15 Secrets For the Perfect Business Portrait

A-Z social media tips from BloggingBistro.com - BYou’re a confident, professional businessperson. Then why are you featuring a grainy, five-year-old picture of yourself on your Web site?

If you’re serious about connecting with clients and want to show the world you mean business, you need to invest in a professional photo of yourself.

It’s less painful than you might imagine (see yesterday’s account of my business portrait photo shoot, and vote in my poll for your favorite shot of me).

In this Q & A with Michelle Bartholomew, owner of Letter M Photography, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about business portraits.

Blogging Barista: What is a business portrait and why should I get one?

Michelle Bartholomew: A business portrait (also called an executive portrait or professional portrait) is generally a headshot (head and shoulders portrait). It’s similar to a typical portrait except you are buying the image to use for your business rather than buying a print to sit on your mantel.

You can put your portrait on your Website or blog, business cards, and even advertising to give a face to your name/business. You can also put your business portrait on your resume when applying for jobs and for college/grad school. These portraits are also perfect for social networking sites, press releases and company brochures.

 

A sampling of business portraits from Michelle Bartholomew, owner of Picky Penguin Photography.

A sampling of business portraits from Michelle Bartholomew, owner of Letter M Photography

Can any photographer take my business portrait, or do I need to find someone who specializes in business portraits?

Photographers specialize in different areas, so do a little research. If you want your portrait in a park setting, make sure your photographer has experience doing on-location lighting outside.

A picture is worth a thousand words. How do I choose the best “look” and setting for my portrait?

It all depends on what you want your image to say about you. Ask yourself what you want the tone of your portrait to be:

  • Serious or smiling?
  • Powerful or approachable?
  • Moody lighting or soft, bright beauty lighting?

Your personality and business might call for your portrait to be taken on location rather than the studio.

  • If you are an executive, you might want your portrait taken in your corner office overlooking the city.
  • If you want an image that is more natural, opt for a park setting.
  • If you want more traditional lighting and backgrounds, you’ll probably want your pictures done in-studio.

What type of clothes should I wear?

This image will be used to represent you and/or your company so you need to dress accordingly. You’ll want to wear professional business attire that is classic and timeless so you can use your photos for years to come.

  • Men should wear a suit jacket, sweater, or a nice dress shirt.
  • Women should wear a blouse or a tailored jacket.
  • It is best to wear long sleeve shirts for your portrait. Long sleeves are much more flattering on arms than short.

You also want to be somewhat comfortable in what you’re wearing or your picture will look stiff and unnatural. But be aware of clothing that wrinkles easily as that will look sloppy and unprofessional.

What colors photograph best/worst?

  • Solid colors photograph best, and most people look good in midtones (green, blue, brown, etc.).
  • Avoid white and colors that approximate your flesh tones (this might be beige, tan, or very pale peach, pink, and gray).
  • Avoid wearing clothing with patterns or accessories that distract from your face. Very bright reds, yellows and oranges can also be distracting.

Should I wear jewelry?

Jewelry can be a great accessory to your outfit, but should not distract from your face. Less is usually more. Necklaces look best when they are shorter and mimic the neckline of your shirt.

How much makeup should I apply?

  • Wear what you would for a nice evening out. Well done, but not overdone.
  • Avoid overly glossy or shimmery makeup as it will catch the light and be distracting.
  • If you normally don’t wear makeup, your pictures will look better if you at least wear foundation. This will help even out your skin tone.
  • Bring extra powder as you’ll want to reapply during the shoot to avoid shine.

What are the best backgrounds for a business portrait?

The most important thing to consider in a background is that it doesn’t distract from your portrait. It should complement your clothing and colors.

  • Solid colors or a neutral colored textured background are always classic.
  • Bright colors can work for a younger, more vibrant portrait, but I’d recommend doing another neutral background as well just in case.

If you are having your portraits outside your photographer should be able to suggest appropriate backgrounds away from objects that would distract the eye from your face.

What kind of a picture will I receive from the photographer?

You’ll receive a high resolution digital copy from the photographer to use for your business.

