What is the best focal length for corporate portraits and headshots?


When shooting head-and-shoulders portrait photography or a simple headshot with an SLR or DSLR, lens choice is very important. The lens you choose to use will determine whether or not your subject is distorted and the amount of the image that is in focus. Canon currently has about 68 new lenses available and Nikon lists about 79 lenses available. So how do professional corporate photographers and headshot photographers decide which to use? Choosing a lens with the right focal length will ensure the subject is not distorted and the right aperture will ensure the background goes out of focus, emphasizing the subject. Here you’ll see the following guidelines in action with some great examples of corporate photography NYC produces.

Every lens is labelled with a focal length, measured in millimeters (mm). If you choose a lens too wide, also referred to as too short of a focal length or too low of focal length number, your portrait photography subject will appear stretched. Adding 100 pounds is no problem with a wide enough lens positioned close enough to a subject. Choose a lens with too long of a focal length or too “zoomed” in and you better have a lot of distance between you and the subject otherwise they may not fit in the frame.

When looking at focal length, its important to know if your DSLR has a full-frame or cropped-frame sensor. Cameras with full-frame sensors have a sensor the same size as a piece of 35mm film and therefore interact with lenses the same as their film counterparts. However, camera’s with cropped frame sensors feature sensors that are smaller than 35mm film. Consequently. less of the image produced by the lens is captured, giving the appearance that the subject is closer/larger. Camera’s with a cropped frame sensor have a conversion factor that can be multiplied by the lens’ focal length to understand how this smaller sensor affects the lens. For example, if you are using a 50mm lens on a camera with a cropped frame sensor with a conversion factor of 1.6, you would multiply the focal length of 50mm by the conversion factor of 1.6 to discover the lens is actually acting like an 80mm lens would on a full frame or 35mm film SLR camera. i.e. 50mm x 1.6 = 80mm. When reading focal lengths just know that its referring to the lens as it would be viewed on a DSLR with a full frame sensor or a film camera. Those with cropped frame sensors will need to multiply the focal length by their crop factor in order to have the appropriate focal length equivalent. For a more detailed explanation of crop factor check out B&H

Typically, a lens with a focal length between 80mm and 135mm will work best for headshots and head-and-shoulders corporate portraits. This range is not absolute, however from a distance of about 10 feet, give or take, it will create an image that lacks the distortion of wider angle lenses. Meanwhile, the lens allows the whole subject to fit in the frame while working within a relatively compact space. If you then position the background about 5 feet behind the subject and use an aperture, also referred to as an f-stop, of f5.6, you’ll have a good setup allowing enough space for the background to drift out of focus. You can certainly change the aperture to suit your needs just understand that, using a lower aperture number will reduce the amount of image that is in focus and if you lower it much more than f5.6 you may find that only a portion of the person’s face is in focus. For example, other portions closer or further away, like the nose and ears respectively, may drift out of focus. Increase the aperture value much beyond f5.6 or f8, and you’ll see more of the background come in to focus and take emphasis away from the subject.

As with all rules in the creative field, these rules are meant to be broken, However, I recommend following these guidelines until you fully understand why they work and then you can then justify breaking them. Now visit your favorite camera store , hand over that wallet and you’re on the right track to produce some of the best head shots and corporate photography nyc can handle.

What kind of camera should I get?

t3i_front_1In the last 2 years about 30 people I am Facebook friends with have had kids – half of them have asked this question. I field it the same way every time, I always point them towards a low end Canon DSLR kit, I am a Canon shooter trust the quality of there bottom line after seeing how great their top and mid range lines are. I push them towards the cheapest one every time because I know that the sensors on these cameras are far above and beyond the quality of the Canon 10D I began my career with, and I am confident that the camera will last them a long time. I always steer them away from a Digital Point and Shoot since everyone is carrying a smart phone and that should be their default P/S camera.

Digital Point and Shoots also have a tendency to be overly complicated, slow and inconsistent. Maybe this has gotten better in the last few years, but then again, so has the camera on your smart phone. To that point, are you ever anywhere without a phone? A Digital Point and Shoot is just something else to keep track of. While a DSLR may be more bulky and have a little bit of a learning curve, it is a completely different beast when put side by side with a P/S or smart phone. The image quality of a DSLR is hard to top, it can handle itself much better in low light and it’s flash will actually make a difference.

Once people learn to use a DSLR, they realize how big the leap in quality is compared to the DP/S that they bought 5 years ago, lost 3 years ago, and just found under the couch… It doesn’t work anymore, but the memory card was still inside and had never been downloaded. The picture quality and responsiveness makes them actually want to use this instead of lose it under the couch. And on days when they don’t feel like carrying the DSLR around, well their phone is in their pocket anyhow. When it comes down to it, the best camera is the one you have with you.

