Head shot photography can be straightforward or wildly complicated.
Head shots are simple, right? Photographing someone’s head and shoulders in an office, arms crossed, perhaps a bit of a slanted ‘professional looking’ angle. Done.
Unfortunately not. There can be a huge amount involved with head shots, many questions to ask and answer. The variables, choices and selections can be distressingly infinite.
The more specific the brief, the simpler it can be. “We want all our pictures to look like this” (with an example image) is better to deliver against. Especially if all images are to be taken at one single location on one day.
However, it’s harder if there’s no brief, or you’re travelling around to multiple locations and working in differently sized rooms where light will behave differently. Then it’s your role to achieve a level of consistency, if that’s what the client wants.
Much about the headshot will depend on the equipment you have and the amount you want to use to meet a brief. You may or may not have continuous studio-style lighting. You may or may not have a backdrop. You may or may not even have a flash. Well beforehand, ask yourself what you have and what you want to use.
Assuming you’re confident exposing and focusing on your subject, a big headshot question involves shadow. How much shadow is too much shadow? An entirely subjective thing depending on personal preference and the type of shots you’re seeking. For some, any shadow at all is too much. For others, a little is fine and adds texture. For others, almost half and half is good, adding a dramatic feel.
How you create the shadow or lack of it will obviously depend on your use of light. Positioning one, two or even more speedlite flashes at opposing angles to your subject can create a variety of differently striking looks.
Rim lighting, which seems extremely fashionable right now, highlights the outline of a figure using a light placed behind the subject. Natural light alone can be equally effective, depending on its strength.
It’s important for there to be no glare from spectacles. The better and smarter the equipment you’re using, the less likely this is to be an issue. But this is where it’s important to review pictures as they’re being taken, look carefully around the frame for imperfections which could be improved upon, adjusting your angle if possible.
[Read the Composed Images blog post: “I hate having my photo taken”]
A simple head and shoulders image can be enlivened with a simple action. Some like their subject to frame their face using a hand, others might want to look business-like in adjusting a tie, or making the eye-contact a little more serious. Small details can drastically change the effect. An unexpected laugh can make a picture seem suddenly warm and natural, as opposed to stiff and awkward. Do your preparation with the desired settings so you can be on your toes when a person arrives in your viewfinder.
In the same way writers always need to read, photographers always need to look carefully at other people’s photos. Look closely at trade publications like PR Week or photographs of businesspeople in newspapers. Find out what type of headshots you like, and which you don’t. This will help you to evolve your own style.
[Read the Composed Images blog post: 10 tips to better event photography]
There will always be an incredible amount of subjectivity in head shot photography. Even if you’re churning through a high number of people during a shoot and feel confident about every frame you’ve shared with people on the back of the camera (if you choose to do that) others might not like the results.
Humans can feel very sensitive about how they look, especially in a profile picture which will represent them to all their online contacts. We want to look as good as possible. Don’t be hurt or argumentative. Take as many frames as it needs to make them happy.
By the same token, you might also face someone nervous who wants to crack jokes, or a Big Personality who wants everyone to know they are a Big Personality. Take charge and be in control. Maintaining composure and professionalism, smile and calmly tell them how you want them. Don’t allow yourself to be bossed around.
As with virtually all elements of photography, you can be overwhelmed by the number of options, ideas and opinions when considering head shot photography. In the same way other people’s cooking always seems different and usually better than yours, it’s all to easy to spot an image you think is more striking than yours and suddenly feel insecure. It’s a photographer type of body dysmorphia, where you see your images differently to everyone else.
It’s important not to value the views of absolutely everyone and obsess over every blog and web article. This might sound strange, or even disrespectful. But whatever stage you’re at, you need to draw a line and back yourself. Your confidence in your own judgements and views will be infectious. You need to deliver work you’re happy with.
Perhaps one day you’ll look back at it more critically, but you always need to have it in the present. Once you have that, you’ll still see areas you might improve or experiment with. But you’ll also have the all important confidence needed.
If you’re seeking Cardiff head shot photography services, please get in touch.
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