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 my account of my business portrait photo shoot, and vote in my poll for your favorite shot of me).

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

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.

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.

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.

Shop around until you find a photographer whose prices fit your budget.

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.

  • TheHardTruth

    Great Blog and tips !!!

  • TheHardTruth

    Great Blog and tips !!!

  • Ivor

    There are some great tips in there. Thank you for sharing.

  • Ivor

    There are some great tips in there. Thank you for sharing.

  • Pingback: As a recent university graduate, should I need a professional business portrait taken for job applications? | lucythebusybee()

  • Pingback: As a recent university graduate, should I need a professional business portrait taken for job applications? | lucythebusybee()

  • Dan

    I’d certainly avoiding suggesting to people that it might be a good idea to include a nice business portrait with their resumes. In the vast majority of circumstances, that’s one thing you absolutely do not want to do.

    Good idea for websites, social media, business cards, and the like? Sure. For resumes? Not if you want to be taken seriously in most businesses and schools…

  • Dan

    I’d certainly avoiding suggesting to people that it might be a good idea to include a nice business portrait with their resumes. In the vast majority of circumstances, that’s one thing you absolutely do not want to do.

    Good idea for websites, social media, business cards, and the like? Sure. For resumes? Not if you want to be taken seriously in most businesses and schools…

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Dan, I stand corrected! Thanks for the tip.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Dan, I stand corrected! Thanks for the tip.

  • stellabystarlite

    True…I know that it’s common, sometimes expected, in other countries to include a photo on what they call their C.V. They also include things like birthdates. In the US, if you include your birthdate, hiring managers will just black it out–they cannot legally discriminate based on age, so this info should not be included on a resume. It is not illegal to discriminate in hiring decisions based on appearance (“attractive people” are not a protected class), but one should consider whether including a portrait is appropriate based on the job they’re applying for. I would say unless it’s an actor’s headshot (mandatory for many auditions in that field), they should not bother. Do you want to be hired based on your looks, or let your achievements on paper speak for themselves? I would recommend the latter, and if that plus your cover letter is enough to get you an interview, then concentrate on your professional appearance for that. Even if you are extremely attractive, using that as a focal point of your resume can make you look desperate and unprofessional. People do use their looks to get ahead in life; it happens. But one should consider whether they would even want to work at a place that values that above all else.

  • stellabystarlite

    True…I know that it’s common, sometimes expected, in other countries to include a photo on what they call their C.V. They also include things like birthdates. In the US, if you include your birthdate, hiring managers will just black it out–they cannot legally discriminate based on age, so this info should not be included on a resume. It is not illegal to discriminate in hiring decisions based on appearance (“attractive people” are not a protected class), but one should consider whether including a portrait is appropriate based on the job they’re applying for. I would say unless it’s an actor’s headshot (mandatory for many auditions in that field), they should not bother. Do you want to be hired based on your looks, or let your achievements on paper speak for themselves? I would recommend the latter, and if that plus your cover letter is enough to get you an interview, then concentrate on your professional appearance for that. Even if you are extremely attractive, using that as a focal point of your resume can make you look desperate and unprofessional. People do use their looks to get ahead in life; it happens. But one should consider whether they would even want to work at a place that values that above all else.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Good point!

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Good point!

  • a bit overpriced

    The fees are crazy for a business photshoot. It should be charged by the hour or in blocked time sessions. 45 minutes for a set fee or something. If you want to change outfits five times in 45 minutes that’s your own issue. You should not be charged for that. Nowadays young people have those terrible quirky selfie type photos for their employee bios. Most of the time you can just get a friend to go next to a tree and take a few pics of you. You don’t need to pay.

  • a bit overpriced

    The fees are crazy for a business photshoot. It should be charged by the hour or in blocked time sessions. 45 minutes for a set fee or something. If you want to change outfits five times in 45 minutes that’s your own issue. You should not be charged for that. Nowadays young people have those terrible quirky selfie type photos for their employee bios. Most of the time you can just get a friend to go next to a tree and take a few pics of you. You don’t need to pay.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    A friend who has an excellent camera and an eye for lighting can often produce some terrific business portraits. A friend just took some of me a couple of weeks ago that I am quite pleased with. I would be careful to choose a friend who really is a good photographer, though (being a whiz with Photoshop helps, too), as they know how to adjust the lighting and focal points to get the best shots. I see too many “business portraits” taken by “friends” that have shadows in the wrong places and look unprofessional.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    A friend who has an excellent camera and an eye for lighting can often produce some terrific business portraits. A friend just took some of me a couple of weeks ago that I am quite pleased with. I would be careful to choose a friend who really is a good photographer, though (being a whiz with Photoshop helps, too), as they know how to adjust the lighting and focal points to get the best shots. I see too many “business portraits” taken by “friends” that have shadows in the wrong places and look unprofessional.