Business Portraiture & Headshots

Corporate or business portraits are a staple for many photographers, but many often face a few key challenges when it comes to taking business portraits: How to shoot and control light bounce in small spaces, how to photograph people with glasses, how to photograph older people, how to pose subjects and determining the best equipment to use.

In this live photography workshop, Karl addresses all those problems, providing practical solutions and demonstrating exactly how to overcome these problems as he shoots live.

He photographs two different subjects in a number of different lighting setups, showing how you can achieve great results straight out of camera with well-positioned lights and just basic modifiers.

In this live photography workshop we cover the following:

  • Portrait photography: Business portraits
  • Recommended equipment for business portraits
  • Efficient workflow
  • Posing: Business portrait poses
  • Lighting setups for business portraits: Using one and two lights
  • Photographing subjects with glasses

For more business portrait photography classes, visit our Portrait section.

If you have any question about this photography workshop, post them in the comments box below.


  1. You mention having to adjust the height of lights to accommodate subjects of varying heights and possibly scheduling the subjects in height order to make lighting adjustments less time consuming. Would you consider bringing a set of various sized apple boxes to the shoot for subjects to stand on to adjust their height?

    1. Hi Art, yes apple boxes could work as long as it doesn’t affect your subjects confidence in front of the camera. For example asking a short man to stand on a box might cause them to become conscious of their height, other people might not find an elevated platform to feel as stable as a solid floor. Raising lighting stands can take less than 30 seconds especially if you pre mark them with a pen at 3 different heights, short, medium, tall and one of these would be close enough for each type of subject.

  2. Hi Karl, in Germany I get payed very well for more shadows on the face. :)))) So, no need to fill in the shadows. The people look a lot more interesting, also the old ones. I am specialized in business portrait of all kind. The classic style is only good for conservative jobs.

  3. Really loving the shallower depth of field but I can’t manage to get that much blur out of my cropped sensor without it being overexposed. The lower I can go on my strobes is 1/32. Does this mean I would absolutely need a ND filter in order to achieve the same results?


    1. Hi Alex, if that’s as low as your lights go then yes you will need an ND filter. There are only 4 routes to reducing light if you can’t change your aperture/shutter speed. 1. Lower the power of the light 2. Put an ND filter on the camera or the lights. 3. Reduce the ISO 4. Move the lights further away (but this will of course affect the look of the light so is a last choice).

  4. Amazing Tutorials Karl!

    I’m into the IT Business and I’m making good money, however I love photography a lot and I just want to know what sort of a mid-range income can a photographer make and which type of photography is the most profitable in your opinion?

  5. Very informative video Karl, Thanks! My largest softbox I currently have is an 80cm Octagon, so it looks like I’ll be needing something larger. For this business portrait scenario, I was wondering if there would much difference between an umbrella softbox and a traditional octagon softbox. I appeal to an umbrella softbox as it would reduce the hassle of assembling a 140cm octagon softbox. But if one is better than the other, please let me know. Also, can such a large softbox (e.g 150 cm octagon) be awkward to use if trying to achieve a black backdrop in an office?

    1. Hi Jayden, a very large white umbrella can be just as effective as a large softbox – See our live softbox show on replay – I’d go with one like i demonstrated in the show. Black backgrounds are no problem, especially if you use black velvet cloth, it sucks up all the light.

  6. Magnificent demonstrations.
    I was a bit worried at first, Because I’m used to seeing all this equipment in the videos. But when you did it with the softbox and a reflector (Which I have) it was clear and simple.

    And so many equipment questions… Missing the point.

    1. Hi Yes, this question often comes up but the only difference for people with darker skin or complexion is to increase the lighting on the person but not on the background.

  7. Hi Karl. Great live, I’m learning a lot.
    About one of the questions: short lighting is when the side of the face that is closer to the camera is darker. Broad lighting is the opposite. These terms are more used in the filmmaking world I guess.


    1. Hi Ahmed, thank you. You need to shoot from further back if you can as that will increase your depth of field and then of course use a sufficient aperture such as f11 or f16 to get great enough depth of field.

  8. Karl, many thanks for your quick reply. Leaving the lights on was my mistake when practicing this, so something I will do when I get on site – turn them off where necessary. I thoroughly enjoy your tutorials and there is such enormous value in every single one of them!! You share a craft with those who wish to learn. A massive step up for anyone trying to break into this difficult marketplace.
    All the best,
    Kind regards

  9. Hi Karl, another excellent tutorial as always. I say that every time but the value of your tuition is exceptional. Thank you.
    I have won some corporate headshot Clients recently and taken a backdrop with me on each occasion and lights etc. All good. But and as new ground, I know I will be asked to shoot on location in the ‘environment’ of the office / work space as you have shown on your opening to the live show where you used ‘occlusion’. It is those environmental shots that get me. I need to get the ISO down for quality, bring in the ambient and use the softbox / flash to add light to the subject but when I try this, my pictures come out yellow due to white balance with the subject flashed. How on earth are you balancing this flash and ambient with such clean colour with the end result please Karl. I always get a minging yellow tone to the ambient. Do you gel the flash? What camera reading do you settle at please in terms of exposure, before you add your light on the subject please Karl?
    All the best
    Kind regards

