Monday, May 11, 2015

Back into the Workforce Business Portrait

Tracy "Before" and "After"

Ten years ago Tracy stepped away from her career in finance to dedicate herself to her growing family. Now that the demands on her time are changing with all three kids in school, she is rev'd about getting back into the workforce and relaunching her business self. 

When we're shooting in studio I always suggest clients bring some wardrobe choices, because often what we think looks good in life does not look as good in a photograph for various reasons. Tracy was a rock star in the wardrobe department bringing four jackets, nine tops(!) and a dress, all pressed and on hangers (perfect!). As, again, is often the case, she really wasn't sure what might work best for her portrait, and since she's been out of the business world for a while she had fewer specifically business oriented clothes to choose from than she used to. 

I wasn't sure the leather jacket was the way to go, so we tried three outfit variations, and ultimately decided that the leather jacket really did look most flattering. It also made Tracy feel most like herself. We did change the top underneath, though, to one with less distracting detail. That top was actually a dress which Tracy told me she almost didn't bring figuring she wouldn't need a dress for a portrait shoot. Thank goodness she did. It's good to remember that you can often "cheat" in photography; the same way something looks good in life but not on film, something might look great on film and not work at all in life. Regarding wardrobe, and jewellery, for that matter, if you're not sure, bring it anyway. Always better to have too much to choose from than nothing that really works!

Three wardrobe variations we thought might work, that didn't

While Tracy was focused on bringing wardrobe options to chose from, to her dismay she forgot her tinted moisturizer. She's a minimal make-up kind of person, and she has great skin so it wasn't a disaster, nothing a little retouching couldn't fix, and it was, truly, a little retouching. What else did we do? Tracy was wearing eyeliner but had applied it very subtly, so I just added to it (using her liner which she'd brought with her), to make it darker and thicker. At first she felt it looked a bit heavy, but looking at her photo she agreed it worked really well to emphasize and energize her eyes. The magic of eyeliner!

Tracy had also, the day before the shoot, visited her trusted hair salon Fiorio where stylist Chrissy (her usual stylist Phillipe being away) updated her look for her personal relaunch. Trying out a new stylist right before a photo shoot can be risky, but in this case it worked out really well! As always, there were a few hairs to style back into place once she was seated. Untamable flyaways were retouched out later.

Because I know Tracy and she had time, we played around with the lighting I had set up prior to her arrival just in case it looked better from the opposite side. It didn't, so back it went to the initial set-up. This meant, though, that we shot a bit more than we would usually need to, wrapping up after about 110 frames. 

With regard to the "before" photo at the beginning of this post, a comment: I had thought we were pretty much ready to go but realized something was missing...more accurately, it wasn't that something was missing, it was that there was too much light making the face look kind of flat and washed out. I prefer more modelling on the face (ie. light and shadow to create shape and depth) so I blocked the light reflecting into the right side of Tracy's face (left of photo), and voila.

A note regarding the background: in studio a common choice is between seamless paper (solid colour), or a painted backdrop (if not a more elaborate set). There are lots of very dated looking mottled backgrounds out there...we've all seen know the look: kind of dark and speckled. Even some of those can still work if you light them well and throw them out of focus enough. I do like to have some kind of hint of texture in the backgrounds I use for corporate portraits, so when it's practical I use custom painted backdrops which I paint myself because I have not found many commercially produced textured backgrounds I like.

Finally here, an alternative shot captured just before we wrapped, featuring a slightly brighter expression and less formal and conservative look, with a light filter applied to further brighten and soften:

Now when Tracy's potential new employers see her LinkedIn profile, website, etc., she will have the added advantage of looking (in her profile picture) like the polished, professional, confident, friendly business woman she is.

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