8 Steps for a Successful Headshot - Portrait
Portraits and headshots have many uses in social media for your LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other purposes. I am often hired by corporations to photograph headshots for an individual and or an entire department with uses for their website, associate's bios, sales brochures, public relations, social media, and many other applications.
When a corporation is in need of portraits/headshots, we usually set up a studio at their office--that way the subjects only need to take about 10 minutes of their day for the session. Few people have the time it takes to drive to a photographer's studio during busy work schedules. A large space gives us more options with lighting, though it is not necessary. We have photographed headshots in offices, conference rooms, a corporate lobby and even hallways. I often am hired to photograph assignments in New England and throughout the country, and headshots are part of the schedule.
Headshots can be a simple portrait taken in a few minutes. There have even been times when we have to photograph 20 subjects in about an hour. Other times we may spend 20+ minutes with a subject. I do find that non-professional models will fade energetically after about 10-20 minutes.
To give you a sense of the possible images and their uses and versatility: all the sample images below may be cropped tighter, or the entire image may be shown to fit a layout better.
Remember - they may be cropped
Another modern style of a headshot is the environmental portrait. Environmental Portraits are very popular among corporate and commercial clients. These pictures use available and meaningful surroundings as a background. The background is often blurred to make the human subject a unique graphical element as well as providing more of a sense of place.
8 Steps to a Better Corporate Headshot:
- A working studio created from a conference room, office, cafeteria, among others works well. If a room has furniture, it is best to move it to the side. I have photographed headshots in hallways (must be wider for lighting equipment), lobby, offices, conference rooms, unfinished rooms and even outside.
- Less production may work best. The above doctor photograph used only the ambient lighting. While the image may not be as high quality as a studio style portrait, it allows for a more straightforward journalistic style. It may fit your purpose better than a more "polished" portrait. The other advantage is it allows photographing in a high traffic area in which setting up a mini studio is not ideal. This environmental style headshot also makes it possible to capture the "doctor office" feel of the orange door.
- 15-minutes is an appropriate time to spend with a subject. If you have a large group and just need some basic headshots in a short period, allocate 5-minutes. I have done less than 5-minutes and more than 15.
- If a subject wears glasses regularly, leave them on.
- A makeup stylist is very helpful if there is enough money in the budget and time in the schedule. It allows the subject to have a little down time between meetings and being photographed to shift their mindset and relax. It also provides a higher level of makeup application since an expert is now doing the touch-up with photography/video in mind. For females, I like to leave about 20 minutes for makeup.
- Wardrobe should be kept simple, with solid colors usually work best. I typically say to stay away from solid white or solid black. Though I find there are times that subjects look great in those colors. It is helpful for men to bring a few ties for the creative team to pick and females to bring a few outfits if there's time for a wardrobe change. Remember, if you have a group of people for individual headshots, you may not want four of your five men to show up with similar ties or females with same color outfits. While unlikely, I have seen it happen. A discussion beforehand on what looks good with the background color can be constructive. Keep in mind what is most comfortable and makes a subject feel good helps them to relax and be more themselves in front of the camera. So, all the rules with wardrobe can be thrown out the window at times.
- Most subjects do get nervous about being photographed. As a subject, be serious, be silly and express yourself on how you want the others to see you. Also, work a bit outside your comfort zone. Follow the photographers lead and don't fixate on that bad frame/photo or awful expression. I will take 100++ photographs of one subject to get that perfect portrait. Focus on the positive and the perfect portrait of you, and it will happen.
- Retouching will elevate the quality of your headshot. Allowing to eliminate stray hairs, better skin tones, fewer skin blemishes, among a few other improvements. I did share a few headshots above that were not retouched, maybe you can identify them.