A Short Lesson on Corporate Headshots

Behind the Scenes at a Headshot Portrait Photo Shoot.

In my planning for the shoot, (at 11pm the night before) I decided that there were two portraits of the company owner that I knew I wanted to make. I wanted one strong black & white portrait on a white background and at least one that was more editorial and storytelling. My wife used to work at this office, so I knew of a particularly large painting in the lobby that I thought would be a perfect background for the second shot.

This balcony was another spot that I wanted to use to capture some of the environment.


I have a very lovely light test subject.

I had a problem though. The light stand was in the frame because I don’t have a jib to hold the light away from the stand. My solution was to raise the stand to its full 11′ height and have my wife lean the stand at about a 45 degree angle. It was just enough to get the light close to my subject and keep the stand out of view.


24mm, f/2.8, 1/200 ISO 320.


35mm, f/2, 1/500, ISO 320.

Next, we set up the white background for the close-up headshots. I was hoping that having the big window behind the background would be enough to backlight it to make it completely white in the photos, but unfortunately, the window light turned out to not be even close enough to backlight it. Normally I would have done the backlighting with a flash… But… I neglected to check my flash batteries the night before and they quickly died while I was testing the set up. (Doh!) Glad I brought that second soft box… so I ended up placing it behind the subject facing towards the background. This solved the problem fairly well. It made the background bright enough that I could easily brighten it further in the post processing to make it completely white.


 85mm, f/3.2, 1/250 ISO 400.

Next, I moved on to the editorial style image I wanted. In the office lobby, there’s a rather dramatic painting of a bear and bull fighting on top of a mountain. For some reason, most people who visit the office don’t understand it’s significance, but I knew I wanted to use it for a portrait. Hopefully, it’s meaning will not be completely lost here… Think about it… A financial investment office… A painting of a bear and a bull in conflict…


I didn’t want him to look like he was in the painting. I wanted to create some separation between him and the painting in order to give the image some depth without losing the visual significance. Fortunately, this turned out to be rather easy because there was track lighting above the painting. Therefore the separation was achieved by having both subjects lighted independently. The direct light on the painting was also quite a bit warmer tone than the soft box which I really liked because the color shift gave an extra degree of separation. The soft box on the subject made him stand out and the background didn’t get lost in shadow. I’m rather happy with the result.

35mm, f/2.5, 1/200, ISO 320.

I edited the images using VSCO Film. I started out with Fuji 400 and then tweaked the preset to have a very nice and clean look. I removed all the grain, added some sharpening and adjusted the HSL sliders for natural skin tone. Then I used the brush tool to over-expose the background and make it totally white. I used the auto-mask feature to make sure that only the already bright background was the only part of the image affected by the exposure.


Feel free to respond with any questions in the comments section below.