Headshot Photography - how to get the most from it
Headshot photography, in whatever form you choose (more about that below!), is more important now than ever. Whatever you need a headshot for, getting the right feel for your brand, personal or professional is crucial. Like most things in photography, getting the right photographer will make the difference between getting a great, carefully thought out photo and getting a mediocre shot, that at best doesn’t convey you the way you’d like, at worst may undermine what you are trying to get across to the viewer.
Knowing What Kind of Headshot Photography You’d Like
These are fairly straight forward in that they are photographed on a plain background of some sort, often white or grey, with the subject looking to camera. The type of backdrop can be a brand colour or just neutral. These sorts of shots are good for when you need headshot photography for a large team, if you are short of time to get the photographs done or if you need them doing regularly because you have team members changing. They can also be done in a variety of locations, wherever a small headshot studio can be set up. This is often in a canteen or a meeting room where there is plenty of space. It’s important to remember that plug sockets will be needed too.
My personal preference is for grey rather than white as white will often wash out the subject, whereas grey lends a bit of depth to the shot.
A backdrop headshot doesn’t have to be formal, it can be quite informal given a bit of time to work with the subject. Most people are a little stressed by the idea of being photographed. For a formal shot it doesn’t take much time to relax a subject and get the shot, but for a more informal shot it really helps to have a bit of time. Here’s a link to another blog post with more backdrop headshots.
These are similar to backdrop headshots in that the subject is generally looking to camera. However, rather than having a plain background, the immediate environment is in the photograph. This style of shot brings a lot more to the photograph. I particularly like using a short depth of field so the subject is sharp but the rest of the photo is slightly blurred. This brings the viewers attention straight onto the subject while the feel of the photograph is still informed by the choice of background. The title photograph at the top of this article is an example of an environmental headshot.
Choosing the background is obviously important, while as a headshot photographer I would need to consider carefully what light we could work with depending on the location.
Natural or Documentary Headshots
Now we come to my particular favourite. It’s not always possible to shoot like this, and it won’t always suit what’s needed. However, to my mind documentary headshots are the most natural and relaxed form of headshot. This shows off the subject at their best, when they aren’t focusing on the fact they are being photographed. With natural or documentary headshots generally I look to get a group of people in a situation where they can relax and stop thinking about the fact they are being photographed. This can be in a meeting situation or just standing talking to someone. Either way it takes their mind away from being photographed and makes them look much more natural.
It’s often possible to shoot this way with natural light too, which adds to the feel of the shots.
Other Things to Consider
When organising headshot photography it’s important to talk everything through with your photographer so the shoot goes smoothly. I like to have a good chat through the different options and give some advice on timings, clothes and how to get the most out of the shoot. Generally I advise subjects to wear something they feel comfortable in or something that projects what they want to show. However, it does look best if subjects wear darker clothing as light clothes can wash out the skin tones and draw the eye away from the face. Stripes and patterns are generally best left at home and a quick trip to the bathroom before being photographed to check hair, makeup and straighten clothes is a good idea. I have in the past occasionally used a makeup artist, but it is my experience that generally people do their own makeup the way they like it, so changing it at the last minute might not work.
Setting up for a shoot usually takes between half an hour to an hour depending on the conditions, so it’s important to consider that when booking out any meeting rooms and booking the time of the first shot. Getting equipment in and out of the location is also worth talking to your photographer about too.
The single most important thing when starting the process of getting headshots done is to choose the right photographer for you. The right photographer will not only take great shots the way you want them, but will also be organised, professional and reliable, all important factors when arranging a shoot. They will talk through the different options taking into account your needs and how you want to present yourselves. I like to plan well, so on the day the shoot goes smoothly and I’m thinking about the photography rather than the arrangements, as they have been sorted in advance.
I hope this has been of use. If you’d like to see more of my work then a good place to look is my blog, and also my FAQ’s. You can also get in touch with me direct through my contact page.
Equipment I Use
Finally, in case you’re interested, I like to use a variety of different photographic headshot equipment. As a London event photographer I have a whole range of kit to choose from. The main piece of kit will be my 85mm telephoto lens, which gives a beautiful portrait feel to the shot as well as a lovely short depth of field, or bokeh as photographers call it. I use Fuji cameras and Godox flash heads with a variety of light diffusers for the subject and the background.
Where I can I like to use natural light a it gives a beautiful soft feel. Though if I am photographing several people and possibly more at a later date I will use flash as natural light changes constantly meaning each shot will feel different. A wonderful thing for photographers, but not what you want for headshots that are all going to sit together on the page of a website or publication.