If you're a business professional, you are making an impression online.
Every press release, every web site "about" page, every tweet, every Facebook status item, every LinkedIn update, every blog post--they all say something about you. Attached to each electronic breadcrumb along that digital path, of course, is the small profile photograph that you've uploaded in each of those accounts.
And those photographs say something about you as well.
At a glance, your profile photos tell a story and have the potential to communicate trust, competence, professionalism, and friendliness. They can tell others that you're the kind of person who they'd like to do business with.
Karl and Sara Schmitt from bParati Consulting in Chatham, Illinois, contacted me recently to make headshots for their new website that conveyed the kind of trust they want to develop with their prospects and clients, so we met last week to do just that.
Karl found my web site by searching online for headshot photographers in the Springfield area. In our email and phone conversations, he had a clear vision for the images: simple, white backgrounds for a clean, professional look. Something along the lines of an Apple aesthetic. I assured him that we could do that and then we set a date to meet at the studio.
Before they arrived for the session, I set up the lights and 9' wide white seamless paper background so we'd be ready to go. If you want the white background to appear "pure" white in the images, it has to be lit separately from the subject. Otherwise the background will show as gray. The paper was lit, then, by a Paul Buff Einstein and an Alien Bee B800. I used an Einstein in a 60" Photek Softlighter II as the main light.
I'd initially planned to have Karl and Sara sit for the portraits (that's what I usually do), but Karl mentioned that they wanted to have some full-length images like the ones I'd made of Sheralyn recently. So I pulled out the posing stool, raised the main light, and put a sheet of white tile board on the floor. The tile board is the secret ingredient to ensure there's a reflection at the subject's feet. Here's the setup:
With everything in place, we were ready to make pictures.
Karl and Sara came with both casual and professional outfits, and we made some images of each of them separately and then together.
When I'm working with people to make headshots or portraits, I'm always looking for genuine expressions. We want to connect with the person in the photograph, and we look to their eyes for that connection. During the session, I talk with my subjects to help them feel comfortable so we'll get to a place where we can connect. In this instance, I asked Karl and Sara about their work and their family, and where they'd lived before moving to central Illinois a few years ago. We talked about the challenges of raising nine-year-old girls and following the kids through all of their activities. This kind of conversation helps people feel more comfortable when they're in front of the camera, and the genuine expressions reveal themselves when people feel comfortable.
A good portrait or headshot can't be rushed. I generally plan an hour for each person I'm photographing. Sometimes a session runs shorter, sometimes longer. But there's usually some "warm up" time required for me and the sitter to connect.
After the session, I edited the set for the best looks and posted the proofs to a private online gallery for Karl and Sara to review. Karl emailed that he "loved the look" of the images but we'd forgotten to get a full-length image of the two of them together. Not to worry: we'd taken full-length images of them separately in their professional attire, so it wouldn't be a hard fix to put a composite together.
Here are the two photos of Karl and Sara that were used for the composite. Note that these haven't been "tweaked" to remove the unwanted background elements.
Here's the finished composite, in both color and black & white. Since the lighting and camera angle are consistent in both of the images above, the composite looks natural.
Karl and I emailed back and forth a bit while he and Sara looked through the proofs. I made some recommendations and they then let me know which images they'd chosen as their selects. I prepped these and posted them to a second online gallery from which they could download the high-resolution files. Their gallery included both color and black & white versions of each select. We did the shoot on Wednesday and the Schmitts had their finished files on Friday.
Karl mentioned that he may want to send additional team members to the studio for headshots, and wanted the look of those images to be consistent with these. I made detailed notes of the set up in my handy Field Notes notebook and then photographed the page with my iPhone and sent it to Evernote for safe keeping. This will help me recreate the setting for future sessions.
One final technical note: the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was my camera of choice for this session. I've been using the Panasonic GH3 with the Lumix 35-100 f/2.8 lens for a lot of sessions lately but wanted to give the Olympus a shot (so to speak). The E-M5 has a faster sync speed than the GH3 (1/250 vs. 1/160), giving it a slight advantage at overcoming any ambient light. I also used the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens exclusively.
I really enjoyed using the Olympus set up. It feels good in the hands, a bit more solid than the Panasonic. And that 45mm lens is very sharp--no complaints. The GH3 still wins for video, and if I were doing a hybrid session where I'd want to switch between stills and video in one camera, the GH3 would get the job. But for a stills-only session, the E-M5 is a pleasure to use.
Interested in a portrait or headshot session to improve your image? Just let me know.