A Guide to the Perfect, Simple Headshot
How to get the perfect headshot, whether you are the subject or the photographer.
A headshot is a necessary evil to being recognized in any work industry. You have to find a way to stand in front of a generic background, smile the best you can (hoping there is nothing in your teeth), and cross your fingers you are not blinded by the flash. Sounds brutal.
In reality, headshots can be quick and painless if approached with the right gear and frame of mind. Here are my tips from both perspectives: photographer and photographee. (Is that a word?)
Note: these tips are meant for shooting on a budget, without access to fancy studios and lighting experts.
For the person in front of the camera:
- Wardrobe: Wear something simple and flattering. Most headshots are from the top of the head to below the neck. Some opt to have the composition go to the stomach. Dress to impress from the stomach up.
- Hair: Style your hair in a way that is really “you.” Now is not the time to try a new do that makes you feel uncomfortable. And do your best to remove frizz and fly-aways.
- Body Position: Pose at a 3/4 view towards the camera. It’s a flattering angle.
- Head Position: Keep your chin slightly up and tilt your head for a look that draws in the viewer.
For the person behind the camera:
- Lens: Bring a good portrait lens. As a Nikon fan, I use a 90 mm f/2.8. It has a fixed focal length and can adjust for macro photography.
- Flash: Bring an external flash unit that can adjust and can create indirect lighting.
- Light: Place your subject near a window morning/midday for soft, natural light and away from the background. When the person is away and not up against the backdrop, you can easily create a shallow depth of field, bringing more focus to your subject.
- Meter: Here’s the tricky part, the metering.
- Switch to Manual mode.
- Set your ISO to 400 or below and your f stop as low as it can go.
- Meter slightly under perfect exposure.
- Place the flash away from the subject.
- Position yourself away and slightly above your subject, going slightly aerial with the composition.
- Snap: Take the picture.
- Edit: Color balance in your photo editing software as necessary. It is best to get rid to fly-aways and acne when possible. For a youthful effect, you can also lighten the areas around the eyes.
Now you’re good to go! Chin up!