Evolving Business Portrait Background Styles

collage of views used as business portrait background

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.

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Keeping Track of Client Details

Whatever the business term is for a business that’s smaller than a small business, that’s what FayFoto Boston is. We have a full-time staff of three. However, even three is a lot more complicated than one when it comes to saving, retrieving, and sharing information each of us know individually. We have many of the same needs as any of our larger small business colleagues. We just don’t have the resources for enterprise-level solutions. Consequently, to keep chaos at bay we have developed numerous DIY solutions.

Client Preferences

We operate in the B2B sector. We don’t offer packages as a wedding or family portrait studio might. Every one of our clients has a slightly different preference, either for background, or file size, or both. It’s not uncommon for a client to ask for two, four, or even more variations for each selected portrait image. Web, print, LinkedIn, color, grayscale… Each with specific pixel dimensions, and often at different aspect ratios. And each variation has to have a consistent file name to indicate unambiguously what it is. (“lastname-firstname_web.jpg” or “Firstname-Lastname_print.jpg” for example.)

In other words… instead of telling our clients what they can have, our clients tell us what they need. And it’s on us to deliver that repeatedly and consistently.

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Managing a Successful Group Photo

empty room waiting for group to arrive

A group photo is like a piece of performance art

I personally find group photos at once terrifying and exhilarating.

If you have never observed a professional photographer organize and capture a group photo, let me outline the stages so that remark makes sense.

The Stages of a Group Photo

  • Your photographer arrives early to get ready. The set is empty.
  • People gradually assemble and make small talk. There is amiable chaos.
  • Your photographer encourages people to pay attention, and starts to arrange people by height so faces aren’t obscured. (This stage is often humorously described as “herding cats.”)
  • Chaos gradually diminishes and the group quiets down.
  • Your photographer fine tunes the placement of subjects.
  • For 5 or maybe 7 minutes there is an splendid sense of order.
  • After the last exposure, people mill about, resume conversations, and gradually drift away. Chaos resumes.
  • The set is empty. Your photographer packs up and departs.

It’s predictable, and yet it’s magic every time I witness it.

Why would you want a group photo?

University reunion groupFayFoto is called to do groups for, among other things, College and University reunions, graduating classes, professional organizations, business units, award recipients, and workshop attendees.

What can you do to ensure that a group photo goes smoothly?

Advance Planning makes all the difference. Following are some key areas to consider when planning and preparing for a group photograph.

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Your Expression Matters

a grid of various degrees of smile in portrait images

Should I smile?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to business head shot portraits. The subject has already wrestled with what to wear by the time he or she arrives to face our camera. Concerns about expression, however, don’t generally surface until the last minute. That concern is, specifically, whether it's okay to smile.

Some subjects come into the set smiling, and it’s clear we couldn’t ask this person not to smile. But not everybody wants to smile. Some subjects are self-conscious about teeth, or dimples, or eyes that close up when they smile. Some feel it’s fine for Facebook but undignified for work. Some are self-conscious because they have been told by friends or loved ones that they look goofy when they smile “for the camera.”

On occasion, a subject will arrive announcing that he or she wants to look fierce. As in "I want to look like a tough and intimidating lawyer."

Our Answer

I tell subjects “Yes, most of your colleagues do smile, but I haven’t been told it’s mandatory. Consider who is going to be looking at these images. Most of the time it will be a potential client or customer, not your business or courtroom adversary. You want to look like someone I’d consider spending a day in a conference room with.”

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How to Give an Award

How to Give an Award

Alternately titled:

Giving awards with your photographer in mind

Recognizing your team by giving awards is an important way of expressing the value your company places on achievements or other contributions. Sharing these moments on the company website or newsletter or press release is an important way of sharing. With just a little bit of foresight you can improve the odds of getting great photos of your award presentation.

You might be the presenter. Your might be the event coordinator, needing to “coach” the presenter. Whatever your situation, you probably want usable photographs of the award presentations or you wouldn’t be reading this article. We have witnessed great award presentations and hopeless ones (from the point of view of the photographer), so here are a few tips.

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What to wear for a business head shot portrait

collage of various business portrait wardrobe choices

What to wear for a business portrait

This is probably our second most asked question (second only to “what will it cost?” and maybe “when are you available?”).

We only have one universal response, and that is “unless your work attire demands it, avoid solid white.” If you are a chef or a lab technician or a physician you might need to wear solid white. Otherwise, if you don’t need to, please don’t. Getting a good exposure for a normal complexion generally causes solid white garments to wash out. That being said, a white shirt or blouse or dress under a darker jacket is almost always fine.

I’ll get into some more detail in a moment, but our second generalized response is “wear something you feel good in.” Seriously, if you’re feeling good – confident and professional – that will reflect in the appearance you project.

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