I had the good fortune to shoot portraits for an automotive supplier, Inergy, several weeks ago. The assignment was to photograph individual head-shots of approximately one-hundred-and-fifty people against a seamless backdrop. In addition, I was to photograph key members of their enterprise in environmental backgrounds.
I really enjoy photographing executives within an environment. It adds challenges to the shoot, both logistically and creatively. It requires fast work and quick thinking to produce a quality image that clients will appreciate. The backdrop here is cut-away vehicle fuel tanks!
Not all executive and corporate portraits are the traditional type. On occasion I’m requested to photograph business owners in their real-life environment. In the photograph shown below, I was assigned to portray a father and son team, literally in the field. They are the owners of Besse Forest Products Group, headquartered in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The four-day photo shoot gave me the opportunity to work once again in my home state of Wisconsin, as their lumber mill holdings stretch from my adopted state of Michigan to the northern hardwoods of the Badger state. We photographed traditional portraits as well, along with many photos of their lumber mill operations in four different cities.
Not all executive portrait shoots are the “head and shoulder” variety. I was hired by the pharmaceutical firm McKesson to photograph a conference in downtown Detroit. I did have the opportunity to photograph several members’ portraits in a private room setting with strobe lighting and seamless backdrop. But along with the traditional executive portrait assignment, I was asked to photograph the conference event from a candid perspective.
I enjoyed the diversity that the project allowed. Executives come in all shapes and sizes, and photography can and should be as diverse as the subjects that I’m hired to portray.
I recently did a photography session for Morgan Stanley, the investment firm. It was a mix of traditional executive portraits plus candid photographs of the executive team in their work environment. I especially enjoy shooting candids because of the freedom it allows me. Instead of the studio-style lighting that I create for portraits, I often times shoot hand-held using ambient light.
If time permits and I have the luxury of working with a photo assistant, we’ll do a mix of ambient along with strobe lighting. Regardless of the technical aspects to the shoot, the important thing is to come away with images the clients like and can use to market themselves successfully.
When an executive hires me to photograph them for a business portrait, they are relying on my expertise to show them in their best light. Their images may be used for company brochures, a bio in an upcoming press release, or for their own website in hopes of attracting new business. I’ve discovered that its the subtleties in expression that can make a corporate business owner seem approachable or as in this case, confident.
During an executive portrait session, I’ll often share with my subject captures that I’ve made so they too can view those subtle changes, and more often than not, they are enlightened to the process and are willing to refocus on a look that will benefit them.
When photographing executive headshots, one of the key things to keep in mind is that their time is precious. Typically I am given a short window to create a portrait, and knowing that, I like to arrive at least an hour early to begin my lighting set-up. In situations where I haven’t had the opportunity to scout the headshot location beforehand, I’ll arrive even earlier.
Plymouth CEO Headshot
When photographing this CEO, I was told upon arrival that I would only have twenty minutes to set up his headshot and that he would be available to me for only a few minutes. Staying cool and calm under pressure is no easy task but it’s essential in order to get the job done. This executive was a gem and ended up staying on set for two hours! We photographed him on multiple sets and actually accomplished more than we had originally anticipated. A pleasurable experience for all.
There’s an old adage that says you only get one chance at making a good first impression. There are variations to that theme, but as a professional portrait photographer, I am whole-heartedly in agreement with it. With the proliferation of inexpensive digital cameras along with decent quality camera phones, there seems to be a tendency to use what I’ll call “grab shots” in lieu of professionally photographed portraits. It’s probably fine for one’s FaceBook headshot, but I find more and more business executives hiring Blue Sky Photography to photograph them for their LinkedIn page, company bios, business cards, and websites.
Detroit Executive Portraits
These businessmen and women have a desire to stand out from their competition and are willing to invest a bit of their time and money to achieve those results. They realize hiring a commercial portrait photographer may give them an edge, and more importantly, they know that in the competitive business world we live in, it is essential to make a great first and lasting impression.