Business Head Shots: Time to Try an Executive Portrait?

If you’ve been considering having new business head shots taken, due to a change of job or  because it has been years since your last photo shoot, your corporate photographer may ask if you’re interested in trying an executive portrait. Not sure which one to choose?

What is the difference between a a business head shot (also called an executive head shot) and an executive portrait? Well, everything!

The Executive Headshot

Executive head shots are typically shot in a studio, or in front of a simple background. The executive is attired in what is considered appropriate work attire (for some industries that may be a suit and tie, for others it may be jeans and a button-down shirt). With simple lighting, these images center on the head and shoulders of the subject. A tightly cropped image, the headshot is predictable and professional.

Because of the clean simplicity of the executive headshot, these images generally require less pre-shoot planning and less post-production work. Ordinarily, you will receive the finished photos quickly.

The Executive Portrait

Many executives have steered away from the traditional headshot and prefer to use a portrait style image. The executive portrait provides opportunity for creativity. The corporate photographer can capture more of the executive’s personality within their work environment, using creative lighting, stylized posing and on-location backgrounds. The professional may be dressed in their normal business attire or may be more casually dressed, giving the photograph a more contemporary feel. Executive portraits often include headshot like images, which can be used for a variety of applications.

Portraits typically involve more pre-shoot planning and post-production work. Depending on what was required during the shoot, you may wait a few days longer for your photos than a typical business head shot.

Case study: Coin Branding

We collaborate often with Coin Branding, a brand strategy firm in Toronto led by Andris Pone. Their clients include Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Canadian Tire, Revera, BMO Nesbitt Burns, RBC Wealth Management and many others.

Coin Branding’s client, Wayne Miller, hired the firm to create a professional Brand Foundation for his personal brand. Miller is one of the Canadian insurance industry’s thought leaders. He wanted to leverage his existing expertise into a personal value proposition he could communicate to the world as he builds his firm’s insurance sales team of top performers.

But it’s more than that. Take a read of Wayne’s Core Purpose and Vision that Coin Branding helped him distill:

Core purpose:
To have no regrets in life: so that when I am dying, I won’t wish I could have made more of a difference than I actually did.

A movement that inspires every Canadian to create a meaningful legacy – because they understand and respect the financial services industry and the advisors that serve within it.

We decided on an executive portrait session for Wayne as this would do the best job of conveying his personal brand through photography.

Here is how the project came together:

  1. Coin Branding created the brand foundation. This will lead in all Wayne Miller’s online and social media presence.
  2. The Donna Santos Studio translated the brand foundation into photography. How? The cottage was a place that had a lot of meaning for the client, so we didn’t fight it. We traveled to the location as it meant a lot to the client.

3. We made the most of the cottage environment and created something that can be corporate in aesthetic, but personal in experience for the client. It’s how we capture his best energy in the photos. Hands down, it has to be said, we had a GREAT time shooting!

This is the background we found and what we had to use to create something that doesn’t look like the background. 

4. We had the chance to do some lifestyle shots for Wayne, which we know will resonate with his personal values and goals.

Which One Should You Choose?

In many ways, the differences between the executive headshot and the executive portrait are philosophical. They are both images that center around the executive and are used for professional marketing purposes. The recent rise in amateur digital photography, however, and the abundance of people with smart-phones have given way to the more casual ‘snapshot’ approach to executive head shots. Online and social media usage has ‘devolved’ the executive headshot into a candid, less stylized image. As a result, many executives are left wondering which style of photograph is best. However, it is essential that your photographs reflect your brand – both personally and professionally. And you can never go wrong using a professional photographer.

Deciding which style of photographs to use is entirely based on what you’re going to do with the images, what you want to convey with your personal brand and who you’re wanting to attract as customers and clients.

We’ve worked with executives in many creative and typically conservative industries and would be happy to share our portfolio to give you some ideas on what is possible with business head shots.

Still can’t decide? Speak with the corporate photography experts at The Donna Santos Studio. We’ve been capturing executive images for professionals from a variety of fields since 2008. We’d love to design an executive business head shot or portrait session just for you. Call us today to learn more.