How to take Headshots: Headshot Photography Tips

How to Take a Headshot: Professional Headshots 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 difficult, 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.
Headshot photography 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 personal brand, so headshots should not be taken lightly!
Headshot photography can also be fun, rewarding, and a great way to make money as a photographer. They just require some finesse and practice. Here are five top head shots tips to help you take amazing photos. Combine these professional headshots tips 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 headshot photography marketing template to help you get more headshot clients? Click here)

What is the difference between a headshot and a portrait?

A headshot is a photograph that captures the upper part of a person's body, including the head, neck, and sometimes the shoulders. Headshots are often used for business or personal branding, social media profiles, acting or modeling portfolios, and other professional purposes. They are typically taken from a relatively close distance and are meant to show the subject's face and personality in a clear and engaging way.

A portrait, on the other hand, is a photograph that captures a person or group of people in a more expansive and artistic way. Portraits can be taken from a variety of angles and distances and can include the subject's full body, or just a portion of it. Portraits can be formal or casual, and they can be taken in a studio or on location. Portraits are often used to document important milestones or events, or to capture the essence and personality of the subject.

While headshots and portraits both involve taking photographs of people, they serve different purposes and may involve different techniques and equipment.

A headshot photographer may focus on creating a professional and flattering image, while a portrait photographer may capture a more artistic or emotional aspect of their subject. 

Headshot photography tip 1

1) How to Take a Headshot: 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 photography clients, 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 clients 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 your 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) How to Take Headshots: 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) How to Take Headshots: Headshot Photography 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 photography studio, and a classic beauty lighting setup is perfect - that means one light or reflector comes from below your subject, acting as a fill, 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.
headshot photography tip: how to take headshots

4) How to Take Headshots: Choose the Correct Camera Lens for your Headshot Photography

Lenses matter, and if you are shooting professional headshot 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. 
headshot photography tip: how to take headshots

5) How to Take Headshots: 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.  

6) Headshots Posing Tips

Headshot posing can be intimidating at first. Here are a few tips to help your clients with posing.  

  • Help your clients relax their face and body.  Tension in the face or body can come across in the photos, so make sure to have your clients take a few deep breaths so they can relax.
  • Make sure they have good posture.  Good posture will help your clients look confident and put together in their photo. 
  • Slightly angle the body.  Instead of standing or sitting with the camera straight on, try angling your client's body to one side.  This will help add depth to your image.
Want to find out how to advertise your headshot photography? Click here

Headshot Photography Marketing Templates You May Like: 

2 Responses

Greta James
Greta James

February 02, 2022

Thank you for the tips on how to take headshots. I just got my real estate license and I need to get a headshot photo. It would be smart to consult a professional so I can get a quality photo taken.

Levi Armstrong
Levi Armstrong

February 02, 2022

It’s great to know that I’d generally want to avoid mood or artsy lighting with headshots and stick to shooting in a space that’s very evenly lit. My brother and I offer photography services and plan to partner with businesses for corporate headshots. I’ll share this with him since these are good tips that we can really use for our studio. Thanks!

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