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 oftentimes 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 of the shoot, the important thing is to come away with images the clients like and can use to market themselves successfully.
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.
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.