It's hard to be a woman
Making portraits of female clients is an honour but also a bit daunting. Women balance several roles simultaneously; sister, mother, lover, daughter, friend and of course professional businesswoman. It makes them complex creatures and a challenge for the portraitist needing to capture character. Creating a professional portrait is even harder. The image has to communicate professionalism without losing personality, capture elegance without losing authority.
"clients make unconscious decisions based on your portrait."
Despite our best efforts we all make unconscious judgements based on appearance. Recent Princeton research found that first-impression judgements were made in milliseconds and re-inforced the longer portraits were viewed.
So, for professionals of both sexes your portraits are vitally important.
"identity can only provide clues to character."
Successful portraits address three separate yet mutually supporting facets of the human condition. The cornerstone of which is identity.
Identity, perception of self, is built upon self knowledge; awareness of our physical attributes, understanding our skills, abilities, enthusiasms, past actions and future ambitions. It is the core of who we are. Whilst understanding an individual's identity is vital it can only provide clues to character.
How people respond to the world is far more important for the portraitist.
"Bombarded with 500 years of art history, plus images from Vogue and Marie Claire, it's unsurprising that many women find it difficult to decide on their final portrait."
External influences; family, friends, upbringing, media, religion, employment, social class, contribute to our image of how the 'world should be'. Individuals can have very similar identities - skills and enthusiasms but because of environment and experience, express very different values.
Portraits that are too corporate can mask great leadership qualities.
It is these values which are important. They inform how you feel about the world and how you feel about yourself. And they have been informed by 500 years of western art. From da Vinci to Picasso, Botticelli to Steve McCurry, portraitists' have portrayed women as beauties to be adored or possessed. Bombarded with history and images from Vogue, Heat and Marie Claire, it's unsurprising that many women find it difficult to decide how their professional portrait should look. Many female executives react by becoming too corporate, too 'correct'. The resulting images can be impenetrable, masking great leadership and business qualities.
Surfacing these qualities in a portrait is no easy task and takes time. To be effective the portraitist needs to connect with you and provide an environment where you can express your personality. Portrait sessions are relaxed and fun, your photographer's knowledge of posing and how to direct gives you options. They will have modern image preview systems allowing you to see the effect of different poses, enabling you to work towards a set of images that reflect your professional abilities and character.
Your portrait is a powerful personal marketing tool: taking the time to get it right will not only pay dividends, you'll have fun creating it to.
Grey is a portrait photographer based in London. His images have won awards and been published internationally.