Tips and pointers on how to snap the perfect portrait for your Business Cards and Marketing Material.


How to take a great portrait picture for business marketing.Say Cheeeese!
Hmm. Oh dear, I think we should maybe try that one again…

Have you ever considered using a portrait picture on your Business Cards or other marketing materials?
Are you currently using a photograph which perhaps doesn’t quite convey the best impression to your customers?

A good portrait photograph can help to add a personal touch to your marketing and reveal the friendly human face behind the business.

Unfortunately, there’s one big problem.
There are so many ways of getting it hideously wrong…

What kind of pose should you strike? Is it ok to smile? Should you show your teeth or keep your mouth shut? What do you wear? Is it ok to cross your arms or should you be clutching a prop? How do you set up the background and lighting for the best effect?

Whether you’re planning on hiring a professional photographer or having a go at taking the perfect snapshot yourself, here’s everything you need to know about capturing a great Portrait Picture


Smile. Press Click. Hang on, this is easy, isn’t it?

It's easy to end up with a business portrait picture that doesn't quite work.Well, it’s not too difficult…but it’s certainly very easy to finish up with something that just doesn’t really work.

We’ve seen some strange things pop up here at Martin Print H.Q.
Over the years, tons of clients have given us their own portrait pictures for inclusion on Business Cards, Brochures, Leaflets and other printed marketing products.

I’m happy to say that the overwhelming majority of Martin Print clients are handsome and beautiful people who handed over a terrific quality picture.

But there were just a few that, erm, needed a little bit of work before we went to print.

In most cases, there were minor issues with the quality, the background, the choice of attire, clashing colours, or simply an overall feeling that this just wasn’t the right shot.

Other cases are a bit more extreme.
I can remember when Old Bert asked us to produce some portrait picture Business Cards for his Thursday Night Tap-Dancing Classes.

I knew there was something wrong when I started hearing the shrieks of horror from the printing press.
I eventually had to take a new photograph of him, mainly to avoid the risk of him getting arrested for frightening strangers.

Here are some pointers to consider on getting it right first time…


Deep Thought

What kind of image or impression are you trying to convey to your business audience?You could just turn up for a photoshoot in your pyjamas, and quickly deliver an uncomfortable grimace as you’re dazzled by the flashlight.
But it’s a better idea to think ahead and prepare for the event.

The good news is that you don’t have to work or think very hard.
In fact, almost everything can be boiled down to one very simple preparatory question:

What kind of image or impression are you trying to convey to your audience?

Friendly and approachable?
Professional and serious?
Tough and powerful?

As soon as you can answer this one simple question, all your other decisions will quickly begin to fall into place.


Strike A Pose!

Well, actually, please don’t strike a pose.
You’re not auditioning for a role in the latest play from the Amateur Dramatic Society here.
So please do cut out the dramatics!

There’s no need to tilt your head onto one side or pretend that you’re appearing in a fashion catalogue.
It can often result in a cheesy picture which is more likely to raise a snigger than capture a lead.

On the whole, the best approach is to simply try and be natural.

To smile or not to smile? To show teeth or to keep your mouth shut?

Should you smile and show your teeth in a business portrait picture?If you’re hoping to display a ‘super-tough’ or ‘serious’ picture, it’s fine to avoid the smile.
A Business Card for a Funeral Director probably wouldn’t work too well if it featured the owner of the business dressed up as a wacky clown.

But in the overwhelming majority of cases, a natural smile works best.

That’s easier said than done when you’re nervously facing the camera and getting ready to put on ‘the smile’, but you’ll get plenty of attempts at it, so don’t worry.

Whilst I’d never advise getting blind drunk before an important photoshoot, just a very small drink beforehand can help to relax those body muscles.
I usually just put a tiny drop of whisky into my bowl of Froot Loops and milk.

You’ll often find that the perfect picture is captured when you’re not really trying too hard to force it.

A professional photographer will know how to put you at ease, or you could get a good friend to take the picture and take off the pressure with some natural banter in-between snaps.

It’s generally better to open your mouth and flash your teeth to help with the friendly and natural vibe.
A smile with a closed mouth can often deliver a more stern or reserved appearance.

Of course, some people may have issues with showing off their teeth if they’re not very proud of them, so the final call is yours.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that the appearance of your teeth can be improved with just a few little minor touch-ups in Photoshop.

I’m generally against the idea of going overboard with Photoshop in a ‘natural’ portrait picture, but I would say that making minor dental improvements is fair game!


Should you cross your arms in portrait pictures for Business Cards?Should I cross my arms?

You’ve probably seen loads of portrait pictures in which the business owner is crossing their arms in a sort of ‘power stance’ which is meant to represent confidence and authority.

It’s a popular pose. Although I this is mainly because a lot of people don’t quite know what else to do with their arms!

For me, this is used far too often and again it only really works if you’re purposefully trying to convey a ‘tough’ and swaggering image.

In most other cases, it can give the impression that you’re not very approachable and perhaps even stubbornly stuck in your ways.

As most portrait photographs are head-and-shoulders shots anyway, you shouldn’t really worry too much about what you’re doing with your arms.
This worry is usually the root of the problem. Just relax.

