The Process of Professional Headshots
Professional headshots tell the story of who you are and what you do. Great portraits aren’t effortless; there is a process to creating those photos that work perfectly for your marketing materials, website, or professional profile. You will need to choose the right style of professional portraits, prepare and plan for the photoshoot, and communicate with your photographer your needs and vision.
Professional headshots come in three styles: classic, environmental, and editorial.
Classic: This style keeps it simple—a straight-on shot with a distraction-free background. This look is great for professional profiles or employee headshots. Either an on-location or color backdrop can serve as the background. A solid color backdrop makes team photos easy to replicate when you hire new members. I always talk through with my clients what colors and backgrounds best suit their brand or business, as they are instrumental in conveying a certain feel to your audience.
Environmental: This style is well-suited for visually interesting locations. If your office has unique architectural features, cool outdoor spaces, or eye-catching artwork, taking your portrait on-site will add character to your headshots. Conversely, plain offices are ill suited to environmental shots. The same goes for messy spaces; straightening up is essential for professional photos. Overall, it is important to know what feel the background will convey, and choose your location wisely. Portraits should match your type of business; it makes sense for a landscaping architect to be outdoors, and a tech startup company to be in a cool office space. Some current office design trends include neat lighting and old wood, which end up making nice backdrops for in-office portraits. I like to arrive at locations early to scout unique backdrops—attention to detail is key to making your portraits memorable.
Editorial: This style focuses on your employees “in action.” If your business makes physical products or delivers services “on location” in interesting places, this can be the perfect option. Similar to environmental, editorial style is also not recommended for plain offices as the images will feature the surrounding space. If an office-based business wants editorial portraits, I may ask them to bring a few of their clients and/or partners into the office during the shoot. This allows us to take shots of their team in meetings, on calls, working in groups, etc.
Editing is essential to create a finished photograph. My philosophy of photo editing is to remove distractions from the frame and ensure the subjects look their best. After some minor color and lighting adjustments, I work with my clients to choose the best portraits. I then edit them more heavily, removing specks and stray hairs, softening shiny skin, or reducing the number of wires on a desk. Major changes I can make include taking a subject from one background and dropping them onto another, or even taking just a head or tie and placing it on another picture. With larger changes sometimes there are extra costs; it’s much easier to wear a tie than for me to photoshop a tie on you.
Communicating expectations clearly is vital no matter what style you choose. Miscommunication, or neglecting to explain your vision means you may not be happy with your portraits. When your photographer understands how you will use the images, and what specific look you want, the end result will better represent what you pictured.
Looking for an experienced professional headshot photographer? You can contact me at 317-443-3792 or send me a message.
What to Look for When Hiring a Professional Photographer
Photographers come in all varieties—wedding photographers, portrait-takers, stock photo creators, hobbyists and Instagram enthusiasts—and they are not necessarily interchangeable. Hiring a professional photographer means finding the right creative genius who can capture what it is you want to communicate.
What Every Photographer Should Have
That being said, there are certainly qualities you want your photographer to have no matter what your project is.
Work that is their own. The main thing that impresses me in other photographers is a unique vision. They should be able to handle the standard headshot, but can they also produce creative work that is unique and compelling? If you aren’t impressed by their photos of others, you will likely not be happy with their photos of you.
An eye for consistency. I often go back to clients to photograph new hires. Those headshots need to look just like the ones I did in previous sessions. Photographers need to be able to produce photos from different sessions for their clients that look as though they all happened in one sitting.
An eye for detail. Detail makes for a cleaner, more impactful image. Are there any distracting objects in the background? Are the subject’s clothes and accessories neatly primped, or did it look like the photographer wasn’t paying attention to how they looked?
Grasp of basic image creation. Being able to handle the basics is a no-brainer. Are the images sharp? Is the lighting on the subjects even and pleasing? Is detail lost to blown-out highlights or blocky shadows?
The Thing About Gear
Yes, gifted photographers can do a lot with a single camera and their experience; however, high quality gear still makes a difference in professional photography. There are times when my expensive, pro-level equipment allows me to keep producing compelling images in situations where entry-level tools would just fall over. You will want a photographer with both an artistic eye and quality gear.
The Right Professional Photographer
For different events and subjects, you will need a photographer who has experience photographing that specific instance you want to capture. Don’t expect a family and baby photographer to be on-par with a commercial headshot and portrait photographer, and vice-versa. As an example, I personally just don’t have the props and experience with babies to produce high-quality newborn photos, but throw me in an office environment and I can produce a whole photo stock library for a business website.
You also need to like a photographer’s style. Perusing their online gallery is one way you can determine what you like and don’t. Are their studio backdrops smooth and simple, or wrinkled like bed sheets? Is the post processing in Photoshop subtle or overly done? Are they using gimmicks like selective color and heavy Photoshop filters? If their style isn’t the look you’re going for, you won’t be pleased with the images they create for you.
