Since I began oil painting and photographing portraits in 2000, I’m sure I have created a couple thousand portrait photographs of really nice people. To this day, it’s always a challenge that I enjoy. I strive to capture a variety of portraits of each person representing them at their best. I never get bored because each portrait photo session is unique.
Business Portrait Photography Tips
I offer expert portrait photography sessions in the Maryland, DC and Virginia area at Bethesda Headshots for clients indoors in my studio, outdoors at my studio, and indoors or outdoors at the client’s location. We also do quite a bit of executive portraits and branding photography for clients on the I-270 Life Sciences and Biotech Corridor in Maryland.
I always try and get to know the person a little before we begin. The purpose of the photo sessions vary quite a bit. Formal portraits for professionals such as doctors, lawyers and business executives for company websites, social media and resumes are quite common. It’s nice to have casual portraits created as well, and quite often after a formal portrait session, we’ll do a clothing change and perhaps move outdoors for some informal, candid images. These casual portraits are a nice compliment to the formal look.
Clients come to me for loose, fun, attractive portraits for their dating websites. Models and actors come for portraits for their portfolios. Every year I enjoy very much doing my share of beauty pageant portraits for the young ladies entering Miss Maryland or Miss Teen Maryland or a DC Beauty Pageant. High school senior portraits are always fun too. Book authors come to me for portraits for their book covers. Magazines contact me to create editorial portraits of people that they are writing articles about. I used to do a lot of wedding photography and always loved working with the bride and groom together, particularly engagement photo sessions. Family portraits are always very important as well. You can see the huge variety of portrait situations keeps it interesting.
When I’m creating a portrait for a client my thought process includes the purpose of the portrait, clothing, location, background, pose, expression, lighting, formal, informal, communication with client, making the client comfortable and at ease during the process. There is a whole lot running through my mind on every photo session, and it’s important to occasionally show clients images in my camera to get their feedback as we progress.
I’m very active in helping a client find comfortable poses / positions where they look their best, lighting them in the most pleasing and appropriate manner, while keeping communication allowing them to relax and have a little fun. If I can keep the photo session loose and fun, take a variety of images with various poses, different expressions and lighting, the chances are very good that we’ll come up with some fantastic images.
After each photo session, I work on the images in Lightroom, adjusting crops, color balance and exposure, and delete any poor images, duplicates, or unnecessary images. We create an online gallery with images and email a link to the client so they can take their time considering each image in the comfort of their own home, and receive input from family or friends if they like.
In a few days, after the client chooses their favorite images from the online photo gallery, I do additional work on the chosen images before delivering the finished images to the client. When I process the images I try to improve them tastefully and naturally avoiding an over-processed look. My desire is for people to look their absolute best.
Because of the endless variety of portrait photography situations I described above, there are no precise formulas to create an amazing portrait. It’s an art, not science. However I will share my approach, and some insights into what works well for me.
In-Studio Corporate Portrait and Headshot Photography Tips
I keep a variety of simple backgrounds that I can change quickly … white, gray, black and some flash gels to enhance or change the color if needed. The wooden boxes in different sizes also come in handy, sometimes they help me raise someone a little higher off the ground, sometimes just to sit on. I have touched on my gear in other articles, so I dont want to get bogged down with it. I have great gear, usually using about $20,000 of gear is used on any given session, and it helps, however, it won’t get you a great portrait. You can get a great portrait with pretty much any gear if you use it well.
This image was from a recent business corporate photo session with Tom in my studio. My goal was to create a variety of formal business portraits of Tom looking his best, rather quickly, so he could get back to work.
The background was designed to match the backgrounds currently being used on the company website from a previous on-location photo session I did for them in their Bethesda office.
I had previously setup the background and lighting before Tom’s arrival so I wouldn’t keep him waiting. The lighting setup was a strobe in a 24×30″ softbox high camera left, pointing down and left slightly, bouncing off a sheet of white foam core (on left).
I have white panels for fill setup on camera right to keep the face shadow minimal. I just wanted a very light shadow on the jawline and neck, however, it really is a short lighting scenario with the key light coming in from the left.
Sometimes I go for a deeper shadow on the jawline for a more dramatic and masculine look. It just depends what looks best for the client and what kind of look the client prefers.
Of course, I had a strobe on the background too. It was only a two light setup. I was shooting at about f5.6, 200 ISO, 1/125, Nikon D4S, 70-200m VR, at about 105mm.
Tom’s got a great smile but I wanted to get some variety, and surprisingly, I believe he decided to use the images without the big smile. Sometimes the mouth closed with a slight curl up of the lips gives a warm, confident look that works very well for corporate portraits.
On occasion, a client likes to use a straight-on view. Sometimes it works well, so I always like to capture few just in case. It’s important to keep the forehead forward and chin down a bit, particularly in the straight-on view. Take the tie off for a little less formal look for some variety. I’ve still created a slight shadow under the chin and along the right side of the face.
I also used a white reflector above his waist pointing up filling in the light from below. I was just going for a pretty clean look, almost like a beauty lighting.
In this image, we’ve got Tom’s great welcoming smile, and the tie, which makes a very friendly, formal business portrait. I’ve used the same lighting in this image as above, although I changed Tom’s position in a manner that provides broad lighting on his face.
In this photo session, we managed to create a variety of business portrait looks of Tom at his best. We kept it loose and fun, and got Tom in and out quickly.
Portrait photography is very rewarding for me because I get to meet and work with so many nice people, and when I look back at the great portraits we created together over the years, so many good memories come to mind.
I always love to read the feedback my portrait photography clients give me. Check out my Google Reviews.