How to prepare for your corporate portrait

19842-126We are constantly bombarded with photography in our everyday lives, so much so that in many cases the photos themselves seem frivolous or disposable. However, while you may decide to change your facebook photo after every family outing or friday night out, a corporate headshot or executive portrait can follow you for years. Its a valuable image that can create a first impression of confidence and professionalism or it can be the bane of your existence for 10 years until you get a new one. The good news is, there are a number of decisions within your control, as the subject, to help the image be as successful as possible. As a New York City corporate photographer, I get to see both the good and bad but I’ve included a link to some great examples of corporate photography nyc has to offer.

One of the most important things you have control over, when having a corporate portrait taken, is your wardrobe. Although, some companies have specific requirements for their portrait photography, typically both men and women are best served by wearing a suit coat with a dress shirt, blouse or solid color undershirt. The key to making this outfit look its best is contrast. Contrasting clothing with the background and contrasting clothing against itself, will help guarantee separation and keep your wardrobe from turning into a big ball of similarly colored fabric. Its important to remember corporate photography is used at a variety of sizes and typically the images can be displayed rather small. The compressed image size makes the image harder to read and therefore makes contrast that more important.

First, find out what color background your portrait will be shot on and then be sure to choose a different color suit coat that will stand out. Typically black and dark colored suits stand out against all background colors except black and very very dark grays. Its important to remember that images online can often appear very small, which is another reason why contrast is so important. The only color, besides the background color, that I would suggest to avoid wearing would be white because a viewers eye is always drawn to the brightest part of an image and any large area of white clothing would distract from the subjects face, furthermore, white clothing is easily over-lit. Some women do decide to wear a blouse and skip the coat, which is often acceptable, depending on company policy, but once again I would recommend against white for the same reasons as mentioned earlier. Once you’ve decided on a suit color, its best to then choose a blouse or dress shirt that will contrast the coat. If you are unsure whether enough contrast exists, you can try squinting to see if the color blends together without separation. If an outfit lacks separation between the suit coat and the blouse or dress shirt, the wardrobe could blend together into one big mass of fabric. Many times people will choose to match their dress shirt or blouse color with the background color, particularly if it is a specific color other than blacks whites or grays. Other times men choose to wear a tie that contains the background color. When choosing a tie its best to avoid any type of seasonal tie or imagery that could appear out of date down the road. As with the contrast of ones coat and dress shirt, its also important to make sure the tie offers enough contrast from the dress shirt to appear separated.

In addition to your wardrobe you can also prepare for your shoot by getting a hair cut. I would be careful about having your haircut the day of or immediately before your corporate portrait. This may not be a problem for people who have gone to the same hair dresser for years and know what to except. However, its often a good idea to schedule hair appointments a few days before the portrait session. This allows time to grow into a cut or fix a bad hair cut. Men without facial hair should be sure to shave before their corporate headshot, and for those who get 5 o’clock shadows, it may not be a bad idea to bring a razor to the portrait session. Retouching can go a long way in hiding skin blemishes, fixing wild hair and clothing, however, beard stubble is very time consuming, if not impossible to remove.

Lastly, having a good night sleep and staying hydrated can go along way in helping you look your best. You know when you feel tired and stressed out and unfortunately, the camera does too!

Shooting Photos in NYC without a permit

Spire Capital

Shooting photos in New York City can at times be a difficult task.  Clients usually want to go places where you can’t bring much gear, need permits, of just can’t go in general.  Recently one of the best studios dedicated to corporate photography NYC has to offer shot a group of executives in the middle of Times Square with no issues.  All it took was a bit of preparation and a few tests to have everything set prior to it becoming a scene.

They started out a week prior to the shoot, their location(just a block east of Times Square) meant that scouting the shot at a few different times though out the day/evening would be easy.  They watched the foot traffic patterns and noted that Times Square died down between after 5:30pm and started picking up again at around 6:30pm, hoping to keep some of the available light, they scheduled to shoot on the earlier side of that.

The night before the shoot, a tight group of 3 went over to test lighting and see how fast they could set up and break down the lighting without being noticed.  With no issues from cops, and a few solid test shots, settings were noted and files were sent over to the client confirming the shot for the next evening.

On the night of the shoot, the photographer and his crew of 3 headed to Times Square at around 5pm to prepare to shoot, the 2 lights being used to shoot would be hand held by assistants, and the MacBook Pro that was being tethered to held by the digital tech.  At around 5:30 the team of executives began to arrive, by 5:45 they were being photographed and before 6 the shoot was wrapped up and done.

For more info on the studio, check NYCPhoto.com

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