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.
Business Photography and Executive Headshots
I got the chance to work for my great friend Chris, a colleague from my past days as a programmer, who was starting his own strategic consultant company, and he needed branding photos as well as executive headshots. Being the face of his company, he would need to convey both his personality and the personality of his business.
As Chris loves Indianapolis, he chose the iconic location of Fountain Square at night as our main backdrop for portraits. The evening scenes and nightlife vibe relate to his personality; he looks like the cool tech dude he is with the colorful lights and dark buildings behind him. Though it was a freezing night in February, we wanted the more dramatic environment the evening provided, as well as the vivid backdrops of night lights, so we braved the cold for as long as we could.
Working at night both outside and in makes it easier for me to play with my lighting: I don’t have the sun to deal with. Though I still blended my own lights with the city lights, I have learned how to recreate studio-like lighting with portable equipment, so our choice of background was incredibly flexible. This crafted lighting allows me to find an interesting backdrop first and worry about lighting second. If I had to look for a place with great lighting first, the choice of background would be limited to a very few perfectly lit spots.
We did our inside shots at the Murphy Building while we were warming up from our freezing outdoor photoshoot. I wanted to make sure we included backdrops that were not tied to Fountain Square. These pictures portrayed his personality and love of the city, but he would also need ones that portrayed the more business side of his company, and that would require a more timeless backdrop that conveyed an idea rather than be about a place.
This shot includes a very cool bank vault door as the backdrop. To brighten that door, I placed a light directly behind Chris, and later removed the light stand from the pictures in Photoshop. That extra shine on the door adds just the right amount of light and detail the picture needed.
In this photoshoot, Chris crosses his arms quite a few times. I have heard many photographers discourage crossed arms in professional headshots and portraits, but I have come to disagree as subjects like Chris naturally make the pose look relaxed and confident. Chris has good posture and carries himself well; he is aware of how he stands, but not unnaturally aware. Sometimes when I’m directing poses, people who cross their arms do look stuffy, so we try other poses. Chris with his arms crossed doesn’t look “closed off” or unapproachable—so we went with it. This confidently relaxed posture also reflected the feeling we wanted in all the pictures, conveying that Chris knows what he’s doing, and is also enjoyable to work with.
Whether you are looking for an individual portrait session or executive headshot, or need business photography for your company, you can contact me here.
No Weird Smiles: The Value of Editing in Professional Headshots
Shoots for professional headshots can run very smoothly, but the resulting photographs may still need some tweaking; facial expressions might be off in a group photo, or an outfit that looked great in person looks less appealing within a picture. Thankfully, it is never too late to edit. In a portrait and group photo session with a local United Real Estate office in Broad Ripple, I used my Photoshop skills to address some issues to make these nice shots look even better.
The photos were intended for banners and headshots on their website, helping to create a personable face for the office as well as set their tone; a friendly, confident bunch of real estate agents in a suburban setting. We took the photographs at one of their homes rather than the office—the big, open back yard was perfect for capturing a relaxed feel, and we could easily switch the background from the back of their house to a nice wooded area.
Kathy Jordan, one of the agents I worked with closely, describes what they wanted from their photos:
“Our clients range from investors to first-time home buyers to million-dollar buyers and sellers, plus everything in between, and while we’re ‘all business’ on their behalf, we have more of a collective ‘casual’ personality which we wanted to portray in our photos. Paul made us all comfortable, took time for individual shots as well as group photos and had great ideas for backgrounds. Once we made our selections he used his mad Photoshop skills to make us look perfect.”
Much of the photo editing I do is to clean up the background and foreground in order to remove distractions, leaving the people as the only subject of interest in the shot. In these photos, I removed distractions like scuff marks on the table, stains, and stray leaves. This kind of editing is important in professional headshots, when just the person is the focus. However, editorial-style photographs are meant to tell the story of not just the person but what the person does, so background details are desired.
Major changes can occur when a client sees the final photo spread and likes certain elements, but not others. Kathy changed her jacket between backgrounds. She liked her outfit better in one shot, but did not like the background as much. However, she loved the background in a different shot, but did not like the outfit she wore in it. Rather than reshooting, I cut her out of one picture in Photoshop and put her on the backdrop of the background she liked better.
