Whenever I take corporate head shots I like to use things in the workplace as “natural” backgrounds. If the head shots are for office workers I use work stations, vending machines, task boards etc. as a background. If the head shots are for builders I use brick walls, scaffolding etc. as a background. If the head shots are for car salesman I would use cars in the show room as a background. And so on.
I was recently asked to do some headshots for a local accountancy firm, however the partners were reluctant to let me decide on the background. I wanted to use shelves of files, I wanted to use the photocopying area, I wanted to use the water cooler and I wanted to use the shelves of tax/accounts/company law/reference books as backgrounds however I was not allowed to. Nope, I was given a plain wall in the meeting room, which was an off white colour. Hmmmmm…………….
I have to say that I am not a fan of plain backgrounds as they are old fashioned and dated, they lack originality and they are dull and boring, and if there’s one thing worse than a plain background it is a plain white background because they are so clinical.
If I knew a plain white background was all that was needed I would have taken a proper white photography background since this would have at least resulted in a consistently white background for all head shots rather than the dirty white backgrounds that were different for each and every head shot I took. Yep, the background was a slightly different color for each and every head shot I took and there was nothing I could do about it. I kept the flash light in the same place for each shot (I was permitted to use a single off camera flash – and used my Godox Witstro AD360), I made sure the subjects stood in exactly the same place, I made sure the room lights were off so I only had to balance natural light with the flash and I made sure the photos were all taken quickly so natural light levels didn’t change too much, yet despite this the backgrounds were totally inconsistent.
The background for the corporate head shots ended up being a dirty white color, which actually didn’t look too bad in isolation. The problem is that all of the headshots were going to be used on a single web page where you can compare the headshots side by side, and this is where the inconsistent background stuck out like a sore thumb, and I have to say it wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t even rectify the problem with my photo editing software – Photo Shop Elements.
Before even setting up to take the corporate headshots I explained the issues and said it would be better if we cancelled the shoot and re-arranged for another time where I would take my proper photography background with me, but the accountancy practice owner insisted on having the meeting room wall as the background. I have to say that I was not overly impressed, but the customer is always right…. Or are they? I have to say I wasn’t happy with the photos and I was reluctant to put my name to them. Fortunately, the website featuring the corporate headshots I took didn’t credit me and boy was I glad. In normal circumstances I want my name at the bottom of the photos but this was one time (and it was the first time too) where I didn’t want my name anywhere near the photos.
The accountancy firm owner seemed happy with the corporate headshots I took - I got paid in full and the photos are currently on the firm’s website, and whilst many photographers would be fine with this and put it behind them, I have to say that I am struggling to do this. I want every photo I give/sell to a client to be the best it can, I want to be happy with every shot I give/sell to a client and I want to be proud of every photo I give/sell to a client. On this occasion the photos weren’t my best, I wasn’t happy with them and I wasn’t proud of them either. I will be devastated if anyone ever associates those photos with me, and I feel it would be the end of my paid photography work. Hmmmmmmm………..
This experience has taught me that if I am not comfortable with the way the client wants me to take the shots, and is going to be happy with any old photo I need to decline the shoot and walk away with my integrity intact.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.
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