Headshots & Portraiture : The Subtle Art of Character

Business Portraiture. There’s a fine line between what is & isn’t acceptable as a professional headshot - especially in the corporate world. One must observe power dynamics within the operational hierarchy, taking great care to ensure that the director is well defined from the workforce. When it comes to small businesses though, a much more creative approach is often the key to differentiating your subject from the pack - albeit subtly.

I’ve learned that there is much more to business portraiture than simply meeting a client & shooting photographs with some nice lighting. As a very creative & philosophical individual, I have to check that my direction meets the need of the client rather than fulfilling some artistic vision that I may have. I strongly believe that headshots & portraiture are entirely dependent on a clients unique personality from the offset. It is my duty to observe how much of this personality should shine through in the finished photographs.

By way of example, I was recently commissioned to make photographs for Heather Thomson, ND; a medical professional & naturopath based in Prestwick, Ayrshire. Heather wanted professional, yet informal, portraits that would convey her character to prospective clients. We met on Prestwick beach, the weather was rather bleak with a storm blowing in from the West. We chatted whilst I shot some nice locational portraits, getting to know each other a bit better before we escaped the storm for the shelter of her clinic where the real work would be done.

Heathers personality was professional, but she is a very funny & warm individual, so I wanted to make photographs that balanced this nicely. I set up some lighting, bouncing a speed light from the rear wall for some fill-light & using a softbox to light Heather, casting a very subtle shadow for a bit of definition. I opted not to pose my subject, instead capturing exposures as we made jokes & discussing things like acupuncture, ‘cupping’ (a traditional Chinese method which sounds a bit strange) & Chi. I made sure to show Heather what I had captured so as to reaffirm any sense of doubt as the session progressed - once we felt that we had captured the best we finished up & headed home.

The most important factor within this particular shoot was the confidence that we shared due to our meeting on the beach. While Heather was able to grow comfortable with me, I was able to determine the characteristics that I felt would benefit her portraits & express her personality to prospective clients across social media & on her website.

I delivered my work within the timeframe that I’d predetermined & Heather was over the moon - no edits!

Visit Heather’s site for more information at;