From the course: Portrait Photography: Business Portraits on LinkedIn Learning


Gear recommended in this article can be found on B&H Photo & Video

Lens choice for portraits: 85mm f/1.4

How to work with the subject from Portrait Photography: Business Portraits by Robert Vanelli

Before we start clicking away, it’s very important that we get to know our subject. And we have to ask our subject what’s the message they want to portray in their portrait. Talking with Trevor, he’s a scientist, and sometimes he does lectures, and he wants to be on LinkedIn. He wants to look confident, approachable, and be looked upon as a thought-leader in his field.

So to keep this interaction going with my subject, I’m going to use a prime 85mm lens. This will keep me close enough to him so he feels close to me and we can talk. Had I have chosen a 200mm lens, that would put me across the studio and our interactions would be a little bit different. So what I want to do is stay as close as possible, snap the shots, keep him talking, and then—on some of the candid shots—quickly come up and capture the moment.

Here’s what this might sound like: “Good right there. That’s it. Now shoot that shoulder back just a touch. Right there. Good. You look beautiful right there. (camera clicks) Nice. (camera clicks) It’s all looking good right now. Let’s see, turn just a touch. A little more, right there, good. Now close your eyes for a second. Ready, think engagement photos, go! (camera clicks) You put the engagement photo in the newspaper (laughter). That’s perfect. (camera clicks) Did you hear what he said? He said: “Take that, George Clooney!” (light laughter) Good, right there. That’s it, head up, good. That’s it, good. (camera clicks) Good, I’m needing the distinguished look. (laughter) (camera clicks) Now look away for a moment. Turn your whole head. Now, look towards me. Go! Look back again. Ready and go. Good, I’m getting a good look there. (camera clicks) Nice, one more. (camera clicks) Good. Now just look at whatever you want. Look into the future. Now head down just a little bit. Ready, right there, now. Eyes on me, go! Nice. (camera clicks) That’s it, last one. (camera clicks) Got it.”