Evolving Business Portrait Background Styles

It used to be easy…

Not that long ago a “business portrait” meant placing the subject in front of a roll of Thunder Gray studio background paper.

Times change, and so do styles. Although we still do many, perhaps the majority, of our business portraits in front of a studio background, today it’s not unusual for a client (or a client’s designer or brand manager) to prefer an environmental setting instead of a solid tone studio background.

What environment?

Sometimes an “environmental setting” is inside the client’s office with a softly focussed suggestion of a nicely appointed corporate setting in the background.

More often though, an “environmental setting” puts the subject in front of a large window with something interesting in the background. In Boston’s urban setting, that something is often adjoining office towers, suggesting the upscale, urban setting the client inhabits.

We’re in the business of meeting client expectations, of saying “yes.” So of course we do our best. When it works, it can be quite effective.


When it doesn’t work… we do our best to meet the intention.

Environmental backgrounds come with some constraints you should consider.

Office interior setting

Individual offices tend to be too small to back up, and to set up lights.
Subjects are inconvenienced by having to relocate current project documents.

Moving out into common space or a conference room helps, but do give some thought to whether you are willing to have a portrait session happening in your public space, especially when clients might be present.

Also, we suggest you give some thought to whether your subjects are likely to be comfortable being the object of attention not only of your photographer but also of their co-workers.

Outside setting

When I say outside I don’t mean that literally. (Conditions out of your control such as wind, rain, construction vehicles, and direct sun would make that a nightmare!) I mean in front of a large window, with “outside” in the background.

In nearly all cases, portrait sessions are scheduled at the subjects’ convenience, not the atmospheric conditions. Weather and time of day play a dramatic role. When you have managed to reserve time on three or six or more busy executives’ calendars, plus a photographer, you can’t really change plans on short notice because the weather is dreary.

Does it matter to you if one day a subject has a clear blue sky in the background and another day another subject is in front of a pea-soup fog? (Believe me, I have seen both, for the same client, in the same room!)

Remember that from late fall to early spring, when we don’t observe Daylight Savings Time, it’s getting too dark to see much outside by about 3:30.

Also don’t forget that if you office isn’t 20+ stories in the air, and if you see lovely foliage outside your windows in June, that lovely foliage is going to look bleak when you need to schedule a portrait session in February.

Post Production

At least one of our clients addressed these issues by supplying us with a half dozen “stock” backgrounds. We capture the subject against a solid background but place that individual on one of these supplied backgrounds in post production. We charge more for this service, but it neatly sidesteps the problems mentioned above.

In the case of regular clients who do prefer a window view but who have not provided us with a stock background, I have made a point to capture one or two views of the background at an assignment before or after the subject arrives. This turned out to be very helpful one recent winter when we were dealing with back-to-back nor’-easter storms.

Bottom line

We’ll do our best to meet your style requirements. We understand that environmental settings are currently popular. This choice comes with some cautions, though. Your designer will, for all the right reasons, present prototypes under the best possible circumstances. You won’t always have the best circumstances in real life. FayFoto Boston photographers have a lot of experience rolling with whatever challenges Mother Nature offers and dealing with the issues windows present. We are committed to doing what we can to make your design specifications work.

Ask to see examples

We’re selective about what we post to our web site but we welcome a conversation about how we can best meet your company’s needs. Get in touch!