A headshot is a form of digital photography that focuses solely on a person’s face. The shot may include the person’s shoulders, as well. Unlike other types of photography, this shot typically only involves one person, and they are the main focus of the picture. These do vary from portrait shots, as those can include the body. If the shot goes below the shoulders, it can no longer be referred to as a headshot.
Headshots have been on the rise over the last several years. Once reserved just for those in acting and modeling, headshots are now almost a requirement for corporate workplaces. In our digital age, companies want to showcase their employees on their websites or online directories. Headshots have become the way to do that. Also, as online professional networking opportunities arise, professionals with profiles on networks such as LinkedIn find themselves in need of a professional headshot. Another good candidate for headshots is professionals and business owners with their own websites. They can show off a good headshot in the About Us section of their site to create a human connection.
Some companies may want their headshots conducted against a traditional type of backdrop. That is completely fine. A business has a specific ethos they want to convey. And if posing their employees against that backdrop is how they get that ethos, that is ok. But those backdrops aren’t the only places you can shoot these sessions. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to shoot them inside at all. As these shots have expanded from their more austere origins, so have the places these sessions can happen. The outdoors opens up a whole new world of backdrops for headshots. Just because the focus is on the person, doesn’t mean they can’t have some gorgeous foliage behind them.
One of the keys to a terrific headshot is to play with the angles, poses, and expressions. Corporate headshots may not permit you this creativity, but take it wherever you can find it! For other types of headshots, especially any outdoors, playing with angles is a way to break that rigidity.
Another way to get a fantastic headshot is just to engage with your client, keep talking while everything is set up, and keep shooting, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got a money shot by keep shooting and capturing that candid and natural headshot. People love it because you get the authentic side of them.
Lighting is another excellent way to improve the quality of your session with your client. Lighting is one of the best ways to jazz up those headshot sessions where you don’t get as much creative freedom. You need to bring out their eyes, first and foremost. Get your lighting to pull out that feature. See if you can get it to bounce off their hair. Play with these elements to bring a new level of dimension to your shot.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest thing you can do for your headshot session is to talk to your client before you get started to see what their goals are. Find out why they are getting headshots done in the first place. Knowing why they need the photoshoot done gives you more room to play and create what types of shots you want for the session. If someone is a fashion designer, you will conceptualize their shoot differently than you would a writer or an accountant.
When conducting your shoot in addition to focusing on the lighting and the angles, the biggest thing you will need to do is keep your client calm. Not everyone feels comfortable in front of the camera. Throughout your shoot, give words of encouragement to your subject. For someone who feels very awkward posing for photos, your words of encouragement could mean the world and help you have a much more productive shoot. In addition to supporting, don’t forget to give your client any additional instructions they need for a pose, as well. If they need to tilt their chin, change their gaze, etc., make sure to call those things out to them. This will help you get the variety of shots you need. You can check my blog post about the psychology of headshot photography
I hope this overview is helpful so that you understand what a headshot is and how to get the best shots of your clients. These are an essential part of our digital world. They can be more than the classic shots you have seen on LinkedIn. If a photographer goes outside of the box, there can be a great deal of magic that can happen in these photoshoots.