Choosing a photographer
For business portraits, it’s best to hire a professional. Sure, if you have a family member with a decent camera who knows their stuff, you can probably hang a sheet up and get a servicable shot. All of my profile pictures have been done by friends who are hobby photographers … but then, I’ve never run a hugely-successful company, so take that with a grain of salt.
Remember that photographers have different specialties - some do weddings, others do product shots. You’re looking for someone who specialises in portraits or corporate photography. If you don’t know where to start looking, ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations. Chances are someone has had to use a photographer before, and can probably give you a name.
Failing that, turn to the websites of your favourite local businesses and look for shots that speak to you. In the footer of their website it should say who did the photography. Failing that, simply contact the business and ask them.
Choosing Your Backdrop
Before you book your session, have a think about what you want the backdrop of your images to be. Most corporate headshots are done against a white or (less commonly) a black background, but you may also choose a colourful background, like a wall of funky wallpaper, or even standing in your office or showroom.
Think about what you are using the photograph for, and what message you’d like to send. A plain white background shows that you're professional, while a picture in your office makes you look connected and involved in the business. A fun background will show that you’re modern and funky.
Most photographers will have access to a studio where they can get great shots on a white or black background. Otherwise, they can come to your premises or another location, but you may incur an additional fee for their travel and equipment.
What to Wear?
By far the hardest decision is what you should wear. First of all, and the goth in me is not happy to hear it, is that black is no good. Black fades together and makes you look as if your body is completely flat. Also, avoid loud and busy patterns that may become the focal point of the images instead of you. Another thing to avoid is white or any colour that approaches your skin tone, as they can make you look naked.
Beyond that, pretty much anything goes - don’t go shopping for new clothes unless you really have nothing. Instead, choose an outfit you already own that makes you feel confident and successful … your “power” outfit. This is exactly the mood you want to project in your image.
Jacket on or off? It’s up to you - leaving your jacket on will give you an air of professionalism and authority, while jacket off makes you look more “down-to-earth” and approachable. It all depends on the feel you’re trying to convey.
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure it’s cleaned and ironed! You may not notice the wrinkles, but the camera sure will!
Watch that Language
Body language is a vitally important part of taking a great picture. Here are some great tips to help you get the best shot possible:
Smile with your mouth open, showing your teeth. This makes you look open, friendly and approachable. Smiling with your mouth closed can make you appear aloof.
Don’t cross your arms! I know it’s tempting, as it seems like a natural way to stand, but crossing your arms creates a “defensive” position, indicating that you’re closed-off and unapproachable. Instead, clasp your hands in the front or back, or perhaps even hold a prop.
If your arms really are giving you trouble, simply crop them out of the image. There, problem solved :)
The photographer will take a series of photographs, so don’t be afraid to move around and try things out. It’s also a good idea to take shots where you are looking at the camera, and some where you aren’t. It can be hard to tell until you’re actually putting together your website which ones would be better, but sometimes when you’re looking directly at the camera, it can actually be quite unnerving. My friend Cordelia calls this the “Mona Lisa Effect”.
Getting those perfect headshots for your business can feel like a daunting task, but in the hands of a professional, you’ll come out looking confident, composed, and like you know exactly what you’re doing. Who says the camera can’t work magic?