Talking heads at Bentley Motors


Wednesday 5th December 2012


“You won’t get much time, if any, for a formal portrait, so when the interview is taking place, please sit in and do some talking head pictures …”. Those were the words of Andrew, one of the Picture Editors on the Business section of The Sunday Times when he gave me a brief regarding a commission at Bentley Motors in Crewe.

Karl West, The Sunday Times Business Journalist, was interviewing the newly appointed Chairman and Chief Executive of Bentley Motors Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber, but due to Dr. Schreiber’s schedule there would not be enough time for a formal portrait to be taken, therefore it was requested, and agreed to, that I should sit in during a part of Karl’s interview and photograph some ‘talking heads.’


It is important to remember that whilst undertaking such a brief, the time is that of the journalist and not the photographer – i.e., I cannot interrupt and ask the subject to move this way or that, or pose him.

Upon my arrival at Bentley Motors – I have photographed there on the factory floor before – I was given a tour of the factory in order to capture some of the skills and craftsmanship that go in to making one of the world’s most prestigious cars. These pictures were to be used to illustrate Karl’s piece along with the talking heads images.

Working on the factory floor is always enjoyable as you get to see the latest models as they literally roll off the production line. Accompanied by Bentley Motors’ PR Jo O’Brien around the factory floor, I was given pretty much free rein to photograph what I wanted within specific allocated areas.


Two craftsmen check the bodywork of a semi-built Bentley beneath special lighting


After I had captured a range of pictures on the factory floor I was taken to where Karl was conducting his interview. This was a large office and Dr. Schreiber was sat behind a conference table with Karl opposite him. Therefore there was realistically only really one area I could position myself to work within. I set up a camera flash on a stand behind me, which fired directly at the ceiling (thankfully the ceiling was white) to act as a large softbox. There was no time to set any further lighting. It would have been too disruptive to the interview.

Due to the room being busy with furniture I selected a lower down position, and a shallow depth of field (f4) to place the background out of focus. I had around about 5 minutes to capture as much as I could.


Dr. Schreiber in conversation with Karl West


Talking heads are a really clever way of illustrating an article / feature with a variety of expressions giving some context to the depth of conversation that the subject is engaging in.

There is also an opportunity that you may be able to capture a fleeting moment that does reflect a posed / formal portrait too.


Dr Schreiber captured in a thoughtful mood – almost posed


A quick review of my shots on the back of the camera confirmed there was sufficient choice to work with, and I grabbed my stand and left as the interview continued.

With a small amount of post production applied to each image, to ensure correct exposure, sharpness and colour balance, the images were sent in to The Sunday Times Business section from which a variety of pictures were published to illustrate Karl’s piece.

My thanks go to Jo at Bentley for her time on the day, to Dr. Shreiber for his time and to The Sunday Times for the shift.