Some thoughts on corporate headshots and portraiture
I have been shooting corporate headshots for business for almost 3 decades and they are my least favorite genre of photography because I am almost always asked for the same thing over and over again. A basic three light setup with a big reflector. Ugh….
I have been a corporate headshot photographer in Los Angeles for a long time and I am grateful for whatever work I get to do; however traditional corporate headshots are less interesting or a challenging because the images are too easy for me and have nothing to do with the person that I am photographing. At their most basic level, they are just portraits of record but, given some time and thought, they can be elevated into character studies that fit within corporate conventions.
For the images below, I was asked to shoot a series of portraits of Latino alumni for Cal State Fullerton, my alma mater, but after initially turning down the assignment, they said I could design portraits however I wanted, as long as they were appropriate for their purpose. That was an appealing proposition so I accepted.
While corporate headshots for business were a staple photography assignment for me, I decided to deviate from a traditional corporate headshot style and light my subjects with a large silk and reflect outdoors. Since it was winter, heat was not an issue so I could give myself 30 minutes with each person. Not something I usually get but the additional time gave me a way to get under peoples skin a bit and find emotional values within each person that made the images stronger and more interesting.
This photography assignment remains the most interesting portrait project I have ever had because I could actually have meaningful conversations with each person. In fact that was part of the design. We informed everyone what our intentions were and the need for a more intimate relationship for the sake the images. Everyone was very happy with their portraits. Additionally, I learned a great deal about manipulating sunlight light to suit my purposes.
This assignment has always been a bench mark in that I was able to demonstrate to myself and clients, that more can be done with the humble corporate headshot for business while remaining within corporate conventions.
It is still difficult to get folks to deviate but when I do it is very satisfying.
This style however, has some logistical hurdles. Firstly a large outdoor space is needed to execute the lighting and if clients need to update portraits for an individual person, it can increase costs significantly because of the need for rentals and an assistant. Additionally, setting up and outdoor studio during the summer heat can be uncomfortable for the subjects. In conclusion, the lighting style for this type of portrait work has its limitations, but I considerate well worth the investment.