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If you are a business professional who works with photographers… Start Here!

Blog posts by their nature get pushed down as new articles are added.

While we would like to think that everything we write has value and is useful, we do have some foundational articles aimed at professionals who work with photographers. We want to ensure that this “evergreen” content remains visible and accessible.

A Brief Index to Helpful Content

Here’s a short list of articles we feel are of particular value to business professionals whose job involves working with professional photographers.

Related to Business “Head Shot” Portraits

Setting Up a Photo Session

Other Topics

Goodbye, Necktie?

Goodby, necktie?

From my perspective as a corporate portrait photographer, it is fascinating to observe this sea change.

Once upon a time, a business portrait was always composed as a vertical rectangle… and the background was always a solid, dark gray paper… and men always wore jackets and ties. Even if they didn't customarily wear a tie in real life in the office.

None of that can be assumed anymore!

  • Website bio photos might be displayed as horizontal, or square, or even circular images.
  • Backgrounds might be a solid tone (and it might be white instead of dark gray), but many of our clients today prefer a window looking out to an urban setting as a background. Some even provide environmental background images, on to which I need to composite a subject during the retouching phase.
  • Jackets or blazers for men still seem a sort of standard (thankfully, because shirts by themselves always look rumpled), but ties… maybe not

In a career-first, I recently had to tie a necktie for a young law firm associate. To be fair to the young man, he joined the Firm during the work-from-home era and clearly tying a necktie wasn't a priority. He showed up with tie in hand, and I tied it for him.

So… ties.

I surmise this relaxation of business attire formality is a consequence of the hybrid or fully remote workplace necessitated by the COVID pandemic. Jokes about neckties abound this year, with a common refrain being that ties are now only pulled out of the closet for weddings or funerals.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. Neckties have their issues for a photographer who rarely has the benefit of a stylist to help. I have straightened and tightened a lot of ties over the years, either in person or with Photoshop after the fact, so maybe I'll be fretting less about that detail. But now we have open collars that point in different directions, glimpses of t-shirts, and now and then a tuft of hair to address as diplomatically as we can.

Some clients have asked to have two options for men – with and without a tie. I don't know how they decide which image to use for what purpose.

Some clients have left it optional, at the discretion of the subject.

Whatever the standards are in your workplace, I recommend you express it clearly to your team before photo day. And I'd like to know, too, so I know what to say if and when someone sits in front of my camera with an open collar shirt.

Necktie or not, I still recommend a jacket or blazer for male subjects. This adds at least a suggestion of business formality as well as some helpful crispness and contrast.

Masks and Manners, Spring 2022


As of April 2022, our corporate clients appear to be relaxing somewhat with regard to COVID concern. Our valued, long-standing clients are returning to office life and now need to catch up with an extensive backlog of business portraits.

This is wonderful!
We all know COVID hasn't gone away and there's still that lingering social awkwardness regarding masks.
Should I wear a mask, or shouldn't I?
If you notice me wearing a mask (not realizing that it's out of courtesy for you), do you suddenly feel like you should put yours on (for me)?

Awkward is almost an understatement.
Here's how the FayFoto Boston team is handling it.

  • We still arrive at a client's location wearing a mask, and we ask what the client is comfortable with. This is a moving target, because what might have been the case on a previous assignment might not be the case on the current assignment.
  • If the prevailing understanding within a given office is that masks are at the discretion of the individual, we will probably remove ours, certainly during set up and break down when we're alone.
  • But if our contact indicates that, regardless of the overall office policy, a specific individual would be more comfortable if we are masked we don't ask questions. Our mask goes on. Absolutely.

Everyone I have interacted with this Spring (2022) has ruefully acknowledged the lingering social awkwardness of mask wearing.
Everyone has seemed to appreciate my cautious and courtious gesture.
Almost everyone has indicated they are comfortable with us unmasked, but not everyone.

We recognize that COVID isn't gone.
Even for vaccinated and boostered people.
We recognize that we are an outside vendor, a service provider.
It only makes sense to err on the side of caution and respect.

When you book your next assignment with FayFoto Boston, don't hesitate to let us know what your specific professional community's policy is regarding mask wearing.

The Team Has Been Vaccinated

The FayFoto Boston Team Has Been Vaccinated!