Will I own the rights to my image?

The photographer retains the image copyright but grants you permission to use your image for business purposes. Sometimes these rights cost extra, but sometimes the rights will be given to the client as a part of the portrait session fee. Be sure to ask about this before you book your sitting.

Are there any restrictions on how I can use my business portrait?

Some photographers restrict Web use vs. printed use and have separate fees for each. Some have a one-time use fee while others have a fee that gives you unlimited use of the image. This all depends on the photographer.

**Aside from Laura – I highly recommend arranging for unlimited use of your image. You’ll want to plaster your image everywhere, and it’s a major hassle to contact the photographer every time you want to re-use your business portrait. Just suck it up, pay the fee, and be done with it. You’ll be glad you did.

How many different poses should I purchase?

I recommend purchasing 2-3 poses. Having options is always a good thing. Photo sessions are expensive and take time, so if you can get a few different portraits that you can use, it could save you time and money in the future.

So, if I change outfits or backgrounds during my photo shoot, I should buy multiple images, right?

Right. Even if you don’t change outfits, a change in the lighting or in your expression can make a photo completely different. It is helpful to have a range of photos to use for your business. Perhaps vary the use of each photo, using one for your Website and another on your social networking pages.

How much do business portraits typically cost?

It depends on what you are looking for… On the low end, for a short in-studio session, expect to spend $50-$100 just for the session fee. That would not include any of the images, digital prints, or the rights to use them.

**Aside from Laura – Shop around until you find a photographer whose prices fit your budget. If you live in the Seattle area, I recommend Michelle. She’s very affordable. And she’s offering a discount to my blog’s readers! Details at the end of the article.

I’m not photogenic. Do you retouch business portraits so I can look my best?

Most photographers do basic retouching on your business portrait without an additional fee. This can be anything from removing blemishes, reducing under-eye circles, brightening eyes, whitening teeth, reducing wrinkles, etc. If your photographer doesn’t retouch and it is important to you, you could get permission from the photographer to send it to a professional retoucher. Retouching fees range from $10-$25 for basic retouching.

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  • http://www.freedomtrainministries.com/ Marilyn Gray

    I have always wanted a professional portrait – especially in my latter days. I have had some physical challenges with my hair, viteligo, and a bells palsy that has made it difficult to get a photo that doesn’t look like I have a weird chin or big circles under my eyes. I love who I am today and I want my heart to come through my photo.

  • http://www.freedomtrainministries.com Marilyn Gray

    I have always wanted a professional portrait – especially in my latter days. I have had some physical challenges with my hair, viteligo, and a bells palsy that has made it difficult to get a photo that doesn’t look like I have a weird chin or big circles under my eyes. I love who I am today and I want my heart to come through my photo.

  • http://www.sendoutcards.com/brianpatti Patti Grunkemeier

    People do business with those they know, trust, and can remember! Having a photograph of yourself on all your marketing materials increases the likelyhood of people “knowing” and “remembering” you. It can help to get you the initial contact so a trust level can begin to develop. Because I’m always so busy, I’ve provided my own photos – mainly for websites I’ve had over the years. Recently my brother had a professional photo taken for an internet presence and he looks charming and adorable with an engaging twinkle in his eyes. I fell in love with the picture (I already feel that way about him!). Same thing with another (male) friend of mine…I love his photo that he includes in emails ect. I decided that (especially at my age) I too had to have a professional photo taken. And this photographer MUST make me look younger..or at least desirable! All kidding aside, Michelle, do you think you can manage this?

  • http://www.sendoutcards.com/brianpatti Patti Grunkemeier

    People do business with those they know, trust, and can remember! Having a photograph of yourself on all your marketing materials increases the likelyhood of people “knowing” and “remembering” you. It can help to get you the initial contact so a trust level can begin to develop. Because I’m always so busy, I’ve provided my own photos – mainly for websites I’ve had over the years. Recently my brother had a professional photo taken for an internet presence and he looks charming and adorable with an engaging twinkle in his eyes. I fell in love with the picture (I already feel that way about him!). Same thing with another (male) friend of mine…I love his photo that he includes in emails ect. I decided that (especially at my age) I too had to have a professional photo taken. And this photographer MUST make me look younger..or at least desirable! All kidding aside, Michelle, do you think you can manage this?

