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 huge company with heaps of staff around Australia or the world getting a consistent look across your staff portraits when you’re using different locations and different photographers can be tricky. 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 of your images.
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.
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.
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.