The most popular style of corporate headshot with the subject looking to camera with a white background.
For many years we have been capturing these for clients and it is only recently that we have seen a common problem occurring. Shooting headshots with a white background seems a pretty simple set up and it always was in the past. Clean crisp white Colourama and a diffused light to make it nice and blown would give you and the client exactly the effect they were after. The problems now arise with businesses and individuals putting these headshots onto company websites where they assume the white background on the headshot will match with the white of a webpage. The background will retain some element of tone and hue as the digital camera sensor will always try and level out any colour to give an average recording. You cannot get around this even by flooding the background with white light. Now we try to make clients aware of this but it does sound a little daft to the average person who says they just want a headshot on a white background. We always try and establish the end use for the headshot now as we want to prevent the problem before it arises.
In post-production we remove the headshot from the background and add a white web friendly background in photoshop. An easy process once you know how but as with all photoshop work it really depends on the workflow you use. There are a few tools that allow you to do this but some give much better results than others and one thing is for sure there is no way you can automate the process.
We recently did a shoot in London for a company with their HQ based in Hong Kong. When we sent them the original high-resolution images they were very pleased and we mentioned about the post-production work if they were going to be used on a website. About a month later we received an email noting that the Hong Kong office had flagged some problems with the shots as they were showing some marks on the white background and could we check what we had done incorrectly. After looking at the website screenshots we could tell that the headshots had been cut out incorrectly and this was the problem. The photoshop tool they had used was not that accurate and left pixels in on the white area. We have since gone on to do the cutouts for the company and the problem has been rectified. Describing this problem to clients is not an easy task and telling them it will cost extra in post-production to get the right result tends not to go down to well. We now send samples out so that they can see for themselves that you have to go through with the process.
Sample 1. Standard corporate headshot captured in camera with a white background. Technically correct but flawed for use on a white webpage as it is still retaining tone on the background. You would think that the simple solution would be to add more light to the background but this does not work as it starts to bleed through into the edges of the person and messes up the exposure.
Sample 2. Headshot after photoshop post-production. Headshot cut out with a white web friendly colour background added. Clean and crisp and as on this webpage the background matches the white of the webpage.
If you have had this problem or need any more advise please get in touch and we can talk you through our process and improve your companies headshots. Please see also our previous article on tips for corporate headshot photography