To Light or Not to Light

Natural Lighting with a reflector

Artificial lighting in combination with natural

Natural Light Portrait- Window Light

Artificial Light Portrait- Two lights

If you are hiring a photographer to shoot one portrait or several for a corporate website or personal use, it is important to think about what you expect from the end image.  

If you are selecting a photographer to shoot many portraits.  Something to consider is whether it is ok that each image might have a different tone and look? Or is it imperative that everyone have the same look to it?  These are things to discuss with your photographer before the shoot to ensure you have a mutual understanding.  

If you are hiring a photographer for a single portrait, lighting may not need to be as controlled. Therefore natural or artificial lighting may not be as important of a decision before the shoot.  The best lighting in my opinion, is natural lighting.  

There are good reasons to consider each option depending on what you need.  

Natural Lighting 


  • creates natural skin tone
  • can be more flattering
  • Inexpensive
  • unpredictability can lead to more artistic effects or serendipitous surprises
  • more depth of field


  • Can be less sharp
  • Color can change from one shot to the next- lacks consistency
  • Limiting with time of the day and weather
  • Less control

Artificial Lighting


  • Full control
  • Consistency
  • If done with the right skill can be flattering
  • Looks polished when done right- super sharp
  • Can do anytime and any weather indoors.


  • It takes a certain level of skill to make it look natural, interesting, and or flattering
  • Costly
  • Somewhat less portable and difficult to set up

Eventually most photographers come to see the real value in having artificial lighting skills and equipment.  If nothing else, but for backup- having the ability to control any situation.  

Naturally lit corporate portraits can absolutely look beautiful.  But it’s important to know that the lighting in the photo will move with the sun throughout the day which will create inconsistent lighting tones across a day or several days or different weather patterns.  A photographer may be able to do a combination lighting where it looks natural but has some supplemental lighting to account for changes in the sun’s movement.  

Some creative firms simply want each individual to look unique and it is not an issue as to whether the lighting is different from one person to the next. Showing individuality and still looking professional is often the main goal. 

Artificially lit corporate portraits will have a more traditional look.  They will convey unity and seem that everyone had their picture taken on the same day.  A good photographer will have the skill to create consistency but also work with the person to find the right pose that matches their personality to achieve something higher than a school picture.  

What to Wear and How to Prepare for a Photoshoot

Recommendations For Corporate Portraits  

These are recommendations for formal professional headshots and can be slightly modified for a more casual portrait session.


-Avoid sun exposure for 1-2 days prior to headshot session. 

-Hair should be clean and dry. 

-Make sure all clothing is pressed and lint free. 

-Simple is better. In general solids are better than patterns.

-Contrary to  popular belief there are no absolutes when selecting clothing for portraits. If you -feel good in what you are wearing your confidence will come through. 

 -Wear what you think looks best on you and bring two alternate choices.


WARDROBE:  For business shots, dark solid jackets worn over a colored  shirt and nice tie seem to make nice shots. Alternatively a jacket with a dress shirt and no tie is also a good  look.  Try to ensure a good fit.

AVOID: Busy patterns and logos, t-shirts 

MAKE-UP: Not usually needed for men. But do moisturize your skin and use a lip moisturizer so lips do not look dry. 

HAIR: Hair is best worn in a natural every day hair style. Please make  sure your hair is cut and styled the way you like. It is usually NOT a good idea to get a haircut the day  before your session. Most cuts look better after one week. 

GROOMING AND SKIN: Please arrive camera ready. 

If you wear facial hair, make sure it is well-groomed, including your eyebrows. The rest of your face  should be fresh shaven. Your session includes basic retouching and that does not include razor stubble.  You may choose to bring your razor to the shoot and shave before we start. But shaving a heavy beard is  NOT recommended as your face will be irritated. Blemishes are easily retouched - don’t worry. 


WARDROBE:  Make sure you try on your top with your bra and check in bright light with a mirror to see how it looks. Studio lights are bright and may shine through thin fabrics. Make  sure the top you choose flatters you. If you love your arms - tank tops can work nicely. However, long  sleeves work better than short sleeves. 

Some things to think about: 

-Neutral solids tend to be better.  

-Flesh tones, if you have light  skin tone, can wash you out.  

-Fitted and tailored clothing works  best. Loose or baggy tops may make you look larger. 

-If you have long dark hair, your hair will blend more into the clothing if you wear a dark color, so you may want to consider a lighter colored top. 

-If you are concerned about skin wrinkles, lighter colors may be more flattering and fresh than all black as darker colors near the face can draw more attention to them. 

-Minimal jewelry is more timeless.


Busy plaids or stripes, T-shirts with logos. 

Short sleeved tops where the sleeve is loose on the arm. 

MAKE-UP: Wear what is comfortable for you and makes you look great but natural. 

Mascara - YES.  

Lipstick close to your natural lip color - YES. 

Do not wear too much face powder over foundation -  digital is sharp, too much powder may be too evident and impossible to retouch.  

Blemishes are easily retouched - don’t worry. 

HAIR: Wear your hair natural and comfortable for what you like. If you have unruly hair seek professional help from your regular stylist.

How Much Should You Pay for a Photographer?

How Much Should a Portrait Shoot Cost?

Google says that portraits range from  $150-300. 

They can also go up depending on the complexity and needs of the image.

