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  /  52 Week Challenge   /  Week 4: Portrait Headshot

Week 4: Portrait Headshot

Headshots are a large market in the professional photography industry. A variety of industries call for a standard issue photo with their company logo backgrounds, while the entertainment and media industry asks that you show your specific look or type cast. In the region I work in, there are not a lot of entertainment industry headshots, but more corporate company or realtor headshots. Some individuals will use a photograph that is older or not taken by a professional, this can come off as very unprofessional as many of these photos are being used to establish trust and identify roles in the workplace.

In preparation for a headshot photo shoot, airbrush makeup and lots of powder can help with sheen from lighting. Also knowing your angles helps make the session go faster. A photographer will usually lightly coach avoiding problems like double chins and angles that make features seem more prominent. Do not expect a photographer to explain angles at length. Bring a few possibilities of different clothing looks. Certain clothing can make you feel different and portray different emotions. A certain outfit may make you more comfortable or even powerful in front of the camera. Nine times out of ten the headshot session will be located in a studio with controlled lighting. Standard backgrounds are usually used in company photos, while entertainment industry headshots are usually shot on white, black or gray backgrounds.

When composing a headshot photoshoot, sticking with the status quo is usually a good idea. Some companies require certain backgrounds or ask for certain garments to be worn as the company is trying to standardize and brand the company all the way down into an employee’s personal image. It can be very powerful marketing to see standardized business photos, making the company look organized and reputable. Photographing entertainment industry headshots is different, where one should define the type of casting they are looking for. If a client requests a black and white headshot, use specific lighting during the session and work with contrast in the photo finishing. Most headshots will be portrait with eyes lining up with center third lines.

Getting a subject to be comfortable in front of the lens can be difficult. Try to make the session quick and painless by having things set up and a few ideas in mind of how to evoke emotion from your client. Have your lighting setup and a mirror ready for them to practice looks. During the session I will move a subject without explanation, changing a subject to their better side, making eyes look more symmetrical, and reducing overly prominent features. While moving them without explanation I will try to have a conversation with them. A headshot photographer / subject relationship can take time to develop, establishing relationships with a photographer can make the session go easy and even be fun.

The finishing on a headshot should be minimal. Headshots are trying to portray honest visual character, keep this in mind during editing. Most subjects will want touch up. Whether it’s a zit, wrinkles, or skin smoothing; I try to advise subjects from going too far from the original photo as it makes one’s character look unrealistic or can be shocking when you see the person from the headshot in reality. Photoshop tricks will only go so far, be honest about who you are, it can be seen in a photo. Finally, headshots should be updated every year, at the very latest, every two years. Your look changes with your professional progression! Make sure you show it in your professional headshot.