Google ”corporate portrait” and you’ll see an awful lot blue suits, ¼ angles, canvas backgrounds, and plastic smiles. It’s unfortunate, in our opinion, because the value of a photo is to let people see you, but so many of these portraits portray images that lack any humanity.
For most of us, it’s like our old school photos. Boys wear a white shirt and a tie with dark slacks, and girls where a white blouse and dark skirt. When it was your turn, they sat you on a “posing stool”, then proceeded to cock your head and chin at such severe angles it literally hurt. They assured us it looked great, and then six months later in the school yearbook we see the worst portraits of us ever taken!
Well times are changing. And we at Newman Grace are trying our best to lead the charge. We are on a mission to eliminate the “dead” portrait.
With many of our clients coming from the professional services sectors (law, accounting, and business advisors), we know that one of the most important marketing tasks is to “humanize” our clients. Some would argue that the average attorney does NOT have blood coursing through his or her veins, nor does their CPA have a personality. And while we chuckle at those stereotypes, as most stereotypes do, these come from some true experiences.
To combat this, we have developed a new style of portrait. We call it “professional casual”. In the same way “business casual” has redefined business apparel, we hope “professional casual” redefines corporate portraits.
Professional casual is characterized by a professional who looks smart (clothing-wise), well put together, but not stuffy. For men, this may mean a coat but no tie. It might mean a shirt and tie, but no coat. We’re in Los Angeles, so that means professionals working in entertainment may wear a t-shirt under a sport coat, or even a longsleeve shirt untucked.
For women, it can be almost anything except a business suit. A skirt and blouse, a dress and jacket, or slacks and a top. Colors are not only “okay”, they are encouraged.
Another trend is to use the environment more. Hallways, office balconies, windows, and lobbies make great settings for professional casual shots.
Among our rules are the following. First, the “look” needs to represent the person. How do they really look? People that never wear suits don’t photograph well in suits. Next, not “stuffy” setups. If someone is sitting at their desk, they CANNOT have their hands folded perfectly on the desk. Maybe they’re leaning back, maybe standing, maybe even sitting on the edge of the desk. And NO attorneys in front of book cases holding law books! And finally, alternative angles and lenses are okay. Show low looking up, wide angle, shallow depth of field, or in black and white.
The next time you are putting marketing materials together, or updating a website or brochure, consider a new take on portraits. I think you’ll like what you see!