How Brian Smale turns the pain of headshots into the pleasure of portraiture


As people are heading back to the office—often in new jobs with new titles—Seattle-Based Brian Smale is getting lots of calls for high-end headshots, or as he likes to call them, “executive portraits.” While many photographers play it safe with this kind of “bread-and-butter” work, Brian sees it as an opportunity to push for creativity and storytelling—especially when he’s shooting for mega-corporations like Microsoft, Boeing and Panasonic. “Most people would rather see a dentist than have a headshot done,” he says, “so, I try to make it enough fun that they’ll want to come back—and they tell their colleagues that it wasn’t too horrible.” Rather than taking a “this will be painless and it’ll just take a few minutes” approach, he allows plenty of time so his subjects can relax, and he always brings a lot of humor and lively conversation to the set. Clearly, he’s on to something. The clients are getting standout portraits they actually love. And they don’t even have to ask for novocaine.