In my 10 years as a professional photographer, I can count on one hand the number of people who tell me they LOVE having their photo taken. It always throws me!
But nerves for the rest of us are perfectly understandable because hanging out in studio or with a photographer is not the norm for most. It’s not your comfort zone.
I’ll let you into a secret – a studio and a camera are completely my comfort zone, but get me in front of a camera and it suddenly feels really awkward! So I do really get it. Which is why I thought I’d share a few tips on how to best prepare for a shoot and what to expect.
Firstly, remember this. When you look in the mirror you see a reflection of yourself. The image you see is a reversed image of how you appear to the world – and to the camera. The camera captures an accurate depiction of your image whilst the mirror does not. Scary huh? Not really. It just means that when you first view your photos, you won’t be used to seeing yourself this way but don’t worry because as the shoot goes on, you’ll get used to it and may even like what you see!
That said, when it comes to how people see you, don’t confuse a static image with real life. Sometimes clothing looks great in everyday life but not good in a photograph. Don’t necessarily bin that item of clothing, at least get honest advice from friends or family about it before you do! Remember a photograph is a moment in time that stands still for all to scrutinise, including the most judgemental of people – you!
Similarly, lighting – be it studio or sunshine – can highlight facial features (mostly lines) that you just don’t notice in life. Studio lights highlight these so as a matter of course I always do a little skin smoothing and softening of lines that look deeper because of the light. What I’m trying to say is don’t be paranoid; what the lights highlight and what the camera sees is NOT how other people see you!
Depending on your company, you may find props could be a fun way of injecting a little fun into your portraits. This company had a red ball in their logo and so I did a set of portraits for all 55 employees, both with a red ball and without. I actually took my portable studio gear into their offices and set up a studio in the boardroom for the day – It’s fair to say that a lot of laughter came out of my office studio that day!
Location, Location, Location
Ahead of the shoot, think about the style and location of photography you require.
Would your business best suit the more classic studio style portraits or do you run a business from your home and would like to portray this in a professional way? Or do you have modern offices that lend themselves to the corporate setting? Or would a professional portrait outdoors suit you? Having an idea of what you want before you contact the photographer helps you find the right person for your business.
What to Wear?
The most common question I get upon someone booking a shoot is “What shall I wear?” The first thing I’d say is how would your clients expect to see you? And what message are you trying to get across to your audience? Are you strictly corporate, are you corporate but casual or is your style relaxed but presentable?
The next bit of advice is to wear colours that you know you look good in and clothes that you feel good in, you don’t want to be self-conscious about that side of things.
Be careful of bold, distracting patterns and thin stripes. They produce something called the moire effect – when thin stripes close together create a secondary rippling pattern, especially evident on a small screen. Thin stripes a bit further away are okay though.
MEN– If you’re not sure of tie, shirt, jacket combo and your wife hasn’t sent you to have your colours done (wife or no wife, I highly recommend this!) then do a little research online and take along a couple of different options to see what works best on camera. Avoid really reflective, shiny silk ties though.
If you don’t wear a tie or jacket, avoid a white shirt if possible because without the jacket or tie to break it up then they can lose detail under the studio lights. Of course if it’s an outdoor summer shoot then a white shirt would be perfect – but always make sure your shirt is nicely ironed!
WOMEN– The other big thing to watch out for is choice of blouse; be aware that some fabrics are flimsy and light in colour which may show more than you’d like! So have a back up option but also have a jacket as an option if you’re unsure. I find bold colours often look amazing in studio – so if you’re someone who can wear bold colours then go for it. If you prefer to wear a pale blouse then perhaps bring a jacket to have the option of 2 different looks, the jacket will help separate you from the background. When it comes to jewellery, it’s best to keep it simple. It’s your face you wanted noticed, not your jewellery.
Hair, Skin and Make-up
MEN– to shave or not to shave, that is the question! This is certainly one to think about when you get up the morning of your shoot. And maybe avoid booking a shoot in Movember month if you are participating – yes, this happens and the regrets are real! Regards shiny skin, especially foreheads, wash your face just before the shoot or indeed wiping with a wet wipe is as effective. Haircuts are best done a few days before.
WOMEN– if you do wear make up, remember to bring it into work with you to apply. The number of times I hear that someone forgot the photographer was coming in is countless! Not forgetting a little foundation in case the lights show up shiny skin. Also, bring a hairbrush and some hair spray in as you want your hair to look perfect and not messy or fly away. Haircuts are best done a few days before to allow them to settle, unless of course the hairdresser is styling your hair specifically for the shoot.
Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and get to the place of your shoot so that you arrive feeling relaxed and ready. I’ve had clients having a crazy day and it does reflect in the photos – when you think these could be in circulation for a good few years, take time before the shoot to just breathe at least.
Don’t worry about this at all. It’s the photographer’s job to guide you on how best to pose as they are the ones looking through the lens. Many times I’ve had people tell me which their ‘good side’ is but I gently ask them to let me try both sides and often they are genuinely surprised to find that the other side is better! Everyone is different – some look great face on, others look great with their body angled one way or the other. We’re all unique which is what makes us all so wonderful.
A business portrait is something we all need doing if we’re in business but it doesn’t have to be a serious and painful process. Find a photographer who you gel with, chat to them over the phone or meet for a coffee, it’s important you get on with them so you feel relaxed in their company. Personally I make it as relaxed and fun as possible – my job is to put you at ease and get the best, most relaxed photos that depict your personality and are just ‘you’. If you don’t have that luxury then take a mate into the session with you, just someone who you can have a laugh with and take the edge off the nerves.
I hope the advice I’ve given makes having a portrait done less daunting for you. Just remember, a beautiful smile lights up the eyes – and the eyes are the window to our souls
You can find more examples of my business portraits here.