We are pleased to announce that the core members of FayFoto Boston have all received first and second vaccinations.

still life photo of camera, laptop computer, and hand sanitizerAlthough receiving our vaccinations is a huge milestone for us personally, masks and hand sanitizer aren’t a thing of the past. Please be assured that that client safety continues to be very important to the FayFoto Boston team. Although we have safely completed numerous assignments in the last year, we will continue to respect and abide by our clients’ specific protocols.

When conducting portrait assignments at client locations, interpersonal contact is limited to the person who escorts us to the room we work in and, of course, the individual(s) being photographed. Our photographers will continue to wear a mask throughout the assignment. We know to maintain a proper distance when showing the individuals their photos on our laptop for selections.

We are happy to answer any additional questions you may have. We are looking forward to working with you and your team when you get back into your office.

group photo of ribbon cutting ceremony
It is great to be back working and interacting with our clients!

Reactions When Viewing Portrait Images

Reactions When Viewing Portrait Images

I readily admit that it’s very difficult to be objective when viewing a photo of yourself. We are nevertheless frequently put in a position where we need to ask a subject to not only look at the photos we have collected at a portrait session but, even harder, to pick the one he or she likes the best.

Hardly anyone says “Wow, don’t I look great?” because that would of course imply vanity.

When asked if I can add hair, or remove years or pounds, I smile and say, as diplomatically as possible, I left that filter back at the office.

Family resemblances are frequently noted. (“Wow, I’m looking at my Dad there.”)

Bad experiences with previous portraits also surface. (“Don’t make me look like a sack of rocks as I did in my last photo.”)

After hearing innumerable initial responses, nearly all of them humorous in a self-deprecating way, I decided to start a little list of my favorites. The one-liners are the most fun.

  • Impish
  • Tired
  • Disturbing
  • Coy
  • Shifty
  • Possessed
  • Deer in headlights

I just smile, say encouraging things, take some more photos, and nearly every time the subject comes to terms with what he or she is seeing.

While We Wait

While We Wait

Staying Fresh, Staying Connected

Looking back at 2020, looking forward to 2021

A personal essay by Steve Nelson, one of the FayFoto Boston team.

What does an assignment-based corporate photographer do to stay connected with his or her tools and craft during an extended season in which there are… very few assignments?

As we approach the end of 2020, a lot of service providers continue to face that question.

There were of course opportunities to do home improvement projects, and I did plenty of those. But my personal identity is bound to my career as a photographer, and I settled on that career because I derive immense satisfaction from creating images. Especially collaboratively, with others.

When it became clear that this Pandemic wasn’t going to be a week or two thing I started, and stuck with, a photo of the day discipline, posting daily to a small audience on Instagram. This was intended to keep me connected to and proficient with my tools.

This discipline has proven to be satisfying creatively, but it is very different from the experience and business of portrait and product photography. Flowers and trees don’t have opinions about what they look like, or would like to look like.

So I reactivated a dormant project – setting up environmental portraits of friends. These were very deliberate portrait sessions, not casual candids. I admit I was uncomfortable asking, given the prevailing concerns surrounding contagion, but no one I asked declined. On the contrary, I was surprised to find that most seemed to welcome the request.

This informal project, unencumbered by the constraints of consistency and uniformity we adhere to for repeat clients, has given me an opportunity to experiment with lighting, and to adapt to different location situations.

Asking a friend to sit for a portrait is unusual. For me anyway.

Every one of these sessions feels a little weird initially, but I know this personal stretch will benefit my commercial work when that resumes.

Speaking of resuming… When you and your team are ready to resume, you can bet I’ll be ready. Please reach out. I have a good mask, and I’m ready to go!


six examples of informal environmental portraits
Environmental portraits of some of Steve Nelson’s friends taken during the extended business slowdown due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Oh, hello…

Eastern Milk Snake

The vast majority of FayFoto Boston’s work takes place in our clients’ office. That’s still the case, even in the present era of Covid-19. But with more staff working from home than ever before, the definition of office has become less defined.

Our photographer Lee headed off recently to do a headshot and personal branding assignment at the client’s home. Lee put together our standard setup inside, with studio lights and a background. Once the “standard” portraits were done, he was asked to do some more informal variations outside.

As Lee, the subject, and the subject’s spouse approached the porch, they disturbed an unexpected fourth party.
Lee later identified it as a harmless Eastern Milk Snake, but its brief presence did inject some adrenaline into the assignment.