This picture has the detail of a little white picket fence. However, it is so minimal that it does not distract, and in fact subtly lends itself to the suburban theme. That’s a little game that I play: how much do I put in the background to tell a story without being distracting? My philosophy is that all pictures should be pleasing and balanced, but also should convey ideas about the people in the photograph while still keeping the focus on them.
Another issue is posture. Sometimes we don’t stand as straight as we think we do. Part of the office is a family—Ginger and Tom, with their son Taylor. I took a nice shot of Tom and Ginger together, but she did not like how she looked hunched over. Again instead of reshooting, I was able to tweak her posture so that she stood straighter in the picture.
Expressions are also tricky. In this group photo, it looks like I was just a little ahead of snapping the picture before Tom got his big smile up. He had a great smile in another shot, so I switched the expressions to make the picture perfect without having to redo it.
Many professional photographers have some degree of Photoshop skills, and this flexibility it is certainly a plus when all you need to change in a photo is an expression or a background. Representing this group of fun real estate agents took balanced backgrounds and good editing skills. If you are looking for business portraits, or unique brand photography, you can contact me here.
Taking on the Updated Business Group Photo Challenge
Businesses have different needs when it comes to professional photos. One of my clients, a local State Farm Insurance agency, wanted photographs for their marketing, website, business cards and email communication. It was important to them that they get a group shot to tell the story of their team. However, like most organizations, their employee base changes over time. They were looking for a way to keep an updated business group photo without taking a new shot every time the team transitioned.
Our photoshoot site was at their office in Broad Ripple. There is a lot of energy in their space; the employees are fun and we had a good time during the shoot. To reflect their personality, and to represent their business in that light, I chose white, bright backdrops. The tone is not necessarily happy, but there is an open, inviting sense of energy in a white backdrop. Darker backdrops look more serious and dramatic. Both their group business portraits and headshots were on bright white backgrounds.
For outfits, they had both their business clothes for headshots and their red t-shirts for group photos. I always advise my clients to bring their favorite outfits, or as many outfits as they’d like to try. It’s better to have variety than to be short on options.
I hear the same concerns about group photos from many businesses—how do you avoid having to get together again and again to keep the image updated? I find photo editing to be the easiest solution. It takes a bit of skill to cut people out and make them look right and real together. I have nearly nine years of experience using Adobe Photoshop, and that knowledge becomes very useful in these situations—it is much easier to photograph one person when needed rather than getting everyone together for a group photo. I shot their first group photo against a white backdrop using over-under lighting. The same backdrop and the same lighting will be used for new member shots so I can add them seamlessly into the original group. I always go back and check the original picture, look at my settings and use the same aperture so I can repeat the scene exactly. The result is a photo that looks real and natural.
Elizabeth Marshall, State Farm agent, worked with me closely in getting professional business portraits at their office. “Paul came to the office with all of the equipment to take professional headshots; he was efficient yet personable and the end product was exactly what I wanted. I especially loved the assembled team photo so we don’t have to take a new group shot every time we add staff.”
Business photography requires capturing two aspects of an organization—the professional side and the personal side. One reflects the competency and trustworthiness of the team, the other the personality of each member. The goal is to get across to the audience the experience they will have when working with the business. In the case of State Farm Broad Ripple office, their clients get fun and energy!
If you need anything from simple business portraits to unique brand photography, I am comfortable taking portraits in the field or the studio. You can contact me here.
Client Sessions: Business Portraits and Professional Headshots
I have enjoyed working with multiple individuals through my partnership with Creative Quarterback, a marketing company that serves entrepreneurs and small businesses. They brought me in to take professional headshots, website stock-style photos and work environment business portraits for Katie Smith. She is a career development coach and head of her own company Careerable.
We held two photoshoot sessions with Katie, one indoors to capture the office-business feel for her website, and the second outdoors for her sunny professional headshots.
Our indoors location was Trendy Minds’ office in Downtown Indianapolis. Katie works largely with younger professionals, those looking to rebuild and focus their career, so she wanted a hip, cool vibe for her website photos. Trendy Minds was the perfect fit with its updated, modern-tech spaces. Our goals were to create shots that could be used as background images for her website, as well as professional portraits to capture the face of her company.
