As a business portrait photographer my reputation apparently precedes me. My old friend (and customer, and supplier) Peter Jenkins of e-Advantage Solutions is a well known face around the business communities of Brighton, Hove, Shoreham and the surrounding areas. As well as running gamification consultancy e-Advantage Solutions, he’s also been a leading light in the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce. He can often be seen at networking events charming fellow business people by just being his warm, friendly, affable, jovial self. To top it all he’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Brighton University’s Brighton Business School. It was about time he got some decent business portrait photography done. Considering himself a difficult subject, he came to me. His personality is key to Pete’s business, but it’s difficult to capture someone’s more desirable attributes when they don’t like being photographed. Sometimes a person’s “photo-phobia” is simply that they don’t like the way they generally look in photos. Fortunately, that can be changed.
Pete seemed to like the photos I took of him, and so did his wife, who made some very approving noises indeed. You’ll find a few of them shown in this article… you can click on them for a better view. No drooling though. But first, if you’ll indulge me a little further, let’s take a look at the true nature of business portrait photography… after these kind words from Pete himself.
I needed to update my profile picture for our website and all those social media sites. I approached Jon for these and I’m really glad I did. Jon was quickly able to take some great shots of me, he even made me look good. I get a lot of positive comments about the fantastic quality of these pictures from business colleagues. I highly recommend you get Jon to take your picture!
All Psyched Up for Business Portrait Photos
Business portrait photography, as I’m always telling people, is a deeply psychological thing. Business people need to gain the trust of their prospective and current clients. How they look in their business portrait photos is a vital part of this. Indeed in these days of the Internet, where everything is done online, your profile picture is often the first contact with you for someone new. They see your profile photo and make up their mind about you there and then… of which more later. But it’s this first impression that can be vastly improved by making your profile photo a good, professionally shot business portrait photograph.
I noticed years ago how when I was editing photos of smiling people I’d be sitting there strangely smiling back at them as if it mattered. We’re hard-wired to recognise signs of friendliness and respond in kind. But you can’t just ask someone to smile, or you get the false smile. We know a false smile when we see one, and it doesn’t have the same effect.
In fact a false smile can have the opposite effect, setting the viewer on edge. Some people can’t even work out how to smile when you ask them, even though they might have been smiling perfectly naturally just moments before. So the challenge for the business portrait photographer is to get the subject to relax & be natural – as you can see in Pete’s case. This is harder than it might sound, because being photographed is not a natural thing for some people. A large proportion of people even hate it.
Business Portraiture: A Clear Message in 1/125th of a Second
Business portrait photographers have another, harder challenge. The photo captures the merest fraction of a second of a scene. However it’s viewed for very much longer than that, and can have a lifetime well beyond that of the photographer or the subject. We don’t have a special bit of our psyche for looking at still images. We evolved long before time could stand still in such a way. So we view a photograph as we would a moving scene. By looking at any image, not least a business portrait photograph, we extract from it all the information we need to know about the emotional state of the person pictured in it.
We create a story in our heads. We decide at the moment we see the image whether or not we can trust the subject of the photograph; whether or not we like them. We make up our minds which attributes we can see in that person. It’s a deeply prejudiced process for all sorts of reasons of past experience and cultural influence, but there it is, immutable and automatic. A process that’s going to happen whenever you see a photo of anyone. But the process can be manipulated. A good business portrait photographer knows how.
So… to sum up… business portrait photography can be defined as: Telling the whole story about someone, just from an image shot in 1/125th of a second of an entirely artificial moment of their life, spent doing something they probably hate doing… put it this way and it sounds impossible. But the professional business portrait photographer does it time after time. Don’t leave your image to chance.