Executive Portraits: How They Differ

An executive portrait is typically different another portrait in that it is intended for business and professional use, rather than as a casual memory. Depending on the photo shoot, the client's business characteristics and the subject's personality, the photograph must reflect each one of these components clearly. A successful executive portrait has little to do with the technical aspects of photography and more with the interaction between photographer and subject. As in any good photo shoot, the photographer must work with the subject to draw out the first impression and the message the individual is hoping to express through the photo. Once the photographer determines which type is best for the subject, success is achieved with good sense and creative skill. The 3 types of executive portraits are described below.

Head, Face and Shoulders

Most often photographers choose the "head and shoulder" pose when setting up an executive shoot because it is seen most frequently. The photographer may choose to position the subject so they are facing them directly. This type of pose is seen most often on identification badges, casual branding, school yearbooks, and in some advertisements. It often lacks personality and is not the type of pose that can exhibit the heart of the subject.

To make this type of shot gain some quality, it is generally set by having the individual face the primary point of light. This light source is quite often positioned at a forty five degree angle in relation to the subject. The photographer can then turn the subject's head until their eyes are directed towards the camera.  

Three-Quarter Length Stance

Another pose frequently used by photographers is the "three-quarter length stance" or the "standing pose". This pose type may allow much more freedom from the subject, but can prove to be more difficult for a few reasons. Positioning parts of the body correctly is essential to make the final picture look comfortable and not forced. The arms and hands of the subject could make a brilliant photo uncomfortable to view if they are captured unnaturally. Evident in some classic photography, this technique has been used by portrait artists for years. Subjects are seen holding books, swords and other objects to make the pose more natural.


The seated pose is a very common pose in executive portrait photography. Incorporating the characteristics of both head and shoulder and three quarter length, this pose can prove to be the most dynamic for both the subject and photographer. Props like chairs or stools are often used to position the subject, but any object may be used as a seat. This opens a larger area of possibilities when photographing one or more subjects in the same shot. It allows the photographer additional room to expand the level of personality and further help to produce a quality portrait.

Knowing the difference between each portrait type will only improve the piece and help the photographer capture the subject truthfully.

There are many other different types of poses that can be used for successful portraits. Don't be afraid to experiment on family or friends. Trial and error will help you become a great portrait photographer.

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