Take your headshot seriously
Just think, someone you don’t know may look at your picture and in less than a second make a decision that could change your life. The decision may just be to look at your LinkedIn profile more closely. A bit scary. You need a good portrait, one that you are confident about and happy to use and in order to get that portrait you really do need to spend some time preparing.
Understanding the Problem
Most people find it difficult to relax whilst being photographed, not with oodles of flash equipment, cameras, tripods, backgrounds etc. And then there’s someone telling you to look down, look up, smile, don’t smile and sit up straight…You are out of your comfort zone and it’s not conducive for you looking at ease and self-assured.
This guide contains some handy tips for making it less daunting and to help you achieve the results you want. As ever, this is mostly about preparation and confidence. The one leads to the other.
Understand what is being photographed
These are head and shoulders shots and you will be seated on a studio stool for the duration. The shots may include a bit more of you than your head and shoulders but almost definitely the framing won’t reach your waist and your legs and feet will be also rans. So everything that follows is really focused on the top quarter of you.
This is at the top of the list because there’s a danger that you won’t read all of this guide. Dealing with hair may require an appointment with your barber or stylist. This is obviously something that cannot be done 10 minutes before your scheduled shoot. We’ve all had bad hair days and they are best avoided. Bring a brush or comb and check beforehand. And remember, hair is the principal casualty if you are late and have had to hurry. See Don’t be Late below.
What You Wear
First impressions count [repeat ad nauseam]. They shouldn’t but unfortunately they do. So…
Wear business attire: smart-casual, shirts, blouses, t-shirts, pullovers, jackets and ties are all possibilities. Pick something that you are comfortable in and veer towards the conservative end of your wardrobe. Make sure your clothes are clean and USE AN IRON. Also, consider tonal ranges. If you are light skinned, fair-haired, wearing a light colour top and being photographed against a white background you will be in danger of disappearing – this is known has high key photography. (the converse is also true but known as low-key photography). They’re both great styles but probably inappropriate for this sort of portrait.
What Not to Wear
Absolutely NO slogans or logos. This is an aesthetic thing not some censorious stance. The reason is simple. There is a chance that sometime in the future you or a designer (over whom you will have absolutely no control) will need to crop your portrait in order to fit it into a prescribed layout. Half cropped logos look awful whilst truncated slogans distract at best and are embarrassing at worst.
As mentioned already, you will be seated on a stool so do not wear anything so tight that sitting is uncomfortable. I do not want you squirming around.
Bare shoulders can be a problem. Aesthetic again. For some shots you will be asked to turn slightly towards the camera and this means that you are leading with you shoulder. Lenses distort closer objects so bare shoulders can look (really) unattractive.
Stuff to avoid. This is a technical thing but please don’t wear anything with close repetitive patterns, lines or dots. This can result in rainbow type patterns in the material, a bit like oil on water. They are known as moiré. They look bad and are impossible to remove.
Clean them beforehand. In portraiture the eyes are the only thing that needs to be in focus. I think this is a basic human communication thing. Looking at eyes through dirty glasses is unappealing and makes for a shoddy picture. Also, I will move both you and the flash units around to ensure that there’s no reflected glare from the flash in your glasses. This will make the glass clear and will just emphasis any dirty smears.
If you wear glasses on a part-time basis and don’t wish to wear them for your portrait please remove them at least 30 minutes beforehand so that the marks at the top of your nose have time to disappear.
DO NOT WEAR SUNGLASSES. See earlier comments re eyes and communication. Photochromic lenses can be as bad a sunnies so, if you can, please bring alternative eyewear.
Subtle is good. A light foundation or concealer is excellent. Definitely not big-night-out or Rocky Horror Show. Foundation suppresses shiny skin, which is excellent news from my point of view. Flash light can bounce off the skin, over exposing the area, they are known as hot-spots and are best avoided.
Wash your face beforehand. However, make sure that there’s something to dry yourself with – Dyson Airblades are a bit of a nightmare to use on your face and AVOID wetting your top. If in doubt don’t risk it.
Some accessories are fine whether they be necklaces, scarves, earrings or studs. However, larger shiny objects can cause a reflective glare and this will distract. We can always remove some accessories during the shoot.
Don your outfit, do your hair and makeup and use a mirror. Practice, rehearse – whatever you want to call it. It does help.
Don’t Be Late…Be Early
Have I said this before? Being late cuts into the time you will have. Also, and perhaps more importantly, you will be less relaxed, more flustered and possibly sweaty (if you have had to hurry). All the effort you have made preparing, the attention to the selection of your outfit and the care and consideration with your hair …might be wasted. Really not good.
Ask questions if you are unsure about anything. Believe me. I want you to enjoy the shoot and for us to get great results. You are then more likely to recommend me to your colleagues and friends.