Retouching Corporate Headshots

The pros and cons of retouching corporate headshots and portraits.

Since the arrival of quality software to enable digital photography manipulation we have seen some remarkable examples of what can be achieved and also where it can go very wrong. I believe the main reason there is such a wide range of differing standards with photo retouching is that editors, designers and photographers have varied opinions as to when to stop working on an image. This also applies to clients as they sometimes have a different idea as to how much retouching you should do to their corporate headshots.

In the past we have had clients ask us to do more and more retouching to headshot commissions and we have always tried to explain that less is more and that you should never be able to see where the retouching has been done as that defeats the object. I liken it to the fact their is nothing funny in male baldness but their is a funny aspect to males attempts to cover it up. So our stance is that the viewer should never be able to see where we have retouched the headshot because if they can we have failed as the headshot then has the viewer looking at the retouching rather than the original purpose which was to convey the professionalism of the business person.

A common mistake when working on retouching a headshot is to not keep a reference as to the original and keep comparing as you do the retouching. The original is the starting point and therefore this should be referred back to through the process. Sometimes retouchers only refer back to the last version and the danger here is that if you are submitting it to the client and you are adding/detracting stuff each time the headshot is moving further away from the original and rendering the headshot unrealistic.

You have to take each headshot on the work required and in general we tend to removes spots/skin blemishes and scars. We are very careful to only reduce wrinkles and bags under eyes as these are part of the natural ageing process and a corporate headshot of a person in their 40s or 50s without any skin of their skin ageing can look very odd and therefore unrealistic.

Clients often ask about make-up artists and we tend to suggest that subtle retouching is preferred as it can produce better results than heavy make up especially on men who feel uncomfortable with unfamiliar make-up. We also get asked about airbrushing which pre digital photography was blowing a fine mist of paint over a printed headshot which masked any original skin defects. This process can be replicated digitally but as with the original process you have to be very careful not to overdo it and not allow the vanity of some people to encourage a retoucher to do more than they normally would.

Below are some samples of three retouched corporate headshots that we feel have worked extremely well. The do not look like they have been retouched at all and you could only spot the retouching if you had the original headshots to compare.

Light photo retouching on corporate headshots and business portraits in London

Light photo retouching on corporate headshots and business portraits in London

Light photo retouching on corporate headshots and business portraits in London

Currently we are including free retouching with all our corporate headshots commissions. We usually request that after the shoot the client selects between 2 to 4 headshots with varied expressions so we can retouch and spend quality time working on the headshots you will use for your online LinkedIn profile photo and traditional marketing requirements.

 

Corporate Portrait Photography

The difference between corporate headshots and corporate portrait photography.

I have been a corporate portrait photographer for longer than I care to remember and have noticed that over recent years we are receiving less commissions for corporate portraits and more for corporate headshots. The majority of clients require a profile photo on a white background and often their request asks for something simple and without too many studio lights. This gives us very little to work with as they are basically wanting a passport photo but taken on a decent camera. This seems a real shame as a decent corporate portrait can portray your personality and suggest success and professionalism.

The term headshot originated in the US and was originally associated with actors. These were sometimes very creative shots that used lighting and background to create powerful portraits. Early website pages with ‘meet the team’ headshots were often taken against a bright blue or mottled studio background and did nobody any favours. These were often the colourama rolls which studios had lying around and after a while became standard for plenty of large US corporates. To this day I still get sent sample headshots that I need to match which feature these backgrounds.

In the past corporate portrait photography was commissioned mainly for magazines, annual reports and company brochures. People had the perception that this was required for this media but a website headshot could dispense with the quality and creativity associated with a portrait. Their has been a gradual change to using a corporate portrait. We have seen an uplift in requests recently and the understanding that your LinkedIn profile is your professional online CV and the photo will be the first thing people look at.

Here are some samples and we can look at how they benefit the individual.

Corporate Portrait Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Striking corporate portrait using natural and studio lighting to great effect. Great use of reflections and The City skyline to suggest a  confident professional in a modern London office.

Corporate Portrait Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. More subtle corporate portrait using natural light from a side window and a interesting boardroom background. Little hints of modern corporate interior design help show her business success.

Corporate Portrait Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. You could never convey this type of confidence and pride in a basic headshot. The stance and location bring a sense of leadership to the corporate portrait.

Corporate Portrait Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Wonderful corporate portrait using the office corridor lighting as a diagonal which adds visual interest. The pose again is very relaxed and the individual looks in control and at the top of her game.

Corporate Portrait Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Informal or reportage corporate portrait photography is visually interesting as it gives a sense of purpose in the working environment. People are focused on talking about their business and therefore look unposed and very natural.

Corporate Portrait Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. The crop is tight which is similar to a headshot but the addition of a subtle outline of St Pauls suggest a young London professional ready for business.

Corporate Portrait Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. We shot this for CEO Magazine and using shapes and lighting this is a good example of corporate portrait photography.

 

Looking at these samples you have to take into account where they are going to be used. LinkedIn profile photos are very small and therefore a tighter crop is required to feature well. Company websites have enough room and scope to widen their ‘About Us’ headshots and their is marketing potential in being creative with their corporate portrait photography to make the website page of interest to the viewer rather than a standard corporate staff gallery.