As Lee tells the story, the snake scurried under the porch as the three humans approached. This was no big deal for Lee, but the homeowners were less than thrilled.

It’s a funny anecdote after the fact, but it points to the reality that today’s committed businesses are adapting to address client needs. FayFoto is one of those committed businesses.

Oh, and good for Lee, who had the presence of mind to capture an environmental portrait of an unexpected subject!

Covid-19 Safety Protocol Statement

To Our Existing and Future Contacts and Clients:

Please be assured that we will be doing everything we can to ensure the safety of your team.

It’s a strange new environment in which to do business which involves direct contact with people.
But that’s the business FayFoto is in, and that’s what you have relied on us for in the past.
We want to be sure you know we take the Covid-19 environment very seriously. Your safety is at the forefront of our mind.

First, we want to know what your specific workplace safety protocols are, so we can anticipate and meet them with a minimum of delay on the day of a photo session. Any documentation you can provide will be added to the records we keep internally.

Even without that client-specific information, you can be assured of the following:

  • We will bring only the minimum amount of equipment necessary into your environment
  • We will wear a face mask while interacting with your team members.
  • Only one member of the FayFoto team will be present at an assignment. No assistant, no stylist. If a specific assignment requires additional personnel for any reason, you will be notified in advance.
  • Our team works out of our own homes now, so we don’t gather together physically. If one of us feels ill another will be available to cover your assignment.
  • We won’t touch your team members, even to pat down hair, straighten neckties, or greet with a handshake.
  • We will do everything possible to maintain safe distance while reviewing portrait captures. If necessary, we will email proofsheets instead of asking subjects to make a selection at the photo session.

It honestly feels so strange to have to express what should be  commonsense points explicitly, but we do want each of our clients and contacts to know that we have thought through the present and future workflow thoroughly. It’s not going to be as easy or as casual as it was, but we are prepared to do what it takes in order to provide the reliable photography you have counted on in the past.

Looking Back During Covid-19 Days

NE Boat Show overview, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

Once Upon a Time

I write this a little over a month into the great, global shut-down provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The photo accompanying this article was taken by our staff photographer Lee, who did what he needed to do to capture an amazing photo in spite of an acute distaste for heights. Shown is an overall of the New England Boat Show which took place in February, in the main exhibit floor of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

On April 10 this facility was converted into a 1,000-bed field hospital.

It’s astonishing that, in such a short space of time, we’re looking at images of crowds with nostalgia.

The good old days of a month ago.

The word “unprecedented” and the phrase “the new normal” have begun to grate on me, and I currently hear each multiple times a day. I guess I’ll have to get over it, because there are no more descriptive or evocative words for our present situation.

I’m a pretty hands-on portrait photographer. If a subject’s hair is messy, I pat it down. If a necktie is loose, I give it a tug. If a jacket sleeve is bunched up, I pull it smooth. I wonder what my new normal is going to be?

I’m happy to report that the staff of FayFoto are all well, and we sincerely hope the same is true for you. We are riding this out along with everyone else. We intend to be here for you for a long time. We miss interacting with our regular clients, and we are anxious to work with you. Give us a call as soon as it is safe to do so!


I'll end 2019 with a quick story.

In our day-to-day work at FayFoto Boston we mostly photograph real people. Civilians, as opposed to actors or celebrities or professional models.

Many of these real people are uncomfortable being photographed by a stranger in an oddly formal context. Some have never had a professional headshot taken before. All are acutely aware of the importance of looking like the ideal version of themselves, and are grappling with whatever that means.

I'm used to this. I arrive in a situation with some expectations of my own. I expect at some point I'll be asked if I can add hair, or erase pounds or years, or make a bank branch manager look like George Clooney. (I'm not making any of this up.)

Even so, as I was smoothing down a female executive's stray and flyaway hairs and straightening her necklace recently, I was a bit taken aback when she commented "You must judge people all day long."

"Oh goodness no," I replied quickly and with what I hoped was reassuring earnestness. "I never judge, though I'll admit I do evaluate."

"Zhoosh," she said. "You must zhoosh people all day long."

When we both stopped laughing at my misunderstanding I agreed that yes, I do a fair bit of zhooshing, both during and after the photo session.

It's what we do. It's as much a part of a business headshot as lighting and exposure.

I hope you'll consider asking FayFoto Boston to treat your staff and coworkers to a little zhooshing in the year to come.