  • http://www.waitformarriage.com/ Karen Farris

    We live in a visual world. Images attract or distract us. I am tackling the paradigm shift towards You Tube and pod casts. As I work with teens, I see them in their element with this visual technology. I also know that to be relevant to teens, my portrait should reflect someone they can trust. Teens can detect a fraud and if I hope to impact their world, I need a photo that shows I genuinely care.

  • http://www.waitformarriage.com Karen Farris

    We live in a visual world. Images attract or distract us. I am tackling the paradigm shift towards You Tube and pod casts. As I work with teens, I see them in their element with this visual technology. I also know that to be relevant to teens, my portrait should reflect someone they can trust. Teens can detect a fraud and if I hope to impact their world, I need a photo that shows I genuinely care.

  • http://www.thespiritualmom.com/ Carla Williams

    As a publicist at WinePress group, I cannot stress enough the importance of a profesional photo. It’s that first impression you give media and your audience that will last. There’s lots of areas to cut corners, a professional photo is not one of them.

  • http://www.thespiritualmom.com Carla Williams

    As a publicist at WinePress group, I cannot stress enough the importance of a profesional photo. It’s that first impression you give media and your audience that will last. There’s lots of areas to cut corners, a professional photo is not one of them.

  • Laura

    Announcing the winner of the business portrait photo session…

    Marilyn Gray

    Congrats, Marilyn! Thanks Patti, Karen, and Carla for entering.

    Even if you didn’t enter the contest, you can get 15% of a business portrait photo session with Picky Penguin Photography just by mentioning that you read the blog post on Blogging Bistro. To book your session, visit http://www.pickypenguin.com.

  • Laura

    Announcing the winner of the business portrait photo session…

    Marilyn Gray

    Congrats, Marilyn! Thanks Patti, Karen, and Carla for entering.

    Even if you didn’t enter the contest, you can get 15% of a business portrait photo session with Picky Penguin Photography just by mentioning that you read the blog post on Blogging Bistro. To book your session, visit http://www.pickypenguin.com.

  • http://conselleimageconsultant.wordpress.com/ The Image Expert

    This is great advice of what to wear for a professional photograph. I advise my female clients to wear a face-framing necklace — it’s great for drawing the attention upwards to the face. As long as your hairstyle doesn’t change, the more classic your look for the photo, the longer you can use it professionally.

    conselleimageconsultant.wordpress.com

  • http://conselleimageconsultant.wordpress.com The Image Expert

    This is great advice of what to wear for a professional photograph. I advise my female clients to wear a face-framing necklace — it’s great for drawing the attention upwards to the face. As long as your hairstyle doesn’t change, the more classic your look for the photo, the longer you can use it professionally.

    conselleimageconsultant.wordpress.com

  • Laura

    Changing hairstyles and colors — or loss of hair — can be an issue with business portraits. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Laura

    Changing hairstyles and colors — or loss of hair — can be an issue with business portraits. Thanks for pointing that out!

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  • Ang2thela

    Thank you for sharing such insightful tips! 

  • Suen Tornai

    Great interview. Thank you for the information. I’ve been thinking it’s time to redo my photo for my web presence. These are great tips.

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  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Thanks, Sue. Glad you found all the info helpful. I’m sure you’ll be able to find an affordable photographer in your area to help you update your headshot. There are many excellent freelancers who work on location for less than it costs to go into a studio.

  • http://www.yucelphoto.com/ Yucel

    These are great tips… Thanks the pearls.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    You are very welcome, Yucel. Happy to share.

  • Kyle

    Thanks! nice blog!  Check out my executive headshot “how to”  
    http://valenciaphotography.blogspot.com/

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  • http://www.aucklandeventphotographer.co.nz/ Auckland Event Photographer

    great post. thanks for promoting the industy.

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