We’ve all seen those shots. Awkward, cringe-looking business people attempting an uncomfortable smile at the camera. The look in their eyes screams “I'm a professional, get me out of here!”.
This guide will save you from their fate. Equipped with tips from the UK's top corporate photographers, you’re going to ace your portrait session like an A-lister and go down as the most photographable person in your company’s history.
The fact is, getting comfortable in front of a lens isn’t rocket science. Your day job is likely to be a lot more challenging than this. But posing in front of a camera just isn't something you’re used to and you haven’t had much practice. So you have every right to feel a little bit nervous.
In preparation for this guide, we’ve asked some of the best corporate portrait photographers in the UK for their advice on how to look relaxed in front of the camera.
Some ideas may resonate with you, others might not. That’s fine. Pick the ones that feel right and you’re sure to get the most out of your corporate portrait session. Let’s dive in and learn from the experts.
If you're looking for a local corporate photographer, these links could come in handy.
Photographer Michael Donald has taken portraits of some of the most recognisable people in the world. From the Rolling Stones to Martin Scorsese to... you in your next corporate portrait? Yes, you and Jagger could be working with the same photographer. Now that would be cool, wouldn't it?
Michael gave us his unique take on helping professionals look relaxed in their corporate portraits.
“With corporate portraits, they are often very self conscious and limited for time. Not an ideal combination. I have found that it isn’t you or the camera that they react to, it is the atmosphere in the room. And as photographer you are solely responsible for that. I work very hard at making it seem, while professional, as loose and casual as possible. You want them to feel that without you having to explain it."
Michael brings a collaborative approach to his corporate photoshoots, often telling his sitters “I’m not taking your picture per se, we’re doing this together. I’ll make suggestions as we go along but that’s all they are; suggestions. You can’t do anything wrong here.”
This type of assurance gives you, the business professional being photographed, control. Remember that you can to do your own thing and there are no strong rules, just recommendations.
Imperia Steffieiri is a specialist headshot photographer based in London. She photographs both business headshots and acting headshots, so she knows a thing or two about getting people comfortable in front of the camera.
“When it comes to feeling comfortable and looking relaxed in a professional headshot, my top advice would be to place your trust in your photographer. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve learnt that when clients feel a little nervous at the start, it can take a bit longer to capture that perfect shot.
The magic happens when you let your photographer guide you through the process, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while.
A strong posture and a confident look are key ingredients for a killer headshot. But here’s the secret sauce: while a professional vibe is crucial, blending in a friendly and approachable aura is what truly makes potential clients choose you over the competition.
As you build a connection with your photographer, you'll find the sweet spot where your professional and human sides effortlessly combine. That's where trust and approachability shine through, and that's what can seal the deal with your clients.”
Bex Maini's photos have appeared in Grazia, Elle Decoration, National Geographic, Photo Vogue, the BBC... and the list goes on...
Bex, who's based in East Sussex, is a personal branding photographer which means she often takes photos of professionals. Personal branding photos focus bringing out character and individuality. Clients hire Bex when they're looking to showcase something unique and personal rather than look like anyone else.
Bex has published a detailed guide to ensure your brand photos are packed with character on her website and, with her consent, we're quoting a few of her tips here:
"It can be a scary thing getting in front of the camera, I get it! The good news is that there are ways to make it easier and believe me when I say it's worth it."
Bex recommends hiring a photographer who makes you feel good. "You have to have a good connection with your photographer, it's important to speak to them before you book". If you're not sure what the should feel like Bex adds that "You should be feeling excited about your photo shoot after chatting with your photographer."
Basically, hire Bex and you're going to feel really good before you shoot, during your shoot and probably for the rest of your life.
Bex Also recommends listening to music during your photoshoot "A sure-fire way to boost your mood is by listening to music. I've created a playlist that works for me when I need to be fired up and feel empowered."
It's important to note that you won't always be able to choose your photographer, if your company has booked the photoshoot and you only have 5-10 minutes with them. Even then, you could still apply some of Bex's tips like listening to energising music right before the shoot or talking with the photographer so that you both build a connection during your shoot. Remember, photography is always better with collaboration and communication.
We spoke with London based corporate photographer, Phil Deacon. Phil's shot everything from events, portraits, corporate group shots and headshots for executives. Here's his take on getting his sitters to find their own groove during corporate photoshoots.
"For headshots, when I pose the subject, I always want them to be relaxed with the pose. If for example, they feel awkward in a slightly sideways stance, I let them approach the shoot however they feel most comfortable - even if it breaks all the rules, the end result has to look relaxed and natural and can quite often beat the most theoretical pose hands down!
For company group shots Phil has a slightly different approach "For group shots, I prefer to work with unposed subjects and look for interesting shapes and configurations and get myself in the right place to capture those moments at events and team workshops etc."
Remember, that while the photographer will help and guide you, you can and should bring yourself to the situation. It's the meeting point between the photographer's expertise and your own character and individuality that creates an image that connects with its viewers. Don't leave yourself out!
Here's a technique I often use both as a photographer and if a camera is pointed at me. Oh, btw, I'm Odi, I created this website. I'm no longer an active photographer but I did shoot many corporate portraits in my day.
One issue we want to avoid is looking stiff or frozen in a corporate portrait. We want to look natural and lively without it looking forced. A technique that actors often use on movie sets and theatre is to stretch and warm up their facial muscles. This might sound a bit odd at first, but bear with me, it's worth it.
Personally, I’m quite shy and introverted so I would usually do this warm up without people around me. I would usually go to a separate room (bathroom?) a few minutes before my photo is taken.
The idea is simple. Dial your facial expressions up to 11 before you sit down for your portrait. Then when you’re in front of the camera, your face will move freely and you’ll find smiling and looking lively natural.
Try to stretch your face to the absolute biggest smile that you possibly can. Try closing and opening your eyes as hard as you can. You need to be pulling some funny faces and loosen up a bit. Purse your lips to a kiss, close your eyes as hard as you can. Try stretching your mouth fully wide open and then relaxing it.
Do all of the above for 1-2 minutes and you’ll find your face moves easily and freely. Nobody needs to see this! It’s your little secret and after you’re done, your face will be naturally more expressive and animated without you having to force anything.
Here are some actors pulling silly faces. Those are the kind of facial warmups we're talking about.
A good corporate portrait is always the result of two or more people. It's a meeting of two professionals. Your photographer will bring their knowledge and expertise. It's easy to believe that you're just a passive passenger on board this plane, but you're not. You're actively steering and can help your photographer (and yourself) by ensuring you present and in the moment. Nothing can go wrong, it's quite easy and fun. Just try a few poses, a few angles, have a chat with the photographer and the rest will naturally happen.
Good luck with your corporate photoshoot!