How to do a Quick and Simple Corporate Portrait Setup

Daniel Norton knows a thing or two about portraiture. Renowned for his ability to manipulate light, the NYC based fashion photographer has posed musicians, actors, and models in front of his camera. However, not every shoot he does is incredibly complex or glamorous. Here, Norton shares a straightforward, easy to adjust lighting setup ideal for clean, professional looking head shots:

Here are some technical pointers that can help photographers nail a corporate portrait:

  • First and foremost, simplicity is essential. There’s no need to go over the top when staging a corporate photo shoot. Bring as little gear as possible, prepare ahead of time, and try to wrap the shoot up as quickly as possible. When it comes to straightforward head shots, most people prefer a session that’s short and sweet.
  • Take up less room by consolidating your two main lights to one stand. A variety of mounts and brackets make it possible to do this, regardless of the size of the lights you may be using. Positioning the bottom light pointing upward and the top light pointing down on one stand is an excellent starting point. Having the lights in one place further simplifies the process, making it easier to maneuver and and make adjustments as needed.
  • Think about your background. A small speedlight pointed toward a neutral wall can make for a clean, crisp background in headshots. If you’re working at a location what might be compositionally busy or crowded, bringing a paper background can be quite helpful in simplifying your frame.
  • Set up the scene and meter your lighting before calling the model. If possible, have an assistant stand in to find the lighting ratio necessary to best capture your subject. This way, your subject won’t be left waiting and become impatient.
  • Once you take your first shot, check on the result and adjust the bottom light accordingly to fit the subject’s face. Adjust the height of the lights on the stands and make changes to the output levels of each light’s power. A lighting scenario that works perfectly for one individual may not be particularly flattering on another.
  • Make sure to eliminate any problematic ambient light. Natural daylight can sometimes bring a nice touch to a photograph. However, when shooting indoors, photographers are often plagued by hideous overhead fluorescents. By closing down the aperture and cutting down shutter speeds, it’s possible to completely overpower ambient light and control the light reaching your subject.

headshot setup

“This is pretty simple…you can change it up as much as you need to. Throw gels on it, adjust the ratio…it’s just a really basic lighting kit to kind of keep in your mind when you come in to shoot corporate portraits.”

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