Headshot Practice

In 2014, a friend asked if I’d be down to do some headshots. Of course, I was down! Who wouldn’t be? But since they would be the first headshots in a long time, I was nervous. Initially, we looked forward to doing an outdoor shoot with natural lighting. Then, on the day of the shoot – it rained.

Luckily, a backup location was available; a two-story building with floor to ceiling windows. Due to the weather though, lighting was unusually dim. I called up another friend to assist with lighting. Specifically, I had him hold up a reflector while I bounced a flash. The resulting images are the two on the left.  While both might be ok presented by themselves, next to each other they appear in need of color correcting and lighting adjustments. I wasn’t as familiar with editing software to make them flow together. Additionally, I’d failed to request more information on why headshots were needed. Because of that, most of them conveyed similar facial expressions. We later scheduled a second shoot and I hoped to get some things figures out by then.

Despite my usual adversary to locations without natural lighting, the second shoot also took place indoors. In a basement, to be specific. This time, we had a lighting expert assist us in setting up studio lights. Since everyone present had previously interacted on their own, even worked together on other projects, the mood was different than during the previous shoot. It was easy going, even playful at times. Unlike the first two, choice of lighting was intentional. Color within the images was also set to reflect the mood conveyed. Overall, I think we were pleased with the results.

Tips on Making your Next Headshot Session Successful

  1. If anything can go wrong, it will. What can you do about it? Have a backup. Can you back up everything? Yes, but it takes to long to confirm a backup date, location, model, camera, assistant, etc. Instead, figure out which are the things that are most likely to go wrong and have something planned in case they do.
  2. Be aware of the context and theme of your project. This way, if you need to fall on a backup – you can do so in a way that doesn’t stray from the original intent.
  3. While it wouldn’t do to constantly update those on your team regarding ever single concern… make a list and that notify as appropriate when a major concern or list of concerns come up. This could be anything from weather to the unavailability of key components in your shoot.
  4. Once you are on set for the shoot, make the model feel at home. You can accomplish this in many ways. The easiest is having a conversation and finding a common interest. You could also have a playlist streaming their favorite music nearby as you prepare for the shoot.
  5. Not all headshots include smiling faces. Be aware of what emotions they want to portray. Don’t tell them to ‘ look frightful or look sad ‘. If they want to express fear, have them close their eyes and recall the last time they experienced a frightful event. If they want to express sadness, first find out what makes them happy then create a hypothetical situation in which that is taken away.
  6. Shoot in whatever way allows for the least amount of editing.
  7.  When the photo shoot is done, let them know when images will be ready.


Butterfly Break

And remember:
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

So make sure you are well prepared in advance of your next project!

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