Headshots, portraits, profile pics - whatever you want to call them, they're important! And I LOVE shooting them. But a successful headshot is really the result of a collaboration between the photographer and client. In order to create headshots that the client loves, there must first be a conversation about what the client really wants. What kind of image or vibe do they want to convey? How will the image(s) be used? For personal/social media use or for their business website? And if the images are being used professionally, what kind of work do they do? A creative who works in a cool-looking workspace may want to do environmental portraits, incorporating their workspace as part of their image, whereas someone who works in an office may choose a more neutral background or studio look. Outdoors is also a great option: think dynamic urban/street photos or a more natural landscape. Of course, if you're shooting outdoors, the time of day, season, and weather become important factors in the look of your headshots: photos taken outdoors at "golden hour" on a sunny day can yield incredibly beautiful, artsy images with dramatic backlight and flares - but that's not for everyone. A client doesn't need to know EXACTLY how they want the image to look, of course - and, indeed, part of the magic and fun of photography is being open to seeing what happens during the shoot - but there are several important points to consider (and discuss with your photographer) in advance of the actual photo shoot:
* What is the purpose of the photos? If they're for professional use, obviously the type of work is a key consideration. But also tell your photographer if the image(s) will be used on an existing website or added to a gallery of consistent staff photos, so the photographer can shoot with those constraints in mind. (For instance, if all of the other staff photos are head + shoulders portraits shot in vertical/portrait orientation with a neutral backdrop, you don't want yours to be the only full-length portrait shot in horizontal/landscape orientation outdoors.)
* What tone or vibe does the client want to convey? (Some possibilities might include: confident, trustworthy, outdoorsy, stylish/hip/artsy, approachable, fun, etc.) Have they seen headshots they love, and if so, what did they love about them?
* Indoors or outdoors? If indoors, do they want a neutral, studio look or do they have another particular space in mind, such as their home or workplace? If they work in a visually appealing space - with nice natural light, colors, and/or architectural features - environmental portraits might be a great option. Or, if outdoors, do they want buildings and murals and architecture (an urban setting) or grass, trees, and a bit of wilderness (a more natural setting)?
* What type of lighting? Some client education may be required here - amazingly, not all non-photographers know the difference between (or understand the implications of) flat frontal light vs. sidelight or backlight. :) (Not to mention even finer distinctions such as Rembrandt or chiaroscuro lighting.) Looking at images with different types of light (or having the client collaborate on a Pinterest inspo board of images they love) can be the best way to communicate about lighting preferences.
* What to wear? I generally advise clients to wear what makes them look and feel fabulous - and fit is SO important here! Please don't think you can "get away" with wearing something too snug or too baggy - believe me, IT WILL SHOW. As will wrinkles on a cotton shirt and dog hairs and bra straps and pilling on sweaters. Please, please be kind to your photographer, who truly doesn't want to spend hours in Photoshop removing such things. :) And please try on the complete outfit, including accessories and shoes, before the actual shoot - and then consider the look in a full-length mirror. If you have doubts or would like some feedback, send selfies to your photographer - if they're anything like me, they LOVE these and are more than happy to discuss wardrobe and styling in advance. It's also not a bad idea to bring backup or secondary options to a shoot, just in case your look isn't photographing as well as you thought it would. Generally, it's best to avoid wearing all black, an all-white top, pinstripes, tiny prints, or anything with writing or brand names on it. Keep it simple! Finding a flattering fit, style, and color is really the most important thing.
Some final thoughts: Pinterest can be your friend or your enemy here! Just as with kitchen renovations, using Pinterest to communicate about visuals and find general ideas and inspiration can be very useful, but maybe don't ask your photographer to copy something EXACTLY - every headshot is unique, and yours should be too! And before you begin working with a photographer, be sure to check out the headshots in his/her/their portfolio (you'll see a small selection of mine below). Is there a range of looks, or do they tend to shoot the same basic set-up (lighting, backdrop, expressions) with each client? That's okay if you love the look they're consistently delivering, but don't expect to get a different result from them.
And last but not least: WHEN should you get headshots done? If it's been more than five years, it's almost certainly time. Your appearance has probably changed more than you realize and your photos should reflect your current reality. If you've made a big life shift - such as a new job or geographic move - it's definitely time. And finally, if you're celebrating a major milestone like a significant birthday or meeting a weight-loss or other goal, new headshots would be a great way to reward yourself - new you, new headshots! :)
Please feel free to reach out if you have questions or feedback or would like to discuss a headshot session! And thanks for reading!