Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Chapter 25: Head-shots on Location

At times a company will request a large number of headshots done of their employees on site done quickly to keep the expense down.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

A “professional portrait”: Not all professional portraits are the same or even really professional. A headshot is up close and personal.  If done right the person can look confidant, professional and connected.  If not, they can look just the opposite. This is really a speciality in the photography field.

Location:  A studio location always is the best environment with perfect lighting, dressing room, large monitors, and all the time available for the subject.  It might be compared to having a dentist work on your teeth in his office or in your living room.  Both could work but it can make a difference.  Also for all those who have the portrait taken in my studio, I guarantee that if for some reason they go home and don’t feel comfortable about the final result, I will redo the entire session at no charge.

Location “studio”:  Ideally in doing head shots on site requires, at least three lights brought in, special background with a stand, a posing bench and posing table.  Simply having the person stand limits the ability to pose the person (ability to reduce a double chin, etc) and results in a rather stiff impression.

Amount of time spent:  Doing a large group in a fixed period of time rushes most people and many feel even more self-conscious getting the photo taken.  In the studio we spend as much time as the person likes. I normally spend the most time helping people to choose the very best professional portrait.  Even then, if they like we can still go back and take some more.

Photographer:  Photographers are not all the same.  Some are better in one area than another.  Some outside photographers are literally “shoot and run”.   Others are better with children than executives.  Almost anyone today who has a camera considers himself a photographer.

“Photoshop”: Most use some type of editing software, but when you start messing with retouching a person’s face it is far more complex than just a filter some will use. A tooth might need fixed, or a tie might have to be re-set.

What do you need?:  In some cases, all a company wants is a “face book” group of half decent images, for internal use only. Then going for the best price is probably the best.  However,  if this is a professional group and these images go on the internet or brochures where clients will see them, the portraits will not only reflect on the person but the company overall.  This can be good, or bad.  In that case get the best photographer who specializes in this area of photography.

Monday, July 8, 2013

#3 Portrait options

Business portraits can be broken down into four areas:

    1.Traditional Head and Shoulders Portraits
This is the standard in the business world. This formal portrait is normally used for web bios, news releases, magazine articles, brochures, etc.
     2.“Character” Portraits
This type of portrait shows more of the body. By showing more of the arms and body, “body language” can be used to convey greater personality and activity. For example: A man in a business suit sitting behind a desk can give the impression of a conservative long-standing institution. A man with rolled up shirtsleeves working at a desk can portray a hard working active representative, ready to serve your potential client.
     3.“Environmental” Portraits
These are portraits that use the background to help communicate your message. Backgrounds can be done in the studio with a set, digitally, or on location.
     4.Group Portraits
At times, it is necessary to show a larger group, such as a staff or group of directors. This can be done in a large studio, on location, or even digitally with each person photographed separately
     5  Digital backgrounds
Not only does digital photography allow a quick preview, fast turn around time, more opportunity to take more shots and almost unlimited ability to do photo retouching, it enables us to have an unlimited and varied number of backgrounds.
Normally, backdrops would include seamless paper, muslin, canvas, hand-painted as well as studio sets. However, by using a neutral backdrop, the backdrop can be “erased” and the subject “extracted” digitally. Then a background photo of choice can be inserted behind the subject. This photo background can be a courtroom, street scene, office and endless other choices.

Another use of an “extracted” background system is that individual people can be grouped together and inserted on a background. This allows the individuals to have their photos taken at different times in the studio. It also allows us to later remove or add someone to the group and rearrange the layout.

A good business photographer should be able to do all of the above. What type of portrait you choose will depend on your specific need, whether it is a web page, bio, brochure, billboard, etc. Good communication with your photographer will facilitate receiving an effective portrait.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#2 Choose the right photographer

There are many good photographers available who are true artists. However, there are perhaps hundreds of photographic fields. While many like exploring all of the different fields, and may need the work, it is unrealistic to expect them to be an expert in what you need. For example, some photographers are best at working with children and babies, or weddings, but working with corporations and law firms is not the same. Someone who does boudoir photography might not be the one to photograph your CEO.

I would suggest visiting the studio and interview the photographer. See what their speciality is. What is your impression of the studio and the examples? What will the photographer be like to work with? Some photographers are really good with the camera, but may lack in people skills. Get references.  While pricing is always an important issue, an extra amount of research can pay off in the long run. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

#1 Good photography is critical

       “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.  With websites, face book, linked in and more, these expressions are more true than ever.
Poor portrait photography can give a bad impression of you or your business.  It can make the company look careless or struggling and it can send the wrong message about the person presented.  
As a corporate and business photographer in Pittsburgh, I have learned the importance of effective executive portraits, headshots or group photography to send the right message.  They really are a form of advertising. 
Take time to think the project through and plan well.  I hope these articles will help. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call for some free advise.
Good corporate portraits involve more than simply nice pictures. They need to  send the right message about you and your company...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chapter 19: What should I know when planning the consistency of all of our business headshots?

One of the first concerns is the degree of consistency of all of the head shots or portraits for the bios.  Some firms want each one to be as much alike as possible.  They want the same shade background, lighting, cropping, expression, etc.  While some branding or consistency is good, one thing to keep in mind is that there is not one system that makes everyone look their best.  Just as there is not one suit the same size, color, style for both men and women that looks good on all, photography is the same.  Obviously balance is needed.  Below I have some suggestions that might help.

Lighting: Adjusting the lighting (as many as four different ones in different positions) can help a heavy person look thinner, really thin person look healthier, or accent beautiful hair and bring out the person’s best feature.  A one light fits all eliminates the ability to bring out a person’s best features and decrease the worst.

Background: I would recommend a neutral background such as grey that can be lighter or darker depending on the person.  For example light hair looks better on a dark background and dark hair looks better on a light background. Brighter or more textured backgrounds can look very nice or really pop, but might be harder to match in the future.

Pose:  Since people have a good side and a bad side as well as long necks, double chins, etc.  The pose should be adjusted accordingly.  Sometime a person looks better when they lean into the camera.  This can reduce a double chin or long neck.  Sitting and using a posing table allows more adjustment than standing.

Expression:  A company might want every to have big smiles.  We all love smiles and people in real life normally look best when they smile.   However in pictures,  some people look silly when they smile for the camera.  It could be the teeth, lips, or just a really big mouth.  I had a distinguished attorney smile and it was so big he looked like the joker from Batman.  A more serious expression was better and he looked great.  Each person is unique and a good photographer will try various expressions (theirs, not his).

Cropping:  Cropping is very important with professional head shots.  If too much body shows, a person can look really huge.  However if the cropping is too close, the person is really “in your face” and that is kind of awkward.  For portraits of one person or a head shot, I recommend a cropping proportion of about 5x7 vertical.  The head takes up about 50% of the image and not too much body shows. The eyes are located at the ideal 1/3 down from the top. This way there is not too much space at the top where the person would look really short. In this case the personality in their face and eyes are the important thing.  The proportions change for half length, full length or when you have more than one person.

The above would give consistency while allowing the photographer to make the person look their very best.