Happy New Year!


Client specifications

collage of lighting diagrams

Client Specifications

Please note that this article is directed at corporate clients. We’re accustomed to getting a tight layout from advertising agencies. We are less likely to interact with a creative director in the day-to-day interactions with corporate marketing and practice development professionals.

This topic is on my mind because this year we had one client unhappy over an apparent misunderstanding about who was supposed to silhouette the subject (the client or the photographer), one new client who didn’t have a clear idea of what would best suit their various needs, one client for whom the background brightness and color specification turned out to be exact and inflexible, and one new-ish client who asked to have revised files because they neglected to mention that their primary presentation is a circular crop.

FayFoto Boston takes pains to provide images which meet client needs. Almost none of our clients need the same thing, so today I’m thinking about how those requirements can be developed and communicated.

Matching or Developing a Style Spec

What do you need from your photographer? At FayFoto Boston this matters, because we’re in the business of giving you what you need. If you know your requirements in concrete terms, and can communicate that to your photographer, the odd are better that you’ll get what you need on the first try.

Long ago in the days of film…

…when a 5×7 black and white print was ubiquitous (at least for business headshot portraits), things were less complicated.

In today’s digital era, with so much marketing taking place on the internet and with every website striving to be at least a little bit unique, conventions don’t exist like they used to.

If I’m expecting you to use a portrait as a traditional vertical rectangle, cropping a bit into the shoulders, but your design presents bio photos in a circle (or, even more unexpected, a horizontal rectangle), what I send you might not be ideal unless you tell me in advance.

How does a client convey specifications to a photographer?

The information our clients provide comes in various ways.

  • Sometimes we’re provided with a detailed specification in the form of a PDF document developed by the client’s creative department. (One of our clients, bless them, took this up a notch by providing a clear cropping guide in the form of a Photoshop file, including clear guides for head size and placement. Amazing.)
  • Sometimes we’re shown an image to match, or a URL to reference.
  • Sometimes we’re asked to make a recommendation.

If you are a new contact, reaching out to FayFoto Boston for the first time, expect to be asked what you need for a final product. If you don’t know, see if you can find who does. Failing that, we have some generic defaults.

Generic vs. Specific

If we aren’t given any specifications, our default for a business headshot portrait is to photograph the subject against a charcoal gray background, and send a JPEG file saved as a vertical rectangle at 4×6 inches at 300 dpi. That default works well for general PR usage but…

  • unless you have someone in-house who can resize an image, that’s quite large for a web page,
  • gray might not match preexisting portraits on your website, and
  • a vertical rectangle might not be the ideal shape. Why? Because if it turns out you need a square (or a circle) and we have cropped to a nice vertical rectangle, the rectangular crop might not leave you with enough room on the sides to get a comfortable square crop.

Providing Multiple Versions

It’s not at all uncommon for our clients to request multiple versions of each finished image. For example, we might provide a square crop for a LinkedIn profile, another version for a web bio page and a third for print and press releases. We can give you just about anything you need if we know what that is, preferably before taking the pictures!

FayFoto Boston will help develop a spec if your marketing department doesn’t have one

Here’s a bit of reality: every client has a specification, even if our direct contact doesn’t know what that is.

It saves everyone time if you can clearly communicate your needs for final product in advance, before the photo session.

Absent a clear specification, we are more than happy to make suggestions. Here’s one example we proposed to a new client. For each selected image, we will provide the following variations:

  • 500px square for LinkedIn, “LastName_FirstName-linkedin”
  • 200x300px for web use, “LastName_FirstName-web”
  • 4”x6” at print resolution for press releases and media distribution, “LastName_FirstName-print”

Bottom Line

In order to get what you need from your photographer most efficiently it’s critical that you share your requirements clearly. And if you don’t have requirements, ask your photographer for recommendations or live with that photographer’s best guess. If your business is in the metropolitan-Boston area and you need portraits of your team, we invite you to get in touch. We know this discipline, and we’re happy to provide you with exactly what you need!

Getting to “Yes” with a Business Portrait

Wayne reviews portrait options with subject

I should state right from the beginning that, unlike our colleagues who serve the editorial or advertising markets, in most cases our business portraits are taken without the direct supervision of an art director. We often receive detailed style guidelines from a creative director, but most of the on-site interaction occurs directly between the subject and the photographer.

