By Geoff Livingston

Headshots and business portraits are a necessary evil. When I shoot portraits, I try to steer people towards street scenes.

Most portraits I see are studio or indoor-based shots. You can tell a story with a well-crafted indoor portrait. In some cases that can be pretty amazing.

It takes creativity, make-up, hair styling (in most cases), and wardrobe. Many portrait photographers will use a backdrop or a set to help tell that story. This is not something done on the cheap like most corporate portraits are.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of portraits offer a cafeteria-style headshot. As a photographer, I feel that such shots haven’t fulfilled the medium’s potential.

As a marketing executive, I get it. Budgets are budgets.

Affordable Storytelling with Street Shots

That’s why if budget is dictating the shots, I prefer doing a series of portraits outdoors in a scene.

Why shoot headshots outdoors in specific locations. This preference may have as much to do with my natural inclination towards street photography as it does the technical functionality of a good well-lit headshot.

Street shots tell a story, with the background providing a part of the narrative. Whether it’s skyscrapers, or bridges, or townhomes, or simply a mural behind someone, the portrait offers context.

That story can be professional.

Jimmy Fox

Or personal.

Crister DelaCruz

Or somewhere in between.

Jenn Sherman

Choose Your Setting Wisely

Choosing your setting goes a long way to providing the right story. The setting provides the foundation for the photograph’s story. If you want to tell a federal story, go beyond a monument and find a building or a scene that communicates specifically your type of government business.

Consider your brand. If it was in a movie, how would the opening scene start? Where would it be? That’s why a street portrait can make a huge impact for your brand. You’re literally telling the story. 

The below shot of my friend Shai was taken last fall. It intentionally told a bit of a forest fairytale. I scoped the site our shoot — Difficult Run — a week in advance.

You can also see her wardrobe and hairstyle helped communicate the feel. None of this cost extra money, it was all shot with her existing clothes.  With a good scene shot combined with a smart wardrobe choice and a well communicated intent, you can produce a smart visual story.

Don’t you want your paid photography to tell a story for your brand? If you can’t pay big bucks for professional studio shots, then let the street help you.

You can learn more about Geoff Livingston’s photography here. Join Geoff for a street photography workshop on Saturday, May 19. Check out the details here

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