Word-of-mouth referrals and testimonies are often helpful as well in deciding if a photographer is pleasant and professional to work with. You might also want to check their website: a photographer with a good website is indicative of an in-tune and business-savvy person who invested in their online presence as an important customer service.
Ultimately, the right professional photographer is the one who not only produces great photos for you at the end, but is also easy to work with through the entire process, communicating with you about timing and vision.
Using Your Office as a Backdrop for Professional Headshots
I have been doing professional headshots for Dittoe PR since 2011. They also refer me for their client’s PR event photography. They are a hip, young company with a happy, confident vibe that comes across in their faces as well as their office space.
Partnering with a company for so long means I get to work with them through all of their evolutions. Most recently, Dittoe moved from the Glendale area near Broad Ripple to South Broad Ripple, and their new space demanded a fresh look for their professional headshots. Whenever I work in a new place, I explore quite a bit to find the best backdrops to match the company’s personality. In Dittoe’s building, I found a stamped metal wall that suited their look perfectly. However, it was fairly challenging to use. I had to make sure my lights did not reflect off its shiny surface. The metal wall was also curved, acting like one big mirror. I couldn’t just put the lights anywhere; I had to find a location that both lit my subjects perfectly, and didn’t reflect. This challenge is a pretty unique one. Normally I use a painted wall or a whole office space backdrop that poses few challenges. As is evident, I did find that sweet spot, but it took both my onsite ingenuity and years of experience to situate my lights where they weren’t going to be seen. The result is a really cool backdrop I didn’t have to pass up just because the lighting was difficult.
Office designs can significantly change the look of professional headshots. However, I think this is a good thing. Photos of employees on a website can act like an introduction to a company’s environment, telling a consistent story about a brand. Dittoe’s move brought them to a space that had a wonderfully cool but simple vibe, and it became an opportunity to update their look.
I use my clients’ offices as backdrops in professional headshots whenever I can because the uniqueness and personality of their space carries into the images. Often my clients design their own offices to have a certain feel, which the photography will echo. I find that the designs vary depending on the company: lawyers like confident looks, banks like a strong, fortified feel, marketing and tech firms like fun and industrial styles.
There can be some drawbacks to using an organization’s space—it needs to have some character. If the space is bland, these kinds of photos won’t really work. My solution for a boring office is to bring my own colored backdrops. My clients can choose colors that fit the feel of their brand, or actually matches their brand colors, which will still bring that needed consistency. Taking photos outside is another remedy, in a nature or urban, city setting that represents the vibe of the company.
If you need anything from simple professional headshots to unique brand photography, I am comfortable taking portraits in the field or the studio. You can contact me here.
Building a Business Photography Stock Library
The advantages of building a business photography stock library are many. With a large supply of photos, HR and marketing departments have lots to pull from for their various needs, including promoting events, marketing the business to customers as well as prospective employees, and website materials – all of which build the image of a business. I worked with Exact Target, now Salesforce Marketing Cloud, for many years growing their stock library, and at the end of over ten years had accumulated thousands of photos to pull from. By having pictures of their people and their space that defined their business image, they were always able to easily create marketing materials for any occasion.
I was working at Exact Target as a developer at first, and started work as a photographer when my interest and skill in photography was discovered. They asked me if I could put it to use in the company. I began simply with employee portraits, then moved to photographing the user conferences. For these events, the goal was to create images that would promote the next event. I took stock photos of the attendees as well as on-stage shots of the speakers, who were often big names like Richard Branson, Malcom Gladwell, and Seth Godin. By having their own images, all marketing had to do to promote the next event was to go back to the last user conference stock for fresh photos.
From there, the library just kept growing. To market the business to both prospective employees and to customers, the marketing and HR department always had things and people for me to photograph. I took a lot of stock photography of the office, going in and retaking pictures every time a significant remodel happened so the images stayed up to date. New employees were always photographed so they would have headshots for future speaking engagements or white paper attributions. HR would use the stock library to create printed photo books as gifts for ten year anniversaries. They would also make large banner prints of really cool concerts they hosted like Train, and events the business participated in like an Exact Target logoed Indy race car. These banners also served as popular items for auctions at fundraising events.
Exact Target kept their images in Dropbox folders so many different people in the company had access to them. However, the library grew so large, marketing and HR eventually asked me to be the keeper of the library for them, finding the images they needed quickly. Forming a relationship with a photographer is a good idea if you want to build an image library for your business. The value a photographer adds is not only image creation. It is the familiarity they have with your business that allows them to help you best manage your assets and build a consistent brand image. As a freelance photographer, I do this with many companies. I get to know them, the employees and their C-suite people, and it helps improve the quality of the photos. I know what images need to be created to tell their story.
Business photography needs vary from company to company. As an experienced business photographer, I can help you with professional headshots, executive portraits, stock image creation, group shots, and more. You can contact me here.