Photography: 3 Important Elements of a Great Corporate Headshot

By Warren Lutz – Contributing Writer


We’ve all seen corporate headshot photography like this. You’ll be looking at one image, and you’ll notice the normal business attire is being worn, the hair is neatly coifed, nothing appears overtly out of place. And yet, there’s a detectible chill at work here. Maybe it’s the immovable gaze, or the stiff shoulders, or the lack of color in the cheeks, or the overly airbrushed haze, or…

Wait a second. Are these people really alive?

Avoid looking like a zombie in your corporate headshot

You’ll want to avoid looking like a zombie in your corporate headshot.


Of course they are—at least, we think so. But for some reason, there’s a lot of people out there who think corporate headshot photography should look a certain way and end up getting “serious” headshots that are almost comically drab. Other times, you’ll come across headshots of executives with fantastic smiles and who pose great, yet their vitality had been robbed from them by poor lighting and bad photo editing.

Trying to avoid the corporate headshot “dead pool”? Here are the elements that will help your professional portraits brim with vitality, vigor, and verve:

1. Lighting

Proper lighting and lighting equipment, the kind that is available only professional grade studios, makes all the difference—if they are properly used. A good photographer can use a combination of hair lights and diffused lights to accent certain contours of a person’s face while deemphasizing blemishes.

If a headshot needs to be taken outside of a studio environment and in an office or outdoors, a good photographer will have an adequate portable studio with sufficient lighting equipment to get the job done.

2. Clothing

Although it should not draw attention away from the face, clothing is important. Who is your audience and what do they expect to see? If you’re a banker or an attorney, a dark suit and tie and a more reserved tone may actually be appropriate, while a solid, moderately colored dress shirt may work for a tech start-up CEO.

Whatever look you’re going for, avoid anything that is too fancy, too trendy, too bright, or too revealing. Plain solid colors and mid-tones are recommended. For women, a modest neckline and an inconspicuous amount of jewelry are generally preferred.

3. The Pose

Example of a great headshot

You’ll want to look alive and engaging – like ETMG President & CEO, Michael Grodin.

Many people don’t like having their picture taken. But even people who don’t mind often fail to put much thought into the attitude they are trying to convey—and even if they did, they often don’t know how to pull it off.

The advice and experience of a professional photographer can help with all of the preceding elements, but they are especially valuable here. While photographers are not miracle workers, they know of a number ways to tweak someone’s pose to create lines and angles that evoke warmth, power, energy and poise. And it’s exactly this level of expertise that give camera-shy executives the confidence that they too, can take a great shot.

Last Minute Advice

Before the shoot, discuss what you are trying to achieve with both your project manager and the photographer to make sure everyone is on the same page and all of your questions are answered. If you’re unsure what to wear or to bring, ask for help. Make certain to schedule plenty of time for the shoot and to pick a sensible time. Early morning may be preferable if you’re likely to feel tired and baggy-eyed at the end of the day.

Keep in mind that headshots are used for all kinds of things these days—websites, business cards, PR kits, industry conference brochures, social media. Having an engaging, high-resolution corporate headshot handy is also great for securing media opportunities. With that many opportunities to make an impression, headshots are important enough to spend the time getting them right.


How to Take Perfect Headshots: Six Tips

How to avoid these 8 business headshot disasters

15 Secrets For the Perfect Business Portrait

How to Photograph Corporate Portraits

Further Reading:

ETMG Photography, Video, and Multimedia Samples –

Photography’s Rule of Thirds and Why It Works

The Future of Multimedia and Visual Storytelling [INFOGRAPHIC]

Bringing Your Video Message to Life


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