The Power of Headshot Photography: Which background to choose and what is an Environmental Headshot?

The Power of Professional Portraits can boost your career in today’s world. From LinkedIn profiles to company websites, there has never be a higher demand for a well-crafted headshot that can make a significant impact in your career.

When organising a headshot photography session, the first questions I ask are: how do the clients want to be photographed? And, how do they want to be represented?

Headshot Photography: White Background

A white background seems to be the obvious choice, but there are many more options available.

Often clients would like to have something more specific to themselves, their company or just an aesthetic preference.

When a company has offices in different parts of the World, the headshots need to match the existing ones, for consistency and continuity. I think this is extremely important. There are companies that I revisit every three months to photograph new starters – when shooting them, I ensure that there is visual consistency with existing company headshots. This guarantees that there will be no odd headshots with different lighting, a strange angle or that security picture that they did for your pass when you joined the company. It’s things like this that are extremely important, and they can really set the tone of your company.

For one assignment, a company wanted two options as a background – one was pure white and the other was against a brick wall in one of their meeting rooms. Each person came away with two options.

It was quite interesting to see what people were preferring, and quite often people seemed to go for the white background for their Linkedin Headshot.

It also depends on the sector that your company is in and how recognisable your brand is. When I was asked to do the Headshot Photography for Lonely Planet London, I walked in their office thought “we have to do this!” We must photograph their team members in front of a bookcase filled with their iconic travel guides. It worked fantastically and they loved it!

Environmental Headshots Background

When we talk about Environmental Headshots, this is when headshots take place in a location with a natural backdrop, such as a particular area of an office, a boardroom or perhaps outside. I really love this type of headshot as I think it is a bit more personal and also more natural, although it’s posed it doesn’t feel as staged. These pictures also portray that you are allowing your clients to have an insight to your work space, giving the image of a company that is approachable and trustworthy. Here are some examples of the headshot photography that I did for the online food delivery service Just Eat.

Headshot Photography: Bespoke Background

I also really enjoy when a client knows what they want. They also ask, “How do we make this happen?” LCR Property was extremely proud of one of their current projects – The Leake Street Arches – a railway arch completely covered in graffiti and part of their ongoing redevelopment of Waterloo Station. Logistically it was impossible to have all members of their team attending a Headshot Photography session in the arches as their offices were offsite. I came up with a simple but effective solution: I photographed the walls in the tunnel, printed them on a non-reflective substrate and brought the tunnel to their office! I then adjusted the lighting to recreate the atmosphere of the tunnel and the result was the following.

As well as Headshots – Professional Portraits for companies, I also do individual’s headshots for their own small business. These ones usually give me a great scope for creativity, and I try to reflect their personality in their headshot. This type of headshot takes a little bit more additional time but I thoroughly enjoy doing them. I usually spend time finding locations and coming up with mood boards and different ideas.

Headshot Photography - Professional Portrait of Chloe Mayer author of the book The Boy Made of Snow
Professional Portrait of Chloe Mayer author of the book The Boy Made of Snow

Carmen was commissioned to take my ‘author photo’ when my first book was published. I absolutely despise having my photo taken, so was dreading the thought of having headshots! But Carmen was brilliant; so warm and friendly and she really made me feel comfortable. The day ended up being so enjoyable and fun. And her work was AMAZING. She wanted to give me a selection of images to choose from, so we worked indoors and outside. Carmen took some great shots of me in a studio setting, but when we were outside she also had a great eye for what would elevate the backdrop of the image; for example, she managed to take a shot of me standing by a couple of trees on the South Bank that somehow made it appear I was in a forest. I have no idea how she did it! I was thrilled with the sheer variety of photos she took and – despite hating the idea of having my photo taken – it ended up being difficult to choose which picture I liked the best!” 

Chloë Mayer, author of The Boy Made of Snow
Headshot Photography - Professional Portrait of Brenda Otero, Journalist and writer

“I don’t enjoy having my photo taken, but with Carmen everything was fun, light and uncomplicated. She puts you at ease straight away and manages to capture your best self, while allowing your personality to show through. All the editors that I worked for asked for Carmen’s portrait of me to be included in the contributors page. Everyone loved it!”

Brenda Otero

Last but not least, sometimes when I have a headshot photography session the client might want to have some team pictures. This is another option that can be easily accommodated on the day. When I was approached by the design consultancy firm, Pentagram, to do the headshot photography of two of their partners as they work together in multiple projects, they thought it would be useful to have a picture of both of them together.

Headshot Photography - Professional Portrait of Pentagram Partners Jody Hudson-Powell and Luke Powell
Professional portrait of Pentagram Partners Jody Hudson-Powell and Luke Powell

On another project, the leading international reputation management consultancy, Reputation Inc, requested a picture of their entire London team. I was able to fulfil this request on the day and the result was this dynamic and relaxed group picture. After the session I received a wonderful email from them:

Dear Carmen It was really lovely meeting you yesterday and I think everyone really enjoyed their session and commented on how you made them feel comfortable! A big thank you from us and we look forward to receiving the images! Have a great day

Caroline – Reputation Inc
Professional Photography - Team shot of Reputation Inc Management Consultancy
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