10 Steps to an awesome headshot

  1. Listen to your client’s goals for the headshot. Ask about the line of work they are in to determine if the photo should have a more casual feel or a conservative corporate feel.
  2. Ask your client to text or email a photo of themselves before the shoot to spark ideas and inspiration for wardrobe and backdrops.
  3. Plan wardrobe with backdrops and communicate that with the client.  I tend to love shooting monochromatic.  Dark clothing against a black background and light and airy colors against light gray or white backdrops.
  4. When the client arrives start with the best wardrobe and then go down the line if there is still time.  My headshots are about 45 minutes to one hour so typically we can do 3 outfit changes, light, dark and colorful.
  5. Set your exposure after client is placed in front of the camera. (Let your client know to relax and look at the lens until this is accomplished.  Also let them know that this is only “test time” and that you will direct and guide them throughout the entire process with posing and expression once the proper exposure is established.) I tend to shoot at 3.2 aperture so that necklaces and neckties are not out of focus but the background slightly is.  My shutter speed usually stays around 160th of a second so the variables are ISO and adjusting studio lights.  I also use a grey card to perform a manual white balance so that everything in the shot is true to its color.
  6.  I typically shoot with 2-3 mono-lights.  I use two strobes to rim the subject from the back.  This works perfectly if I’m shooting a dark suit against a dark background.  You will have to place a blue gel on a 40 degree grid modifier or strip bank to cut down the orange color that will bring out reds in hair. Ladies really dislike this so a light blue gel brings the color temperature to just about daylight which is 5600 Kelvin.
  7. For the main light I use a huge window ideally facing north; however, as long as no direct light is coming in (usually in the mornings) your subject is going to be lit quite nicely.  A small hand held reflector that the client holds really comes in handy.  Use white as silver can be too reflective.
  8. Once I’ve established exposure, I explain to my client how you control their head and shoulders during the shoot.  For example I use the term panning and tilting to move the head just right for boudoir photography. I then pose the client and tell them to move ever so slightly with each click of the shutter.  I’m guiding them the entire time while having a genuine conversation about our family lives and work so that the expressions are genuine.
  9. I love showing the results as they come through.  It puts the client at ease and also allows them to give input about things that they might like or dislike about the direction we are going.
  10. Right after the shoot, I like to upload the raw files while the client is changing.  This allows us to look at the images immediately to ensure we have accomplished our goal.