This means that, under normal circumstances, the subject and the photographer work together at the time of the photo session to arrive at a selected image which is then optimized at our office and sent to our contact for publication. (There are exceptions, such as when we have to photograph a lot of subjects in a short timeframe. This article deals with the more common business head shot portrait assignment in which we have the luxury of 10-15 minutes with each subject.)

How do we make this work?

The majority of our business headshot portraits these days are taken with the camera attached to a portable computer. This allows us to invite the subject to review and select his or her favorite right then, at the time of the photo session. (See ”Why” below.)

We work with a lot of senior-level executives. These executives have important things to be doing, and “picture day” is pretty low on the priority list. Given that we typically have 10-15 minutes with a subject, this means we somehow have to get to a yes in a short period of time. How we get there is as much of an art as is the lighting and the choice of lens.

With rare exceptions, the average subject shows up announcing that he or she would prefer dental surgery over sitting for a business portrait. We get it – it’s awkward and intimidating to stand in front of a stranger while trying to present your ideal persona in a photo which may represent you for years. But by now we have heard this so many times we don’t get discouraged. We bring positive energy to the situation.

Personally, I don't fire away, taking dozens or even hundreds of pictures, hoping that the odds will be with me and at least one will look good.

Usually between 15-20 exposures are enough, with pauses along the way every 6 to 8 shots to evaluate what's happening and allowing for course corrections based on what the subject and I are seeing.

That’s an average of course. For some, as few as 8 is plenty. The most it has ever taken me is 150. (Seriously.)

My colleagues and I at FayFoto Boston do this a lot. We bring confidence and enthusiasm to the situation. And yes, we make flattering and encouraging remarks (“You look good today!”) And yes, we coach the subject (“Shoulders are great, but turn your head a little this way”).

Lee reviews portrait captures with subject
Lee reviews portrait captures with subject
Then we sit the subject down at the laptop and a little bond develops. This isn’t a smart phone snapshot – he or she does look good, because we have lit them well. But if the subject isn’t happy we make it clear we’ll keep working. Once the subject realizes
that he or she can have some input on the outcome
that this experience is a collaboration, a partnership…
that we are here to make her or him look amazing…
a truly palpable change in the energy and relationship emerges.

I have observed that my colleagues prefer to take pictures until they are satisfied they have captured some great images. They then sit with subject to identify the one. Personally, I prefer to start off with fewer preliminary photos and show them to the subject right away, to get a baseline. Either way, the process allows us to experiment with variables such as

  • whether to go with our without glasses,
  • whether that sweater or wrap works, or
  • whether a woman prefers her hair arranged one way or the other.

Why select on-site?

We work with busy professionals. The highly optimized approach described above has evolved over years to meet time and workflow expectations.

  • Our contacts are generally keen to get the finished image quickly. Having the selections right away means we can start post production right away.
  • Our contacts are not interested in pouring over dozens of options for each subject.
  • For most subjects, the motivation to make a selection immediately dwindles to zero when they are given the option of deciding later.
  • It is extremely efficient for the subject to select at the time of the session. Contrary to what you might imagine, the best image turns out to be pretty easy to spot.

When it doesn’t work

The process described above works beautifully more than 96% of the time.
But what happens if the subject experiences what I call “decision remorse?”
Or if the subject’s spouse, or mother, or best friend snickers at the selection?
Well, that’s why we never discard anything usable. Blinks and half-blinks are tossed; the rest of the images from an assignment are archived along with the selected images. A proof sheet of additional options from the session can be generated to allow the subject a second chance at deciding. This doesn’t happen often, but it happens often enough that we have learned to keep the out takes.

Get in touch

If this workflow appears to be better suited to your needs than what you are currently experiencing, FayFoto Boston is easy to get in touch with. We would love to have a conversation.

File Size: What website maintainers should ask their website developers

Photoshop jpeg compression setting dialog


How Much Should Your Photographer Think For You?

( tl;dr: Ask your website developer for an optimal image size in kilobytes; then share that with your photographer )

When shooting for an ad agency, I would never crop too tightly, sharpen very much, or compress an image. The expectation is that someone downstream from me is going to do additional work on the file, and that professional will expect some latitude to work with.

Expectations are different with our corporate clients. The file I send will very likely be posted to a website immediately, exactly as I sent it. The expectation in this case is that the file we send should be ready to use, as-is.

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