If you know your arms are going to be in shot, try to imagine how you would you normally sit or stand when greeting a real human being.

You’re unlikely to stand in front of them with your arms firmly folded at all times, are you?
So for your ‘welcoming’ introductory photograph, emulate your natural stance in a real situation.


What to Wear?

What to wear for your business photoshoot?Don’t panic, I’m not going to try and give you a bunch of style tips.
Even though I’ve now won the award for Best-Dressed Man in the Martin Print Studio (Hawaiian Shirt category) a record-breaking 15 years in a row.

You’ll usually want to dress quite smart if you want to give a professional impression.
Men would normally go for a suit jacket, sweater, or dress shirt, whilst women would go with a tailored jacket or blouse.

But you should also make sure that you feel comfortable in the clothes you’ve chosen.
A suit jacket can convey an impression of authority, but if it makes you feel stiff and unnatural, then lose it.


DON’T wear colours that match your skin tones as this could end up giving your portrait a ‘washed out’ look.
Solid mid-tone colours such as green, blue and brown usually look best.

DON’T wear too much jewellery or clothes with lots of patterns, as this usually ends up as a big distraction from your face.

DON’T wear short-sleeved shirts as this can be very unflattering on your arms and in some cases make it appear as if you’re topless which is another distraction you don’t really want appearing on your Business Card.
Long-sleeved shirts all the way!

DON’T wear trendy clothes that are going to look hideously out of date very quickly.
Classic styles should add more shelf-life to your perfect portrait picture.


And one final tip for people who wear glasses.
You’re obviously going to need to wear your glasses in your photograph if you wear them all the time.

But one unfortunate problem here is that the reflections from your lenses can cause issues with the quality of the photograph and reduce the detail in your eyes.

The best solution?
Temporarily take out the lenses or get a pair of permanent identical frames without lenses.

Some people worry that they might look strange wearing glasses with no lenses, but you won’t be able to tell this at all in the photograph and it will make for a much better final picture.


Should you use props in your business portrait picture?Should I use Props?

In most cases, no.

I’ve seen a lot of Business Cards on which the owner is pictured holding a glass of wine or talking into a telephone.
Some people like to hold onto their key product and point at it in wonder.
Others like to include living props as background decoration, such as family members or pets.

Here’s a few things to bear in mind;

  • As much as you love your family and pets, your business portrait picture is not the best place to display this.
  • A glass of wine never really helps to reassure potential leads of your professionalism.
  • Talking into a phone just makes you look too busy to deal with customers.
  • Including your key product may work in rare cases, but you need to be careful to avoid looking a bit silly. There are probably lots of better spots to park your product picture which don’t involve you pointing at them.


What’s happening in the Background?

How to set up the background and lighting for a portrait picture.It’s possible that you may decide to choose a background setting that ties in with your business branding.

For example, I would pretty much expect to see the owner of a gardening business pictured in…well, in a garden.

Casual office backgrounds can also work well.
And if you’re in the techie trade, it wouldn’t do any harm to have a computer in sight.

However, for a typical head-and-shoulders portrait, the best approach is usually to have your shot taken against a plain background with no distractions.

A professional photographer will obviously handle this on your behalf, but if you’re going down the DIY route, you can simply hang up a sheet or other type of fabric against the wall or background surface.

Solid neutral colours are usually the best, but bright and vivid colours can also work well to create a younger and more dynamic image.
If in doubt, try both!


Get Snapping.

Create a portrait photograph for your business marketing.If you plan to use your portrait photograph as a crucial long-term element of your marketing, I’d definitely recommend finding a good professional photographer for the very best results.

If you’re having a go yourself, then give serious consideration to lighting.

Ideally, you need natural daylight. So if you’re shooting indoors, try to set up near a window where natural daylight can be captured.

Relying on the flashlight of your camera is not really going to cut the mustard, as this is likely to create a harsh effect on your face. So the flash needs to be turned off at all times.

If it’s not possible to use natural daylight, you might need to think about setting up lamps and experimenting with brightness and distance until you begin to capture a natural effect in your photograph.

The main thing to remember is that there’s no need to rush this.

Take loads of pictures – hundreds if necessary! – and carefully review them all before giving your final approval to the perfect picture.

DON’T just review them on the tiny LCD screen of your camera.
This won’t show up enough detail of possible imperfections and quality issues.
Your image might look okay on a small LCD screen but could actually be quite blurry when viewed in full size.

You need to review them thoroughly on a sharp monitor and ensure that your winning picture will look perfect when reproduced on premium printing stock.


Update Your Image.

Beautiful Business Cards from Martin Print.Finally, don’t forget to update your photograph at least every few years.

Your regular customers are likely to get a little bored of seeing the same profile picture for the next three decades.

You need to refresh your portrait in the same way that you need to regularly refresh your branding and revamp your marketing material.

I’ve seen business owners insist on still using a portrait picture taken 25 years ago when they a bit more hair and a few less wrinkles. But they’re not fooling anyone!

I’m sure that Martin Print customers always look better with age anyway. We mature like fine wines into even more professional-looking and trustworthy people.

So be happy to be genuine and reflect who you really are today.


What does your current business portrait look like?

Share your photographs and your own tips below.

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