When it comes to attorney portraits, the days of the postage stamp-sized “yearbook” photos are, thankfully, over.
My team recently reviewed portraits on hundreds of law firm websites. We found a clear trend toward wider, brighter, and more authentic-looking attorney photos. Some attorney portraits might even be considered artful.
“These days, law firms are opting for a much more ambitious approach to bio photos,” according to Greg Lorfing of GittingsLegal, the lawyer-portrait juggernaut. For example, portraits are being used larger than ever, which is visually impactful. However, large photos reveal every detail, which makes it much more difficult to achieve consistency over time and location. And consistency is key.
To help achieve consistency, portrait photographers are increasingly shooting on green screens and swapping in pre-shot backgrounds using chroma key technology.
Chroma key isn’t new, but it wasn’t always viable. At Great Jakes, we tried using it a decade ago, but the results looked wonky. As a result, we turned away from it. However, the technology has recently made huge leaps forward, and today it can be very difficult to distinguish a chroma-key background from an organic one.
According to Lorfing, “This is especially helpful for environmental portraits that show offices or windows in the background. With chroma key, it doesn’t matter if you have a remote office that looks like a closet. We can just swap in a beautiful background shot in a different office.” The Pillsbury and Barnes & Thornburg portraits (below) had backgrounds placed via chroma key technology by GittingsLegal.
TODAY’S BEST LAWYER PORTRAITS
Below are our picks for the world’s best attorney portraits. We’ve also included some non-lawyer shots at the end. Did we overlook any really good ones? If so, we'd love to see them. Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Be sure to include a link.
These Canadians didn’t skimp on photography when they recently redesigned their website. Their bio photos are striking, and they are not afraid to use them BIG. The photographer clearly spent lots of time with each subject, and all subjects seem relaxed and authentic. Visit Website
White & Case
Many firms shy away from black-and-white photography, as they consider it old-fashioned. White & Case proves otherwise. Despite the lack of color, the firm’s people pop off the screen. Furthermore, despite the firm’s massive headcount (2,000+ attorneys) and global footprint (44 offices), the quality and consistency of its photos are impressive. Visit Website
The Pillsbury portraits feel fresh, thanks to a stunning blue studio background that extends edge-to-edge (and fits beautifully into the page design). Additionally, the photos offer a variety of poses, including some where the subject is looking away from the camera. The Pillsbury portraits were shot by our friends at GittingsLegal, and the background color was placed using chroma key technology. Visit Website
Barnes & Thornburg
If you work at Barnes & Thornburg, consider wearing extra makeup on photo day because your photo will reveal every pore. (Fortunately, it appears that everyone was masterfully touched-up.) These massive, full-screen photos are beautifully shot, each revealing a bit of the subject’s personality. Additionally, they seamlessly integrate into the design of the bio page. The Barnes & Thornburg portraits were shot by GittingsLegal and the environmental background was placed using chroma key technology. Visit Website
This London-based IP firm has a clear message: “We do things differently.” And that theme reflected in some unconventional, highly expressive portrait photos. Interestingly, the firm’s people are shot sitting down (a rarity), and the subjects appear on a stark black background (a unique approach). However, the most remarkable thing about these photos: the subjects aren’t afraid to let down their guard and show a little personality. Visit Website
This Toronto-based litigation firm isn’t afraid to buck lawyer-portrait conventions. For example, all of its portraits are placed in circles. Also, lots of the firm’s people are looking away from the camera (in a less-than-subtle manner). But most remarkably, the firm is resisting the trend toward giant portrait photos (none of the portraits is more than a couple of inches in diameter). Despite being used small, the photos are beautiful, expressive, and feel authentic. Visit Website
Wow, this firm sure knows who it is and isn’t afraid to say it. The homepage headline screams “Creative. Aggressive. Relentless.” And the bio photos make the attorneys look like ruthless street fighters. There are over 200 portraits on the site, and not a smile in the bunch. Visit Website
BPV Grigorescu Stefanica
Many firms have tried to shoot portraits that “reflect the personalities” of their lawyers. However, none has succeeded quite like this firm in Bucharest, Romania. Its photos are beautiful, artful, and highly unconventional. I’m curious to see if this trend reaches the AmLaw 200. Visit Website
BEYOND LAW FIRMS
When designing a website, we often find inspiration outside of the legal world. Below are a few examples of striking portrait photography used by companies ranging from website designers to newspapers.
Huge is a digital agency that serves some big brands. Consistent with its name, the agency’s photos are huge and beautifully shot in their offices. Visit Website
Sequioa Capital is the money men behind Silicon Valley successes such as YouTube, Instagram, and Google. And the firm’s portrait photos make its people look like money. Visit Website
This architecture firm in Princeton, NJ broke new ground with its bio portraits. For each architect, a portrait was shot and then juxtaposed with a series of photographs of architectural details from within the same room. The resulting compositions are beautiful, engaging, and on-brand. These photos were shot by our friend Peter Olson. Visit Website
New York Times
The series of staff photos on the New York Times website is truly spectacular. Unlike most portrait collections, there is tremendous variety of poses and croppings (some of which are radically different from others). Each photo is tailored to reflect the personality of the subject, which makes for fun viewing. Visit Website
Great post, guys! One thing that I found interesting is that half of the firms you highlight are outside of the U.S. What do you think that says about the culture of U.S. law firms?
Great observation! It’s true that U.S.-based firms have typically been more conservative in their branding.
For example, look at how large European firms (such as Linklaters and Lovells) were using bold colors in their branding 15 years ago. In those days U.S. firms were barely using color. And if they were, it was probably blue.
Hi Robert –
Thanks to you and Dion for including our firm in your recent blog post. What a nice surprise, we are honoured!
We love our headshots – they’ve played such an important part in our marketing over the past few years. We also agree with a lot of your other choices (and just had to stop what we were doing to look at every single bio at BPV Grigorescu Stefanica, so thanks for that!)
You made our day!
Director, Marketing & Business Development
LENCZNER SLAGHT ROYCE SMITH GRIFFIN LLP
Great piece! But you missed Lowenstein. 😉
Chief Marketing Officer
Lowenstein Sandler LLP
You’re right! The Lowenstein Sandler website has some great bio photos. Below are just two that we found to be particularly good:
Great post, great photos. Thanks for the inspiration guys!
Thank you for sharing these interesting and unique headshots. Another firm to consider — our ad agency AustinWilliams. Hands down,, the most brilliant, creative headshots I have seen.
Thanks for featuring Kasowitz – we set a style that really reflects the firm’s outward persona and that aligned with the brand strategy. Bio photos should be a critical consideration for all law firms.
Thanks for giving EIP a mention in your blog post. You highlighted a few good photos of our team. My personal favourite images though – Ben Hoyle (centre of the three in your selection) and Daniel Richards – arms folded, big smile! Interesting to see how others have done it, with remarkable results.
Marketing and Business Development Manager, EIP