Headshots 101

What does your Headshot picture say about you?

Do you have a headshot on your profile?

Don’t be this guy “pictured” here – I can’t think of many reasons why it’s good not to have a profile picture and sure, yes when there is a valid reason to maintain anonymity then all well and good, but for the rest of, don’t be this guy!

Full Disclosure: I take headshots as part of the portfolio of services offered at Photohello, so I have an interest.

This is the first in a short set of articles designed to shed light on the mysteries of the headshot. I’ll share some “What to do” and some “What not to do”, and help you to understand what you need to do to get to something like this

In this article, I’ll deal with the basics, some things which should be obvious and how to avoid them.

Most often, we don’t have that perfect pic just ready for the profile, but I would strongly recommend taking something just for this and not making do with something on your phone.

Basic Composition

  • It should be just you in the picture, unless there is good reason to show you as part of a team – but your profile is about you, so this should be rarely used, and not as in this example with someone randomly in the corner. Worse still is two (or more) people in the picture of equal prominence so you don’t even know who you are supposed to be looking at. We’ve all seen them!
  • Remember also that it’s a headshot, not a whole body shot – let people see what you look like, so you can best present your professional persona

Lighting Basics

So, of course, there is full on professional lighting and a studio, which gives you maximum opportunity to play with your light, but there are also lots of things you can do to make your shot acceptable and event pretty good with the light that is naturally available to you. Avoid fluorescent lights, they have a habit of giving you a green tinge, which is rarely flattering.

Think about the light sources available to you, not “here will do, it’s quite light”. This example is one of those, stood under a light

You can immediately see the over bright elements and the all too dark shadow elements and deeply shadowed eyes. To make a significant improvement, we only needed to move from under the light.

Immediately the ugly shadows have gone and the headshot is vastly improved and still using just the bulbs in the room. When doing this, just seek out the best place with the least worst shadows!

Better again, is to use natural light, from a window, ideally with diffused light rather than bright direct sunlight. This gives a beautiful, soft light that flatters the skin and softens the shadows as in this example from a bridal shoot

In future articles, I will explore what else we can do with light to further improve our shots, what we can do with backgrounds and then to think about the posing and the camera set up that can work to our advantage. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll look to include in future articles. andy@photohello.co.uk or add in comments for the article.