The Key to Excellent Headshots

Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of taking headshots for some really wonderful people. However in this line of work, people are always striving for perfection, or at least some methodology for improving your results. In response to some questions I have been asked in the past, here is a short guide to help you to be as prepared as possible for your headshot session.

The importance of a great headshot cannot be overstated.

Casting directors form an impression of both your look and your personality within seconds, so the material they receive from you must be accessible and honest.

While it is important to look presentable, you must also keep in mind that a headshot shoot is not an exercise in flattery. The headshot is about inviting your future employers and co-workers to gain an understanding of who you are, before even reading your name or anything about your past work.

You want to guarantee yourself the best results, so it is crucial to do as much work in advance of your headshot shoot as your photographer does during and after the shoot. There are many ways to ensure you are ready for the shoot. Here I will break down the necessary prep into two stages: before the shoot and during the shoot.

The Day Before:

1: Get plenty of sleep.

Experts recommend that adults get about 7-9 hours of sleep everyday to ensure your body receives all the rest it needs after a day’s activity. During this time, your mind is refreshed and most importantly, your skin and muscles undergo repair and regeneration. You want to look fresh in your photos!

2: Avoid alcohol and stay hydrated!

For similar reasons as above, you must respect the natural processes that take care of your appearance. Alcohol dehydrates your body, which can cause redness in the eyes, and makes sleep less restful. As a result, you are far more likely to appear tired during your shoot. Drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to the shoot will also do a lot to maintain your skin’s healthy glow.

3: Wardrobe.

Take the time to consider what you will wear during your shoot. While it’s important to feel comfortable, you don’t want your apparel to distract from the main feature - your face! So the night before, select something simple. You simply cannot go wrong with a solid colour shirt, one that compliments your eyes and skin tone.

4: Makeup.

Just as important as wardrobe. If you wear makeup, make sure that you have it ready before the shoot. If you typically apply it heavily, take the time the night before to scale it back a little bit. We need to see your features properly! It is also very helpful to take your makeup with you to the shoot. You never know when you may need to freshen up.

5: Facial Warmup

Just like a pro athlete, you must be in touch with your body. If you have not had a lot of experience in front of the lens, spend 5-10 minutes in front of a mirror. The ideal is to find a comfortable middle ground between a happy and a neutral expression. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to remember these poses however - instead, let your thoughts guide the process. Think of memories or people that engage your emotions and bring that energy with your to the shoot.

During the Shoot:

1: Access your Eyes

The prep work you did last night in front of the mirror? Now is the time to let it shine. The eyes are the key to any excellent photo, so yours must tell a story, carry an emotion. For this to happen, you must focus your mind on something that allows you to radiate that emotion, without overtly portraying it through your face. That inner spark is within you, so let it out.

2: The Blink.

If you are having trouble keeping your blinking under control, don;t try to keep your eyes open. That will just cause further discomfort and distract you from focusing on your personality and being present. Instead, close your eyes for a few seconds before resuming the shoot.

3: Neck Positioning

Your photographer will likely ask you to extend your neck toward the camera, in order to ensure your jawline is properly captured. It may feel unnatural, but it in fact allows your face to be shown in a way that is far closer to how people actually see you. We don’t stand in pictures the same way we stand when talking to someone, or going about our daily activities. To make sure you do not strain your neck, make sure that you extend it slowly, leading with your forehead, rather than your chin.

4: Enjoy yourself.

This is the most important factor to any shoot. Relax. Although what you are doing is very important, understand that the camera can pick up on many subtleties in your expression, so you should radiate an energy of calm and confidence. Allow yourself to enter a state of play and experimentation, after all that is what you should be doing on a proper set!

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