In business, having a quality headshot is crucial for individuals looking to establish their personal brand and make a lasting impression on clients and colleagues. As a photographer, you have the power to capture the perfect business headshot and help your clients achieve their goals. This guide will provide you with some tips and techniques to help you on your way towards mastering the art of business headshots and delivering top-notch results.

What Is a Business Headshot?

A business headshot, also known as a corporate headshot, is a professional portrait that represents an individual as well as their brand and personality. Headshot photographers must make an effort to understand their client’s industry and brand before deciding which type of headshot will best suit their needs.

Why Are Business Headshots Important?

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Photo by Kevin Thai

At a time when many companies conduct business remotely, oftentimes over Zoom or a phone call, the need for quality business headshots has never been greater. A good business headshot can go a long way to portray the subject as professional, dedicated, and trustworthy. Headshots place a face with the name and they help communicate one’s personality and brand.

Moreover, executive portraiture has the unique ability to humanize a corporation by transforming it into an individual entity. By capturing an executive’s portrait, the relationship between the corporation and its customers becomes more personal, rather than solely being based on the exchange of products and services. It’s a personalized touch that cannot be achieved through the use of a stock photo library or any other method aside from hiring a professional photographer.

The Role of a Qualified Business Headshot Photographer

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Photo by Kevin Thai

Although every pro photographer can take a picture that reflects the subject’s appearance, an assignment photographer with experience shooting corporate leaders goes further. That photographer knows how to capture the executive’s personality, connect their look and image with the company they represent, and make sure the final images are capable of being used in all the different ways the company’s communications department might need.

It is important to know what types of uses are planned for the executives’ portraits — so that the lighting and poses can be tailored to fit. If there is a designer or art director working on the project, there is often a style or technique that they are looking for.

Preparing for the Photoshoot

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Photo by Kevin Thai

A consultation with the client before the photoshoot is essential to understanding their needs and preferences. Discussing wardrobe and makeup choices as well as choosing the right location and background can make all the difference in capturing the perfect shot. From prep to the final product, communication with the client throughout the process is vital to ensure success.

How to Prepare for Business Headshots

Part of the solution is good preparation—not just by the photographer but also by the company. When the company’s communications department has properly briefed the executive on what will happen, and has set aside a suitable amount of time in his or her schedule, subjects tend to be more relaxed and the shoots tend to go more smoothly.

How to Choose the Right Business Headshot Location

Choosing the right location for the shoot plays a major role in ensuring that the image reflects the desired style. A portrait behind a desk can say a lot about the executive, but not necessarily about the company. An executive shot on the factory floor or surrounded by visuals that reflect the work of the corporation looks like an executive who is an integral part of his industry and of his company.

That said, choosing the best location is not always easy—or even possible. Companies often bring the photographer into the executive’s office or the board­ room and expect them to produce — within just a few minutes — a portrait of their CEO.

Balancing Technique with Storytelling

The task of capturing business headshots can be accomplished by utilizing various angles and lighting techniques, and the photographer can make the most of the location. However, it is typically more effective to select locations that enhance the meaning and impact of the shoot, rather than simply using any location available. The ultimate goal of a good business headshot is to reflect the executive’s personality while telling a story about the company and the executive’s role within it.

When approaching corporate photography projects, photographers should research the person, business, and environment, and then plan accordingly. Despite tight deadlines, they should remain analytical and decisive while selecting the best options from the location. And, when presented with a willing subject, they may take advantage of the opportunity to try out artistic and innovative techniques, allowing their creativity to flourish.

Tips for Photographing Business Headshots

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Photo by Kevin Thai

Tip 1: Build Rapport

Building a rapport with the client is crucial to create a relaxed and comfortable environment for the photoshoot. In business headshot photography, a client’s comfort level will be amplified in the frame. Our faces can communicate a wide range of emotions with simple, subtle shifts in expression. Because headshots bring a lot of attention to the face, it’s important that the expression is communicating the client’s intended message.

A great way to build rapport is to show genuine enthusiasm and interest in the client and their business. Using what you learn while researching the company or person can serve as evidence of your interest. Doing this works well to make them feel valued and create a positive experience.

Tip 2: Research and Practice Headshot Posing

Understanding basic headshot poses and cues for posing different body types can make a significant impact on the final images. Encouraging natural expressions and body language and avoiding common mistakes like stiff posing or forced smiles can also improve the overall quality of the headshot.  Lastly, be sure to understand small nuances like the Peter Hurley “squnich” and how to emphasize jawlines.

Tip 3: Operate Quick and with Confidence

Of course, shooting situations are rarely perfect. It’s rare for a top executive to be able to block out a large chunk of time from an overfilled schedule to stand in front of a lens. In most cases, although shoots might last between 30 minutes and an hour, the executive will be keen to move on to the next meeting or in a hurry to get back to their desk.

While it’s understandable that executives may feel impatient during a portrait shoot, displaying such impatience can negatively impact the quality of the final product. Therefore, a good executive photographer must know how to put the subject at ease and shoot efficiently.

One approach to alleviate the issue is to involve the executive in the shoot, explaining the time required for setup, the length of the shoot, and the number of expected images. By clarifying the process, the subject will feel more comfortable and engaged throughout the shoot.

Tip 4: Light It Right

It goes without saying that lighting is one of the most important components in all of photography. The same, of course, holds true for business headshots. As mentioned earlier, you might not have control over the location, so you’ll need to be ready to go with natural and flash photography techniques.

Natural Light Vs. Flash

If the client prefers a natural light look and the location provides adequate ambient light, then great! Maybe, you’ll just need a reflector to push enough fill light back onto your subject’s face for flattering results. Flat lighting is a common key light pattern used for headshots. Here’s one way to get flat lighting with a 5-in-1 reflector and window light.

It’s worth noting, however, that flash, when used with the appropriate modifiers, can emulate natural light in a convincing manner. Understanding how to balance flash and ambient light for both natural and dramatic looks will allow you to get whatever look the client wants under just about any conditions.

Diffused Flash

If you do need to use flash, you’ll want to make sure you have a soft box or white satin umbrella to diffuse and soften the light before it falls on your subject. Diffused light can create a softer and more even light source, reducing harsh shadows and creating a more flattering look. Harsh light (often the result of using direct, on-camera flash), on the other hand, can create unflattering shadows and highlight imperfections. It’s important to avoid harsh light and use softer light sources instead.

Multiple Light Sources for Business Headshots

You might also consider using multiple light sources to create a more dynamic and visually interesting image. Using two to three light sources (key light, fill light, and rim light) can add depth and dimension to the final product.


In conclusion, mastering the art of business headshots requires a combination of technical and interpersonal skills. Understanding the client’s needs and preferences, communicating effectively, and directing the photoshoot with confidence can result in a top-quality headshot. Editing the final product to meet the client’s expectations and delivering it in the right format and resolution is key. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide and continuing to learn and improve, you can become an expert in capturing professional business headshots.