What is a Corporate Headshot?

You’ve seen a million of them before, on websites and accompanying magazine articles, but what exact qualities does an image need to qualify as a corporate head shot?






What Is A Corporate Headshot?

Corporate headshots are portraits often produced digitally and used for engaging in social media, the about us page and industry specialty sites. Generally speaking, it’s a photograph of an individual with the simple purpose of showing what they look like. This then is the classic head and shoulders shot used by businessmen, authors, actors and models on an everyday basis for personal branding. Subjects are often shown head-to-chest or head-to-torso.
Corporate Headshots often used for:
– Annual reports
– LinkedIn personal profiles as well as publisher profiles
– Facebook
– Résumés
– Corporate catalogs, brochures and advertising collateral
– Company publications and websites, internal and external
– Press releases and other announcements
– Marketing materials
– Articles and newspapers
– Author pages
– Annual Company Reports
All of the photographs taken by the photographer are legally belong to the photographer through the copyright laws. The client when hires a professional corporate photographer usually pays for the photographer’s time and not for the image rights. The copyright of the images can be purchased at an additional cost. For more information about image rights and costs please refer to the professional photography association – AOP.

But What Makes a Good Corporate Headshot?

We’ve all seen really bad passport photos—the type which have been taken in one of those automatic photo booths you see at railway stations and post offices. They make everyone look like a criminal or a halfwit. If you need to use a head shot to market your personal brand, something like that simply won’t do. The difference between one of those and a professionally-executed studio head shot is a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon!
A skilled photographer can make the world of difference to your head shot. They’ll be able to select an appropriate background, set the lighting at the most flattering level, angle your body and stage manage the whole process to achieve the best results. And even in something as straightforward and rigid as a corporate head shot, a good photographer should be able to capture at least an element of his sitter’s personality.

Technical considerations

Most corporate head shots are taken indoors in either a photographer’s studio or in the subject’s office. Outdoor head shots are beginning to appear, to add interest or to show an individual ‘in the field’, but this is not so usual. Although there is little leeway in a head shot for artistic creativity, technical excellence is still a requirement to achieve a worthy result.
1. The head shot should be a medium close-up (MCU). This means the top of the shoulders should be in the frame, as well as the entire head.
2. Use the rule of thirds to position the subject’s eyes, one third of the way down the frame.
3. Decide whether to ask your subject to look directly at you, in which case you should angle their body to one side or the other, or whether to direct them to look off-centre. In reality, you might want to take a few in each style to see which works best.
4. Diffusing the light will eradicate blemishes and wrinkles, leaving you with less touching up to do afterwards!
5. Use a secondary source of light angled at the top of your subject’s head—this will give them a proper head shape and stop their crown fading into the background.
6. Experiment with the angle of your camera. Angling your camera down as you shoot from above will flatter the contours of a woman’s face. Conversely, men look stronger if you take the picture with your camera angled up from below.
7. Focus on the individual’s eyes and try to capture them as clearly as possible.
8. A head shot is not the place for a wide angle lens as it may distort your result. Instead, choose a lens that will compress and slim your subject’s face.
9. Do all you can to ensure your sitter is relaxed. You need a natural facial expression. No one wants to look nervous in their head shot or appear to be gurning with a cheesy grin!
10. For a natural light effect, stand your subject opposite a south-facing window, while you shoot them with your back to the window, though you might need to apply diffusers if the sun’s too bright.
11. Make sure that you can capture a sharp jawline as this reveals the shape of the subjects face. If necessary, ask them to push their jaw slightly forward for more definition.


What is an Editorial Portrait?

While you might think photographic portraiture should be quite straight forward to set up and execute, it’s actually not always the case. Editorial portraits, in particular demand a little more imagination and creativity. In one simple photo, your aim is to convey as much relevant information about your subject as you possibly can—hints about their character, the work they do or the world they inhabit. Simply plonking them in a studio in front of a plain background won’t give anything away.

So How Do You Do It?

If you need to produce a photographic portrait for editorial use, you may well be given a tight creative brief – the writer or the editor of the article it is to accompany might already have firm ideas about how best to represent their subject. In this case, it will be your job to interpret that brief to achieve a result as close to their vision as possible. However, it may be the case that they’ll leave the creativity to you, while still expecting a portrait that truly captures the essence of the sitter in relation to the editorial piece.


In other words, you’ll need to find out a little, or preferably a lot, about your sitter. What makes them different, unique or special? What’s the purpose of the portrait—is it to show them in their working life? Is it about something they’ve done or created? Something that’s happened to them, or simply because of who they are? Before you make any decision about how to set up your picture, you’ll need to discuss the concept with both the sitter and the commissioning editor.


Techniques For Creating Interesting Portraits

Once you’ve decided upon a place and a composition, you’re next challenge is the execution. You may have decided to do a studio shot, using props to tell the story, or you may be taking the picture at a specific location, such as a work place or particular spot with relevance to the article. It might be indoors or outside. The important thing is to create an image that informs. This means thinking about the pose, lighting, how your subject will dress, their facial expression, what props might help and so on in advance – and then making sure that you have everything you need to make it happen on the day.

Here are a Few Considerations For Ensuring Good Editorial Work:


Your sitter – an editorial portrait is not a snapshot for the family album, so you probably don’t want them looking straight at the camera with a cheesy grin. Try to position them in an interesting way, perhaps shooting from above or below, or placing them to one side of the picture. If you can photograph them doing whatever pursuit is being written about, so much the better—the result will probably be more dynamic.


Wide angle or telephoto? Conventional wisdom might suggest telephoto but you should experiment with wide angle as well. Editorial portraits do not have flattery of the subject as their driving element and by using a wide angle lens, you should be able to introduce some drama into the image. Furthermore, it allows for more of the background to be included, which as we know is important to creating the story.


Lighting – if you’re taking your portrait in the studio, naturally you’ll be in control of the lighting, so think about how you can use it to alter the mood of the image for a more dramatic result. On location, lighting may be more of an issue. Natural light may work for you or you made need to supplement it. Out of doors, try timing the shoot for dusk or dawn to add more interest. But remember, this is still a portrait, so focusing enough light at your subject’s face is critical.


Depth of field – by increasing your depth of field you can draw more of the physical environment into the picture and thereby add more information to your portrait. Another interesting idea is to position your subject relatively deeper in the field and place something enlightening in the foreground. If you do this, experiment with your camera angle—shooting from below can be highly effective for a composition like this.


Get creative – it hardly counts as a technique but my last piece of advice is, think outside the box. You may not be in the ideal location or have the perfect prop, but use light, colour and composition to lift your portrait above the run-of-the-mill corporate headshot.