A head shot is just a close-up of someone’s face, right? Yes, technically, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Head shots are visual representations of a person as a brand. Professionals of all sorts use them as a bridge between them and potential clients/producers/casting directors.
Basically, head shots can make the difference when it comes to getting a job. That’s why, as a photographer, it’s vital that you see head shots as more than “just a close-up.” You have to create a quality image that your client will be proud of. Something that will help them sell their brand to the buyer of their choice. Here are 5 tips on how to take good head shots.
1. Think natural
No one wants to see fake smiles and, even worse, grimaces. When taking a head shot, the idea is to present the subject in the most natural of settings. Your job is to make your subject comfortable. Take a series of test shots, and ask questions throughout. If they’re talking, they won’t be thinking about the camera, and their face will relax. Next, guide their expressions. Tell them to think about something serious, then tell them to think of their favorite joke – or, if you’re clever – you can tell them a joke. It will catch them off guard, and they’ll give you a natural expression.
2. Focus on eyes and create catchlights
In head shot photography, the focus should be on their eyes. Remember, you’re helping them create a connection with future clients. A catchlight is essentially the light that the surface of the eye (the cornea) reflects. Without catchlights, a photograph can seem dull and lifeless. Find the light, or create it, to add vibrancy to the shot.
3. Use soft or diffused light
Although you’re trying to maintain a natural look, it’s also important not to draw attention to your subjects flaws. A head shot should represent a person at their absolute best. Using diffused light will make their features softer, which is flattering.
4. Jaw line
Next to the eyes, the chin and jaw line are the most important part of head shot photography. If you give your subject a double chin, it’s not going to go over well. Avoiding this is simple, however. Have your subject square their shoulders away from the camera, but turn their head toward the camera. This creates depth to the photograph, and adds a flattering angle in one fell swoop. Also, tell them to push their forehead forward slightly and their chin down, not so much that they look ridiculous, but just enough so that the angle of their face is appropriately accentuated.
5. Don’t over-process
Head shot photography is meant to be honest. A person should look their best, but not like they’re someone else. When processing images after the shoot, adjust white balance and contrast, but go easy on the retouching. Sweeping away wrinkles and natural blemishes may make the person look better, but that’s not the point.
Bonus: Be calm. If you’re calm and collected, they will be too, and you’ll get better photos.