We work in London as a corporate portrait photographers with over 20 years experience in working with design agencies and many of the UK’s top corporate companies. Recent commissions can be found on our
corporate photographer blog
For several months we have been supplying a headshot service which allows clients to have their portrait taken and then we add a London backdrop in post production. We feel that we need to explain the process and benefits of this service as we feel its key advantages are being missed.
The best way to do this is to go over each step of the commission and show how this gives the clients a much wider choice of results than the conventional way of shooting a corporate headshot with a London City view behind them.
Many individuals especially if they work for international companies often require a headshot that features certain business districts of The City or West End being in the background of their profile photos. Traditionally we would arrange a date and meet with the client at the agreed location. This can work extremely well but is dependant on the weather. Wind, rain and even sunshine coming from the wrong direction would often be detrimental to the end results. We had been working on gathering a wide range of pre shot London backgrounds for use on another project and had the idea that we could produce much more consistent results for clients if we could drop the London background in post production. The major benefit with this method is that shooting at a clients office or our studio we have full control over lighting etc and the style has to look like the headshot was captured in an office with a large window with the view behind. This means the backgrounds we drop into the London headshot need to be shot with this style in mind. So for example you would not be able to use a pin sharp view of the City behind a pin sharp headshot as this would look false and not take into account the depth of field factor from the long portrait lens you would be using. Also very important would be the angle of the background you use as it will have to fit with the angle that the headshot has been taken at. You would not be able to use a view of London looking upwards to the tall buildings as again the portrait lens would not allow this view so all the backgrounds we have pre photographed are captured with these angles in mind.
Another great benefit is once the headshot is captured you can search over our photo library for a variety of backgrounds that suit the headshot or which can be used for different media or profile photographs.
If we go through the process from start to finish.
Client commissions Corporate Photography Ltd to capture his headshot with a view to adding London scenes in post production. This is the process recently shot with a City client.
We attend the clients offices and set up lighting to capture initial headshot. We understand the background in this photo looks a mess but we are only interested at this point in capturing a well lit and professional headshot.
Then in post production we remove the original background and replace with a solid colour. This can be any colour and with white we can add a perfect web friendly white so that when the profile headshot is added onto a website it does not carry any hint of grey that is always captured when shot against a conventional white background. Sometimes the client is very happy with this result as the headshot looks professional and is ideal for use on LinkedIn or we can match a current corporate website background colour and drop that in for the individual.
We then email the client a range of backgrounds for them to choose from and then we add these to the headshot. We are not saying that all of them will work. You still have to take into consideration lighting and what is visually happening behind the headshot. We feel these samples work very well and you can reposition the client within the background to get the perfect composition and make the photograph look realistic.
This composition also works with a broad City backdrop
These last couple do not work as well. The first one has a problem I mentioned earlier, the background of the City is too sharp and clean and does not look in keeping with a headshot on a long lens. This combination makes the client look slightly 3D against the backdrop of London as both elements have different depth of fields which is not possible to do in camera.
This background is the opposite as it is too out of focus and does not look realistic as again the depth of field is incorrect and therefore the image looks false.
To finish on a positive note the headshot below is our favourite of the batch and shows with careful positioning and balancing the right background with the correct headshot you can create a professional and striking corporate portrait for all media.
We recently covered an event for Confidence Capital Ltd at the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane. Jason was the photographer on the day and his work reminded me of how far event photography has moved on since I first started covering corporate events in the mid 90s.
Back in the day all photographers were still shooting on film and this had restrictions which light levels would dictate what could be achieved at most events and especially evening events. The standard and accepted way to photograph corporate events was to use medium format cameras with a on camera flash system and try and balance out the low level ambient light within the event location. This method meant most results were posed due to the size of the camera and the need to pose people so the flash lighting was direct and did not cause to many shadows and that it lit people in an even way. I was never a big fan of flash lighting and even less when it was on camera. In my opinion flash is a very harsh light and daylight balance which is never the best source of light when photographing people.
My preferred way of photographing people was using ambient light and catching natural poses with 35mm camera and a fast long lens. I had been using a fast B&W film for many years and by pushing it several stops I was able to shoot in most low level lighting conditions and get unposed photographs at corporate events which clients preferred as this method of working was much less intrusive without large cameras being moved around with flash lighting firing off during key points in the event proceedings. When I went out selling my event photography portfolio most corporate clients were very impressed with the photos and would ask me to quote on upcoming events.
This is where my style and process hit a problem. To shoot in an informal and reportage manner at events you had to shoot lots and lots of film. As it was 35mm you had not polaroid proofing system so you had make sure you had the shots the client needed by covering all aspects and all angles and basically shooting all the time with the knowledge that when the whole commission was edited down at least 10% would be great stuff and fulfil the clients needs. Shooting lots of film meant my quotes/budget were higher than the traditional method so I was only commissioned for key events within the business calendar and this restricted the growth of my event photography service. This brings me back to our recent event that Jason photographed and how the creation of high end professional digital cameras with very high quality file capture and pro software have allowed the contemporary event photographers to cover commissions in reportage way within the same price bracket as any other style of event photography.
Here are some samples from Jason’s commission and we can see from these three images how the camera’s digital sensor and the post production software has managed to level out the contrast caused by the harsh down lighters often found in commercial halls. The most common form of lighting are these small tungsten spotlights which are recessed in the ceiling and give out small pools of direct light in little patches around the building. These make taking photographs very tricky as a person under one of these lights has a very bright light coming directly down on them and this can cause harsh shadows on their face and especially under the eyes. These samples show how Jason has managed to cancel out this unpleasant lighting and come up with photos which have a good range of tones and thin shadows.
These next two sample images show that the contemporary style of reportage corporate photography in London can be captured by using a minimal amount of photographic equipment. No need for flash lighting and even using fast long lens with the aid of high ISO setting that no longer cause noise in shadow areas of the image. This allows Jason freedom to move quickly into positions to photograph key moments within the event in a non intrusive way.
This last image really brings home how good current software is at levelling out contrast. If you had been at the event the screen on the right of the person would have appeared much brighter and the speaker would have been in semi darkness as this would have allowed the projected screen image to have been seen clearly. We have levelled out the contrast so that the shadow and bright areas are visible and still look natural.