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5 Top Tips for Incredible Headshots Every Time

Headshots are arguably the unsung heroes of the photography world. They’re everywhere, from social media profiles and advertisements to portfolios and hanging on the walls of the home. These carefully crafted images didn’t take themselves, though.

If your headshot skills are a little wanting, there are a few tips you could take to improve your game. If you’re after magnificent snaps, for personal or professional reasons, follow these steps for a perfect shot every time.

1. Let the eyes be the stars

Eyes headshot tips Eyes headshot tips

As cliché as it may sound, eyes really are the windows to the soul. By creating a clear focus on them, this is a world of opportunities that can instantly draw in the attention of a viewer. If you want to capture a certain emotion it’s easy to do so.

Depending on the intended use of the images, you can convey a specific message. Want to create a professional looking photo? Focus on welcoming eyes that encourage contact. After a serious acting portfolio? Concentrate on targeting a stern appearance stemming from the eyes.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different poses, eye positioning, and lighting. After a few shots, you’ll know exactly what to do.

2. Think about light

Light headshots

It may sound rather obvious, but light can create a number of different variations of the same photo. The best photographers know how to use light to their advantage and create excellent works of art.

Again, this is largely dependent on the purpose of the shoot. Natural light and the outdoors are great for showcasing a genuine feel. Natural light can be powerful for achieving real-life situation photos. It will also allow you to grab an honest and genuine aura of the person.

Light headhsots

Artificial or studio light is an exceptional tool for providing a highly professional end result. You’ll be able to inject light where you see fit, creating a photo that screams professionalism. This is probably the better option for taking corporate headshots as it allows for a uniform lighting pattern amongst a team.

3. The lens is key

Lens headshots Lens headshots

You’re probably very familiar with your lenses but with so many available, it can sometimes be difficult to know which one will work for each shot. Generally speaking, headshots aim to achieve two things. Compliment the subject and grab a clear and concise image.

Even the best lenses on the market are vulnerable to distortion if used in the wrong way. Mid to wide angle options are best avoided, as headshots are taken within a fairly close range to the subject (they will create facial distortion).

Using a 90mm or longer telephoto lens will let you capture a stunningly clear image, with the added benefit of slimming the face, which most subjects would be thrilled with.

4. Capture the mood with your background

Backdrop headshots

Pathetic fallacy works on so many levels. Primarily used as a literary term for setting a mood or humanizing elements, the same criteria can be applied to the camera.

If your shoot is outdoors, you don’t have to do too much to convey the message. Typically speaking, you wouldn’t capture a happy face in the rain unless you were doing a contrast shoot. You’d wait until the weather brightens up and use the environment to further enhance the purpose of the image.

Backdrop headshots

Healthy trees and plants have lively connotations; a park can showcase a playful personality. There are literally thousands of ways you can use a backdrop to strengthen your headshots. Just be careful that the attention isn’t taken away from the subject, though.

5. Live the shoot as a director

Director headshots

As a photographer, you’re essentially the director of a film split into still photographs. This might not be completely for your benefit, but you’re the one who knows exactly how it should be done.

Of course, it’s important to listen to the subject’s requirements, but from there you are the captain. Dictate how the shoot goes. Explore different angles. You are the professional after all.

You’ll be working together to achieve the end goal. With your direction, knowledge, and experience, you’ll both get the best possible results.

Director headshot tips

It’s easy once you know how

Headshots are among the trickiest photographs to capture. A demand for perfection is there almost every single time. With so many variants to take into account, what works for one shoot may be completely wrong for another.

With a little thought and by leaning on your expertise, you’ll get incredible results. You’ll produce your best work and the subject will be more than happy. Everybody wins.

Please post any questions or share your images in the comments section below.

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John Kemp
John Kemp

of JK Photography is a professional photographer with over thirty years experience in the field. John both practices and teaches photography, passing on the knowledge he has gained down the years to budding shutterbugs.

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