Headshot Photography Tips
Headshot photography may seem simple enough - after all, it’s just photographing one person, close-up. There’s no action to capture, and aiming a camera at someone’s face can’t be that hard, right?
Wrong! Getting the perfect headshot is a fine art. There are so many things to consider, from angles and lenses to backdrops and clothing, from lighting and timing to the subject’s comfort level, there are many things that factor into getting the perfect headshot. This type of photo is very important, because clients who come in for headshot sessions are investing in their public image and their career. They are depending on you to help them project an authentic, well-presented image of themselves and their brand, so headshots should not be taken lightly!
But don't let that make you nervous. Headshots are fun, rewarding, and a great way to earn income as a photographer. They just require some finesse and practice. Here are five top tips to help you take amazing headshots. Combine these with your natural instinct and an eye for imagery, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your calendar fills up with headshot bookings. (Need a photography marketing template to help you get more headshot clients? Click here)
1) Get to Know Your Subject
Who are you photographing? What do they do? Why do they do it? It’s important to know as much as possible about your client, for a variety of reasons. People usually feel more comfortable when others show an interest in them. Talking about their passion will usually help people open up and feel at ease.
Finding out more about your client may also influence the location of the shoot. The backdrop and general feel of the photos will vary depending on profession and desired outcome. For example, a naturopath or massage therapist may wish to have a natural background shot outdoors, maybe even with greenery as the backdrop, whereas an accountant or lawyer would want a more corporate, polished look like a plain white backdrop or even a well lit high end office. Send a standard questionnaire to clients before the shoot. If you're able to arrange in-person consultation to allow the client to connect face to face with you before the shoot, that's even better. The bottom line is that the more you know about the client, the better the photos will turn out.
2) Play Stylist
Many people get stuck on what to wear for their headshots, and this is important, because the goal is to looks polished and professional, with nice, clean clothing that doesn’t distract from the face. If your client shows up with a heavily patterned shirt or bright colors that clash, this could ruin what could have been a perfect headshot.
Talk to your clients about wardrobe choices, get a sense of what they’re looking for visually, and recommend what works across the board: neutral colors with nice textures, no logos or pattern, colors that complement the client’s skin tone. Keep it as simple as possible and it’ll be smooth sailing. It’s a good idea to head to the thrift store and pick up some basic pieces in different colors and sizes so you have something on hand if what the client shows up with isn't working.
3) Lighting is Everything
You generally want to avoid mood or artsy lighting with headshots, and stick to shooting in a space that’s very evenly lit. Garages work well for this if you don’t have a studio, and a classic beauty lighting setup is perfect - that means one light or reflector comes from below your subject, acting as a fl, with another light placed above the subject. This will help eliminate shadows and glare, making for an evenly lit photo. Outdoor shooting on an overcast/partly cloudy day also allows for beautiful light.
4) Choose the Correct Lens for your Headshot Photography
Lenses matter, and if you're shooting portraits, it only makes sense to use a portrait lens. Portrait lenses are usually 85mm f/1.8, and that's the perfect focal length for this type of work. These lenses perform well in studios, outdoors and even in low light conditions, so it's really a good idea to invest in a good portrait lens, especially if you plan on doing headshot work.
5) The Eyes Say it All
Eyes are everything in a headshot - they are the most powerful facial communicator we have, so feature them! Bright, clear eyes make all the difference in a photo, so make sure you focus on the eyes first.
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