Portraits against a white background – when they don’t suck

//Portraits against a white background – when they don’t suck

I know I said corporate portraits against white backgrounds suck. But I will concede, they do have their place. These types of staff portraits excel in three key areas; consistency, flexibility in post-production/design layout, and their highly professional look. I do photograph for some clients against a white background but beforehand I really make sure they’re choosing it because it’s the best option for them. Not because they’ve always done it that way or because everyone else in their industry does it that way.

CONSISTENCY: If you’re a company with staff around Australia or the world, getting a consistent look across your staff portraits can be tricky. Different photographers, locations and conditions can introduce inconsistencies. But using a white background allows your main (or first) photographer to set up a lighting diagram for other photographers to follow. Even if this diagram isn’t available, it’s pretty easy for experienced photographers to reverse engineer these types of portraits and replicate how it was done. This will give you consistency between all your images.

 

Corporate portrait of a male Brisbane Executive shoulders turned to the left of frame, wearing a suit and tie, smiling naturally

This is a really standard execution of the white background corporate portrait. It’s professional, well lit, there are no weird or distracting shadows, the result could be easily replicated if it had to be and the subject is smiling naturally.

 

Full length corporate portrait of man wearing a dark suit, blue shirt and blue tie, facing camera, hands on hips, smiling, looking relaxed.

I find the more direction I give people with their bodies the less natural their position becomes. Distracting the person with chatter often makes them relax into a great pose. When that happens I just ask them not to move and grab that – which is what happened in this case.

FLEXIBILITY: Another really strong reason to use white background portraits is to give your design team flexibility in post-production. It can make life much easier when laying out websites and annual reports. I shoot some portraits like this for Brisbane Airport’s Annual Report because they have a team of people they can’t always assemble on one day. They strip them together in the final image to create an Executive Team portrait. This approach is also handy if your team is largely stable and only one or two changes happen every year. That means just the newbie’s need to be photographed but the rest are off the hook until it’s time to update.

 

Corporate portrait of a female Brisbane executive cropped at the waist, black shirt arms folded smiling.

There is no one body position that works for everyone. Sometimes people can look slightly intimidating with arms folded. But Rachel looks relaxed, professional and approachable in this portrait.

Corporate portrait of a female Brisbane executive wearing red pants and a black shirt, seated on a red chair, facing forward, leaning into the camera

Finding a way for the subject to be comfortable means you get engaging portraits. Here the chair is part of the story but it doesn’t distract from the subject.

PROFESSIONAL: One of the best things white background portraits have going for them is they do look very very professional. Law firms, accounting firms and other professional service firms often take this approach and ensure their people are fully dressed in corporate attire (suits for everyone, including ties for the gents). Shooting against a white background when you’re in an industry like this can make sense. It’s not a given though. You can still get very professional images using a background that’s relevant to your industry, your company or your location.

Corporate portrait of man in blue business shirt standing against a white background, leaning on a chair that is just out of frame

Not every corporate portrait has to be a person standing at a 3/4 angle away from the camera. If you can find a body position that is comfortable for the subject you will get a much more natural result

 

Corporate portrait of a smiling woman in a purple top with shoulder length brown hair photographed against a white background

Corporate portraits can be great for consistency if you have large numbers of staff across multiple locations

 

Corporate portrait of a man in a suit jacket and white shirt, no tie, photographed against a white background

The white background gives a clean palette for designers to work with, allowing them to place the image easily among other graphic elements, or cut them out and place them against a different coloured background.

Check out some ideas for making your portraits, white background or not, more engaging. In the meantime, I encourage you to consider other options, particularly as Annual Report season rolls around. Get in touch if you’d like to chat about your corporate portrait options.