Sunday Treat, a video production company in London asked me recently to join them on a job for SmartCo Consultancy. Sunday Treat were making interviews with the staff and filming during some of their meetings. They asked me if I would provide website photography & creative headshots – taking several headshots, a couple of group photos and stills during a meeting. My brother is a sound mixer who has worked with them before and he kindly recommended me to them. It’s always a nice change to work with a team and the Sunday Treat guys were great to work with.
SmartCo wanted two group photos: one of everyone who had come in that day and another for International Women’s Day. They also wanted some stills of a meeting being held for their website. I needed to match the headshots to some that had been done previously by another photographer. The Director gave me some examples as reference so I knew which elements of my mobile studio to bring. It’s so important to have that information before the shoot day to be prepared and do a good job.
The key to delivering is having a clear idea of what the client expects. I usually work directly with the client and send out a questionnaire to find out what their requirements are. This includes background, lighting and the overall look and feel. I also find out the room size allocated to the shoot so I know how much kit will fit. As I was working with Sunday Treat the process was different but they were great communicating all the necessary information.
Headshot photography is often very similar from job to job. Usually companies need good quality head and shoulder images of their staff against a plain background. Sometimes though, clients ask me to capture something a bit different. For SmartCo they wanted three images each: a standard corporate headshot with arms folded, an environmental portrait and a ‘fun’ shot. Most people shudder immediately they hear the words ‘fun shot’ as it’s daunting enough to have a standard headshot done. Having then to do a fun or silly pose makes most people feel even more self-conscious. This is always a challenge and where the ‘soft skills’ element of being a photographer comes into play.
The Art of Headshot Photography
Part of headshot and portrait photography is being able to put people at ease. A good headshot has to be flattering and show the person off at their best. Forced smiles and uncomfortable postures just don’t work. Therefore it’s important to make the subject feel as relaxed as possible. I like to have a little chat with them, often while ‘changing settings’. It’s about trying to tap in to who they are and what interests them. This can be tricky in a short space of time and some people are willing to chat more than others. So sometimes you have to crack a joke to make them briefly forget they’re doing something they’d rather avoid!
I used the examples the Director gave me to match the headshots to the ones previously taken. SmartCo had allocated a good sized meeting room for the headshots so I had lots of space. They wanted a white background for the headshots which I lit evenly either side with two softboxes. Using one large octobox as the main light gave a nice shadows fall-off with a reflector underneath for fill. I always shoot tethered so my clients can make their selections there and then:
Here are a few of the standard headshots:
For the ‘fun’ headshots, I was able to use the examples from the previous photographer to show each person the kind of thing we needed to capture. Like I said, some people found this easier than others and responded well to my attempts to bring out a natural smile. Some went a bit crazier than others but it was fun in the end! I was pretty pleased with how they turned out. Here are a few:
Clients often think I’m talking about conservation when I refer to environmental portraits! SmartCo wanted portraits of each person in their office environment but we were a bit short on options. I tried a couple in the break-out area but the ambient light was rubbish. So I opted for the small space by the lifts which had an armchair and a table and full height windows. This was the best area on offer so we went with that, using only window light and a reflector for fill:
I chose the break-out area for the group photos as I could arrange people on and around a sofa. Pretty straightforward setup using the large octobox at about 15ft away at high power for a good, even distribution of light:
The staff were holding a meeting and wanted video and some candid stills for their website and branding. I popped in after finishing the headshots to grab some mid-chat:
It was great to work with Sunday Treat and be part of a team instead of a one-man-band. They were very professional and a friendly bunch to work with. SmartCo were very accommodating and good sports when it came to the headshots. It’s great to be asked to provide several aspects of photography for one company. Providing website photography & creative headshots is something that gives consistency and is an efficient way of getting your professional branding done.