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.
Or somewhere in between.
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.