    1. Hi James, generally I turn off all the ambient existing lights apart from natural daylight coming in from the windows and then I mix this with my flash, therefore everything would be daylight 5600K. If I needed to keep some lamps etc for effect such as floor standing lamp or lighting of the room that was particualrly important then you can gel those bulbs inside the lampshades to take them from tungsten (3200K) to daylight (5600K) or alternatively as you said you could gel your flash with tungsten gels but that wouldn’t be my first choice. My exposure decision on the ambient is tested before I add the flash so I check what still looks natural and as I said turn off any annoying tungsten lights, or gel them. If the room is too dead without the existing lights then you can fire a honey comb grid into the ceiling or at a wall to simulate the existing lighting that was there before you turned it off, or gel it. Then when you are happy the room looks natural start adding flash gradually.

  10. Hi Karl. Everything on his website is great!!! I just recently joined and this was the first video I saw because at my job I will be be taking corporate head shots for several people. I learned a lot! Would it also apply getting the soft box closer to my subject if he/she is dark skinned? Thank you

    1. Author

      Hi Ricardo, When photographing people with darker skin you will need to increase the light by a stop or more depending on their skin colour as the darker skin will absorb more light, the position of the soft box would be the same as the soft box is modifying the light and if you wanted the same lighting effect on your subject the you would need to keep the position of the modifier the same. A good explanation of about achieving the correct exposure can be seen in this tutorial in particular at 13.28 but it is worth watching the full tutorial 🙂

  11. Great live show. Always nice to see what we have learned in theory put into more practical examples

  12. i got one pretty good just with top light and a white board on the bottom, thx for the live videos……

  13. Thanks Karl!!! The great live show as always! Let me ask you, what brand of triflector do you have or is it DIY ?

  14. Hi Karl, great job as always, just got a question about shinny skin (lads)
    how do you usually deal with that? do you use some make-up powder to reduce it or do you asked them to wipe it off with a towel or something?

    1. Hi Martin, Yes I get them to use tissue paper or a towel immediately before the shot, make sure your studio isn’t too warm and then if all else fails make up powder but as I pointed out in the live business portraits show you will see how I use a softbox makes a big difference too.

  15. Hi Karl, I am trying to watch this video, 2 days after it was live, but just shows a message on the video that it will be starting at 6pm GMT, any advice. Thanks x

    1. Hi Mandy, the video has been up on replay an hour after the show and I’ve checked it? Try refreshing the page and click through on the links again.

  16. Hey Karl, I am about 2/3rds through watching the replay (missed it live). A question about the different height people…would it be more feasible to have them all sit on a stool to keep them closer in height since it is less than a 3/4 portraits?

    1. Hi Brian, if they are suited and booted then sitting can often crumple the suit and ties so i prefer standing for suited business man.

  17. Thanks Karl for getting this video up, I missed the live session 🙁
    Once again, Karl, you have simplified a process for me that I was overcomplicating in my business portrait shoots. Great work and loving best £12 any photographer can spend.

  18. Learned a lot with this and planning to put it to good use.
    I didn’t realize the effect of the softbox distance. A couple of weeks ago I was talking shots of our young neice. Afterwards on the computer I was seeing some stronger lit areas on her forehead. My exposure was good and couldn’t figure out why.
    Well tonight I got my answer. I did have the light further away.

  19. Honestly, this is very frustrating. I have high speed internet here in the US, But I have noticed that streaming your videos can be VERY problematic, and there is constant stopping, starting, and having to reload the video because the stream will not resume correctly.

    1. Hi Randy, I’ve had a few people test it here and no problems? It’s hosted by Vimeo which is american and the servers are in the US so the location shouldn’t be an issue. I think you were trying to view it at the time it was still encoding immediately after the live show. Let us know if you are still having problems though and we can check further.

    2. Got to the gear icon in the Vimeo window and set it to 540p, that makes it run smoothly. You can fast forward or rewind without buffering.

    3. To clarify, this is mostly problematic when fast forwarding or jumping to other parts of the video, rather than watching the whole video in one sitting.

      1. Author

        Hi Randy, when watching the live videos on our website they preload or buffer the next few minutes of video ahead of the part you are currently watching to make playback as smooth as possible. If you jump to a point further into the video this section of the video may not have been preloaded yet. If you are jumping ahead to a new section of the video you could try pausing it for a short period to let your browser preload the new section of video for a smoother playback. Thanks Tim

    4. Author

      Hi Randy, this live show has only just finished and the video feed is automatically still encoding in the background and this can take a short while to complete. If you are having issues with other videos please send us an email to so we can look into it for you. Thanks Tim

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