On-location Executive Portraits

On-location Executive Portraits

“The photographs look wonderful. Carroll made the entire process easy for us, and quickly provided us the final retouched portraits. Next time we need photographs for our firm, we will call Carroll Morgan.”

Maggie Heim, partner at Schklar & Heim, LLC

Maggie Heim

Photographing executive portraits on-location presents several challenges. Primarily, few business people like having their picture taken. The photographer is expected to capture a pleasing expression, and everyone has one!

These are some of the logistical challenges that must be resolved.

  1. Is the room large enough to accommodate all my equipment? What about that unplanned group photo?
  2. Is the ceiling tall enough to properly position a hair light or to raise a light high enough to eliminate reflections in eyeglasses?
  3. What about simply accessing their office (parking, service elevators, time of day access, security)?
  4. Do they wear glasses? (See 2 above)
  5. What are the hair colors (blonds require a lower hair light intensity than brunettes)? And what about that person with no hair?
  6. The time of day and season matter, too. Try shooting a portrait late in the day during the summer; without makeup you will have shiny skin to retouch.

I need answers to these questions (and more!) in order to have an effortless shoot.

Edwin Schklar, partner at Schklar & Heim, LLC

Edwin Schklar

Maggie Heim contacted me to photograph portraits for their new website. I had not been in Resurgens Plaza before, and based on our phone conversation, I felt that it would be unwise to “show up” and shoot. We scheduled a site survey, and I’m glad! Though the unoccupied offices were large, every one contained massive desks and credenzas which ate up floor space and disallowed proper placement of the background, 5 light stands, and camera/tripod. Unfortunately, I could not shoot in their offices.

Fortunately, the property manager allowed us to use the training room. (Recently, I photographed another attorney in that building. There is a new property management company, and they now want to charge $100 to use the classroom. Note to self:  assume nothing!)

On shoot day, because of my preparation, nothing was a surprise. I was on-site before the building opened. I knew where to park, the best way to move 2 dollies of equipment using the service elevator, and I had security’s phone number for access to the freight elevator.

The shoot went well, and I learned something about them I didn’t know. They both have beautiful skin!


  1. I shoot a full 5-light portable setup with Balcar strobes (octa key, fill, rim, hair, and background). I really like to provide great lighting for my clients. You can’t do that with 2 or 3 lights.
  2. If the ceiling is a neutral color I will bounce off of it for the hair light. I find this provides a more gradual highlight on the hair than a small softbox. I adjust the power to hair color.
  3. I try to shoot around f/4.0 – 5.6 with a focal length between 100 and 135mm on a 70-200/f2.8 lens. I focus on the near eye and find that gives a depth of field sufficient to hold the tip of the nose to the eyes in sharp focus. The ears are out of focus, as is the background. Who wants to look at your ear!?
  4. I do an in-camera manual white balance and shoot a ColorChecker card which I use to create a custom profile in Lightroom.
  5. I shoot tethered to a Lenovo W520 laptop (which has a gorgeous matte screen!), running Portrait Professional Studio 64 (which leaves the images on the card as a backup). The RAW images appear on the computer in about 1.5 seconds.
  6. The captured images are processed in Lightroom and uploaded using The Turning Gate TTG Highslide Gallery Pro (which is outdated… I need to upgrade to TTG CE2 Pages).
  7. I will convert to black & white using Silver Efex Pro, if the client wishes.

, , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by Erin Bonilla on January 26, 2015 - 2:43 pm

    Carroll, I really appreciate your explanation of your shoots. Your images are beautiful!! I plan on reading more of your blog, and I hope to speak with you on the phone soon. I am a photographer here in Charlottesville who wants to improve.

    • #2 by Carroll Morgan on January 29, 2015 - 11:40 pm

      Thanks, Erin. I received your email and viewed your images. Feel free to call me to discuss, if you like.

(will not be published)