Standard headshot photos, where the subject stands straight-on in front of the camera looking into the shot, with a plain, one-toned backdrop behind them, was not the look we were going for here. We wanted a natural, candid set of portraits that had the sense of capturing her life on the job, as if we had just met her at the office in the middle of a work day.
The outside portraits presented a challenge as the sun was up and shining brightly. I found a great location around Fountain Square in Downtown Indianapolis, and though sunlight provides a good base, I brought my own gear to create optimum lighting. Full sunlight creates harsh shadows on subjects, a challenge I am familiar with. I knew I had to either find shade to work with or create some of my own; fortunately the restaurant we met at had a patio umbrella that worked perfectly.
All Katie’s professional business photos, both inside and out, look bright and clean, a result of carefully choosing locations for the best backdrops, helping the subjects become comfortable around the camera, and using both natural and artificial light to its fullest potential.
Working with Katie was fun. She has a great smile and is very natural in front of the camera, which makes for excellent posed pictures. Katie had some nice things to say about our photoshoot. “Paul never makes one feel awkward in front of the camera. He works with his subjects so that they’re comfortable, and asks for feedback along the way to make sure he’s getting the types of shots they want. His turnaround with the photos is always quick as well.” Thanks Katie.
It can be easy to focus on the backdrop or the effects, but the true stars I want to put front and center in business photography are the people behind the company. If you need anything from simple business portraits to unique brand photography, I am comfortable taking portraits in the field or the studio. You can contact me here.
Client Highlight: Professional Headshots and Work Environment Photography
I have lived in the Indianapolis area for a long time, and have enjoyed working within our city’s growing tech industry. Todd Richardson, a notable leader in the Indy business community, needed professional headshots and work environment portraits for his business website and social media presence. Creative Quarterback, a marketing company, was rebuilding his website, and they brought me in to photograph Todd.
I have known Todd for years, personally and professionally. Todd has a warm personality and fun approach to his work, and he often partners with hip, young companies. To reflect his friendly persona, Creative Quarterback chose The Speak Easy, a co-working space in Broad Ripple for the photoshoot. With its unique décor and open set-up, The Speak Easy was the perfect “corporate-yet-casual” environment to capture Todd at work.
Creative Quarterback set our agenda for the photoshoot, as they needed specific images for Todd’s website pages. We worked together to create photographs that not only showed Todd in action, but also incorporated the feel of his brand—that open, friendly warmth that pervades his person. For any headshot or business photography project, I always choose a backdrop that will convey the qualities of the company. If I were to take photos for a financial institution, I would likely choose a clean backdrop, perhaps stonework, that portrays confidence and strength. For Todd, I chose backdrops within The Speak Easy that had warm colors and interesting details, allowing the space to offer an impression of him personally.
The challenges of working in an environment rather than a studio revolve around lighting—I have to incorporate the existing lighting with my own gear to create illumination that is flattering to my subject. How light falls across the face can either hide features you don’t want, like wrinkles, or it can accentuate them. Natural light from windows and other good sources can be hard to come by outside of a studio, so I usually make my own lighting to add to what is already there. My end goal is to create photographs that are well lit, but don’t look artificially bright. In this project, the lights of the Speak Easy lend to the warm colors and feeling of the photos.
I have worked with Todd on many occasions, and he had some nice things to say about me, which I very much appreciate. “I have known Paul for many years, as both a photographer and a technologist. In both roles, he was detail-oriented, focused on providing a high-quality output, and incredibly easy to get along with. I have used Paul’s services on dozens of occasions over the years. Without fail, I can count on Paul to be reliable, easy to work with, insistent on a quality product, and creative in his approach. Whether for work or personal, I know I can trust Paul to deliver what I need when I need it.” Thanks Todd.
Representing Todd and his brand took the right location, equipment, teamwork and attention to detail. The result is a stock of professional headshots that capture personality as well as subject. If you need anything from simple business portraits to unique brand photography, I am comfortable taking portraits in the field or the studio. You can contact me here.