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7 Tips for The Perfect Headshot

Headshots— almost everyone who works a job for a professional company, will need them sooner or later. Actors, doctors, lawyers, business people, anyone who has a face that is representing your company, really, should have professional head shots taken, eventually. Their importance is significant in many ways. They display recency and updated photos of a person or team, they are a great way of tying names to a face/company, and they create a clean, seamless display of a company and it’s employees. This emphasizes professionalism and order, allows your company to express their style in an organized way, and gives your audience a more realistic experience, dealing with real human beings, and not just an automated bot. Here are some tips and tricks, gathered from a variety of expert photography sources, such as Digital Photography School and Backstage for taking the perfect headshot:

  1. The Eyes: They say the eyes are the window to the soul. This is true, even in photography! When taking the perfect headshot, be sure eyes are in focus, energized, and make a statement. A good photographer will know how to evoke what they want the eyes to say from the subject.

  2. Personality> Glamour: What is the point of taking a headshot if it looks nothing like you? The subject of your headshot should be informed not to over-do it when it comes to make-up, outfit, and overall appearance. Be natural. Be you. Your headshot represents you on your best day, reflecting your current age, and who you are in that moment. Anything that steers away from this ideal will work against you in the future when you look back at it years from now and when people view your picture before they meet you.

  3. Angles: When taking photos close up, angles will definitely affect the tone of the photo. Photographers should ask themselves, “What am I trying to achieve with this photo?” prior to setting up angles. Women appreciate photos taken at an angle shooting down towards them, as this makes for a more delicate picture with a sharper focus on the eyes. Men often appreciate the opposite. Shooting up towards them, reflects power and achievement. Photographers should discuss with their subjects what they want to portray before taking their headshots.

  4. Framing, Lighting, & Background: Headshots should be taken from the chest up, with a focus on the face. Watch your lighting source. Analyze what will create more shadows, what medium the photos will be displayed on (print, digital etc.), if the background will be blurred, etc. These options create different effects when combined in different ways. Shoot on a high-quality camera with a high depth-of-field to emphasize the subject more. Hair lights above the subject can separate the head from the background and make for a better shot.

  5. Make ‘em Laugh!: Guide your subject’s expression. This is often the hardest part when taking photos. Some people are more shy than others, some are naturals in front of the camera, and some need more guidance. It is part of the photographer’s job to analyze what kind of subject you are dealing with and guide them based on this. Break the ice between you and the subject to eliminate awkwardness. A natural photo is always better. If the subject is stiff, make them laugh. If the photo needs to be serious, offer tips to exude a focused gaze from them. This can be the difference between a good headshot and a great one.

  6. Clothing and Props: Professionalism stands out. Solid colors are best for taking photos. The subject should stay away from wearing white and heavy graphics. Simplicity is sometimes best. When it comes to props, be sure they make sense with the theme of the headshot and are subtle enough not to distract from the main subject.

  7. Retouching: Editing photos is a tricky craft and can mean the difference between an okay photo and a stellar headshot. It should not be over the top, but it should not be so sparse that obvious blemishes are still noticeable. Sam Tabrizi, who works in the lab of Reproductions in Hollywood, says that “Retouching is 70 percent skill and 30 percent art”. The aspect of how much retouching should be done needs to be discussed with the client. Have them specify what they want removed, what they don’t want removed, etc. With today’s modern improvements in technology, retouching has gotten easier and easier. Although an essential part of the headshot process, be sure to stick to the principle of staying natural. You don’t want the subject to look like someone else.

All in all, a headshot represents the subject for what it is. The subject shouldn’t have to try so hard to have the perfect expression or pose in the perfect way. With guidance from the photographer, good technique, and analytical skills, your next headshot will be a piece of cake!

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