A photographer will need to charge a minimum of $400 per day to cover the cost of living when they are keeping up their equipment, paying insurance, and studio rent.  Often a single shoot takes half a day plus the editing another full day.  Will the photographer need to buy something new to achieve a vision of a client? Such as a lens or light or backdrop that they do not already possess is also a consideration.

A photographer’s pricing should depend on time the photographer will spend scouting, shooting, and editing an image.  And whether additional people will be hired to create the image needed.  Also how that image will be used. 

Questions that a client should be ready to answer when asking a photographer how much they charge:

  • Will it be used commercially, as a public relations image , multiple places that may generate revenue for you?  
  • A magazine article- in such a case, the magazine should pay the photographer for each use.
  • Will you be asking for multiple portraits such as for a corporation?
  • Or is it mostly small business, personal/family use?
  • Do you want makeup, hair, wardrobe supplied, do you want to just walk in and be taken care of or would you rather handle that yourself?
    • Is this photo going to help you get new clients, new jobs? Will it be the first impression digitally or in print before you meet someone?
  • Do you want choices of polished images meaning hours of editing time for a photographer or just one that the photographer chooses for you?
  • Is this to preserve a memory that cannot be redone such as a wedding?
  • Do you want to look au naturel or polished?
  • How organized and professional do you expect the photographer to be?
    • Should they have their own studio, or portable high-end equipment/lenses and lighting?
    • How much experience in guidance and knowledge of post production do you expect? 

With all that being said, don’t be afraid of a little negotiation.  A photographer may find that they want to photograph undiscovered artists or musicians and want to maintain a certain style/look for their website or will anticipate creating a book compilation or something similar that could bring them additional revenue and they will use a sliding scale to determine a cost if they have also an interest and it will be worth their time.  If a photographer has a philanthropic interest they will also be flexible giving non-profit discounts for non-profit organizations.  

Another approach is that you can simply start by saying what your budget is and let the photographer determine if they can create a simple or complex package to meet your needs.

Trust Your Photographer

How to Insure a successful photoshoot:

  • The most important thing you can do to help insure a successful photo session is TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER.  Trusting that your photographer can make a good image of you if you follow their lead is important for the photographer to bring their skill and talent to the table.  It should be a mutual relationship working together to bring out your best.
  • Prepare for the shoot. Ask your photographer for some tips a week or so before to prepare. 
  • Take it seriously.  Show up on time prepared.  Give 24 hours notice if you need to cancel.  Treat the photographer with the same respect as any other professional.

How to Find the Right Photographer For You

corporate photo, headshot, professional, LinkedIn, Kansas City Portrait Photographer

How to Find a Photographer Who is Right For You:

  • Identify what TYPE of photographer you are looking for- see more detail below
  • Spend some time to LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITE and instagram -see if their work reflects the experience you need.  Does it show the type of photography you want- you would not want to hire a photographer who photographs babies to shoot a corporate shoot.
  • STYLE -Notice if they put filters on all of their images. Is this timeless?  Would that filter look good on you? Do you like the lighting style? 
  •  MEET WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHER.  A good photographer will be interested to spend some extra time to know their client and put them at ease for a photoshoot.  Choose also based on personality.  Do you have confidence that this photographer can achieve what you are looking for?  Share some ideas and get some feedback on images that you see that you like.  Choosing a photographer that you click with is important.

  • It is important to understand that there are several categories of photographers and it is best to choose one who specializes in a specific type that fits with your needs is important for success.  Overlap in photographic skill and types do exist of course, but it will be easier to meet expectations when you hire them based on how the majority of their images reflect the type of photography you are seeking.  If you see a website full of variety, it can be that the best one in a million photos is posted they may not be able to replicate it.  You want to see consistency and repetition.  


    • Portrait Photographer- **is a broad subject and many types of portraiture  are very specific so please do not assume that a portrait photographer who specializes in babies can do the same job as one who specializes in corporate photography
      • Baby- photographers who specialize in baby photography should be well versed in juggling the needs of the baby as well as providing appropriate props and a safe environment while photographing a baby.
      • Family- family photographers are used to handling more than one person when lighting and shooting, it is a challenging task and often they are expected to shoot on location
      • Corporate- corporate photographers understand the needs of professionalism and a polished look for their clients.  They should work well under pressure and respect the demands of the work environment if they work on site.  They often deliver images fully edited and polished.
      • Senior- Senior photographers tend to be very flexible and sensitive to bring out the confidence in a teen.  It is their job to understand both the needs of the teen and their parents desires.  The parent is generally requested to refrain from attending the photoshoot in order to have the teen relaxed during their shoot.
      • Editorial- Editorial photographers are well versed in creating or analyzing scenes that portray somewhat of a story about a person.  Generally the goal is for public consumption in news or commercial stories.
    • Wedding Photographer- Wedding photographers are highly skilled in capturing candid moments as well as expected moments.  They often work from a shot list and work long hours editing post production and shooting.  If they are professional and experienced, they generally are not inexpensive but will deliver lifelong memories.
    • Documentary Photographer- Documentary photographers do the important job of reporting factual unmanipulated images
    • Fashion Photographer- if you are interested in modeling, want to showcase a product or clothing piece this is a good choice.  Be sure to look at their past images.
    • Nature/Landscape photography- 

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