, musicians, artists, writers etc.). You’ll get a good feel for what will work by sensing the approach taken by other people in your field. Of course, that’s partly a peer pressure approach, but that’s also the judgement, of other people in our workplace. In the end, we rationalise it by stipulating that you, the living and breathing person, are fundamental to the headshot.
5. Hair and makeup
Most definitely applicable both for men and women. Most people would regard themselves as careful with their hair, keeping that (and facial hair) well groomed. Accepting that hair will be carefully managed, as an example, what do we men do to account for blotchy skin? Universally the answer is virtually nothing. The majority of men don’t consider any additional make-up. Please remember that in camera, with the types of lighting used, it enhances and emphasises things, sometimes magnifying to a fault aspects of us. It’s easy to deal with that patchy skin before the shoot with make-up. In post-production, it is laborious work.
The reward of make-up is the degree of skill that the artist brings in enhancing, disguising and equalising various aspects of our face (for men and women). We’ll be talking in-depth about hair and make-up throughout future blogs. You can sign up to receive notifications about our posts.
Getting your posing right means we need to be having a conversation with each other. It’s something we very specifically mention. For those who struggle to get comfortable and to feel confident in front of the camera, it is the most useful way to beach e easy with a process most find confronting. We’re very mindful that to create the warm, personable, character-driven headshots we’re after that it needs to be happening for most people. Being engaged in a good conversation helps that.
After years of feedback from clients who have related their experiences from other photographic sessions, they tell us that they had no instruction on how to stand or hold their body. The photographer is too silent and doesn’t give guidance, direction, feedback or necessary conversation. There can be valid reasons for that, but the sheer volume of feedback we receive is that the conversation is vital to making the flattering corporate headshot session work for our clients.
There is reassurance gained because we run the camera directly to a laptop and you can view your images on-screen as the shoot progresses. Far from making people feel awkward at seeing themselves it gives instant understanding and confidence in the shoot. Yes, it does slow the shoot itself down slightly, but it means photographer and client have a mutual understanding. And rather than saying, “I think that was a great shot,” we can be definitive, “It is great!”, or “Actually let’s try changing this and this because it’s almost there.”
Those previous points of conversation and tethering run directly into the input that we utilise during a session. We can converse and visualise, correct and enhance throughout the session. You gain confidence. Stronger images result. One of the great pleasures of the sessions is watching people notice themselves on the screen, and smiling, as they discover how well they photograph.
It’s no joke to suggest that the majority of clients feel they don’t photograph well. More than 90% of our clients are ill-at-ease with having their photograph taken. Body image issues crop-up, or too many times they have been unflatteringly photographed unawares (every single time – and don’t you hate it when it happens!). As a people photographer, we have an innate belief that there is always beauty in every one of our clients. We know we will see it in you.
The honest approach here is to admit we’re not trying to make you look the most beautiful and the most handsome in the world. Our emphasis is on trying to make our clients appear in the context of who they are; experienced, serious, warm, friendly, conversational, as a good listener, understanding, expert, controlled, driven.