Business portraits … Linkedin profile pictures … head shots for Facebook and Twitter …… a range of terms that have entered the business language in recent years, thanks to the emergence, and seeming dominance, of social media in our lives.  I’m not complaining of course, as shooting business portraits of this type makes up a huge part of my portfolio and helps me to pay my mortgage!

So today I thought I’d spend a few minutes reflecting on what makes a business portrait for social media work, and what mistakes to avoid.  I’m not going to dwell on why having a good headshot is important.  We all know how business is more personal these days.  We’re all aware of the importance of creating the right first impression, of coming across as professional from the first encounter, and so on.  I have started to work closely with the Linkedin expert Peter Collins (here’s his Linkedin page for more info on how he could help you improve your profile), who has several interesting things to say about your profile picture.  No, I mean the technical aspects of what makes a good business portrait for social media.

Principally, it needs to be as simple as possible.  So, the plainer and less distracting the background is the better.  It is, literally, a head and shoulders shot.  Lighting should be bright and clear.  The expression should be pleasant, not forced.  And – and this is something I bet few of you think of doing – you should look at it on a range of devices to see how the profile looks; because responsive pages look different and photos are cropped differently depending on whether you’re browsing on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Below are a couple of examples from a recent commission for Parsonage, a firm of financial advisers and planners in Altrincham (and bloody good ones too – I first met Flora when she won a National Award a few years ago).  Let’s go through that checklist:

Plain background – yes

Head and shoulders – yes

Bright lighting – yes

Good expression – yes

And now the question you won’t be able to answer.  Did I shoot the head shots in a studio?  Despite it looking like a studio shot, the answer is no.  The shoot took place in Parsonage’s offices.  After all, they’re busy people who don’t have time to shut up shop for the day and visit a studio (there are  actually 7 staff in total, so it would have meant a day out, not a day at work, which isn’t good for business is it?)  No, when I shoot head shots for companies the studio comes to you.  I bring everything with me that I need, set up, take the shots and go, leaving you to get on with a day’s work.  Every person should be away from their desk for 10-15 minutes, that’s all.

In this case, there’s an extra twist.  While I do carry a plain background, I didn’t need it on this occasion.  Why?  Because when I arrived I was greeted with the immortal line, “You might want to take the photos in the toilet.”  Which I did.  Because the corner of that room, with two white painted walls, created the same effect as having three lights with me.  I had only brought one with me, and who doesn’t like a bit of extra value?  The two final shots (taken on my phone, so forgive the quality), show you the tiny room we were in; and also serve to show you just what great looking end results can be achieved with a bit of imagination, the right equipment and, dare I be boastful (?), some photographic skill.

business portrait of man

business portrait of woman

My studio for the day in the Parsonage offices.

Admit it, you’d never have guessed.  That’s what a professional like myself can do for you – deliver great looking results pretty much anywhere.  So, if you’re looking for an update to your business profile, feel free to get in touch.