How to Shoot Simple Corporate Portraits – Lighting Article

By Jay P Morgan

Corporate Portraits Photography Tutorial

A great way to increase your clientele and business as a photographer is shooting corporate portraits. In this article, we will teach you how to shoot simple corporate portraits. We will breakdown the basic elements needed to bring a shoot together from choosing the background to scheduling the talent. We will also talk about how to setup your lighting in a small space, how to alter the lighting to accommodate different clothes and people, and, last of all, what you need to bring to the shoot to make the day go a little better.

You can watch this lesson in action here.

The Background

My first question for the client is always, “What’s the background or what’s the look of the portraits?” Sometimes, the client won’t know what he or she wants, so sending samples of environmental portraits or portraits shot on colored backgrounds is a great way to help your client reach a decision. When the client is reviewing these options, it’s also a good idea to talk about their time and space constraints or possibilities.

Scheduling the Day

Now we need a schedule. Making a schedule is paramount. You have to schedule your time to travel to the location, to setup, to take a lunch break, and enough time for each person to be photographed during the day. I like to arrive before the office opens, so I’m ready to shoot by the time the client’s staff starts arriving. I allot an hour and a half to setup my equipment and finalize my lighting setup. You’ll probably want about 15 minutes to photograph each person. It’s always fun to save a little time at the end to take some funny pictures with the entire staff.

Setting up your Lights

If you’re in a bit of a small space, it’s a great idea to use the following simple, four-light setup.

Photography Lights for Corporate Portraits

This lighting setup for Corporate Portraits created the following portrait:

Corporate Portraigs Lighting Progression

1. Our first light is a Dynalite Pack (MP800) and a studio head with a large Photoflex soft box. I add a grid to the soft box because the room is small, and I need to keep all of the light off the surrounding walls and ceiling. If I leave the box open faced, it’s going to create a bounce light that will overfill the subject and make the background too light. In doing so, I will lose control of the light.

I know I’m heading in the right direction because the room is dark. We’re just lighting her face. I actually love the look of that Dynolite studio head. It’s a very soft light as it comes through that soft box.

2. Next, I add a small Photoflex OctoDome with a grid as the rim light. I use a small Octodome because of the quality of light it gives me as a rim light. To understand the quality of light coming from an Octodome better, watch this TSL Lesson called understanding OctoDomes.

3. We’re now going to add a Dynalite travel head with a 20-degree grid as our background light. You’ll want to move this background light around with each person. Your goal is to separate him or her from the background and create interest.

4. As you can see, the shadows are a bit heavy, so I’m going to add an umbrella as a fill light behind the camera. For this light, it’s okay that it bounces light around the room because we’re looking for fill in the image.

Now that the lighting is setup, you are ready to call your clients in and start shooting! Well, almost. You’ll need to change things up if they’re wearing dark or light clothing.

Lighting Dark or Light Clothing

The above setup is really ideal for someone wearing a darker top. People are bound to come in with light shirts or white shirts as businessmen. So you’ll also want to set a flag in place. This flag can be put in when someone comes in with a white shirt. The flag will knock that white shirt down a little bit, so it’s not too bright. When they leave and someone comes in with a darker shirt, pull that flag out. Using a flag is great because the flag can easily go in and out as the people come in with light or dark the shirts.

Lighting Dark or Light Hair

We’ll also dial our rim light up or down depending on the color of the hair. For dark hair, we will dial it up. For light hair, we will dial it down.

The Check List for Corporate Photos

Here are a few things you can bring with you when shooting corporate portraits.

1. Bring a handcart. It’s a long way from the car to the sixth floor.

2. Ask everyone to bring two or three outfits. You don’t want to have some guy come in with a shirt his mother gave him from the 70s and have no other options. At least if he brings two shirts, you’ll have 2 shirts his mother gave him from the 70s.

3. Bring a hand held mirror. People can then see themselves on set. You don’t want to set it up so they can look at it through the whole shoot. That would be a huge distraction. But if someone says, “I better run and check my hair.” You can say, “Here’s a mirror right here.” This helps you keep them from leaving, which keeps you on schedule. Or at least, it should help!

4. Bring a nice, blue tie. So many times in the business casual world today, people will come and not bring a tie and then realize that they should have a tie on. Bring a nice, blue tie, so that you can lend it to someone.

5. Bring an extra C-Stand (or clothing rack) and hangers for people’s clothing. This gives them a place to hang their jacket or their blouse. It also makes you look like you’re together and ready to take care of them.

I hope the next time you shoot corporate portraits, you’ll be ready to better take on the challenges of the day and know more of what you’ll be facing. If you’re ready to master studio strobe lighting, you can buy our comprehensive DVD here today.

Keep those cameras rolling and keep on click’n!

All the best,

Jay P Morgan

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  1. says

    Great little portrait tutorial! I like like hearing that you take give yourself an hour and a half to set up. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say they want the 15 minute easy pop up studio set up. Take the time to do it right in camera. And the tip about the tie is definitely something I will begin to use.

  2. Robert says

    Great video but can you explain what percentage each light is dialed into? Is there a rule for this? Keep up the great work!


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