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Phone: 01325 486 666
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Top 10 tips for taking professional headshots


We all know that a great press shot can make or break a story and can determine whether your press release is used.

Taking an eye-catching headshot should be pretty simple, right? Actually, it’s not as straight forward as you think. Focusing solely on a person’s face, head and shoulders while showing them in the best possible light, can be tricky.

So here are a few tips…

1. Know what your client is looking for

It’s important to have a clear idea when it comes to your client’s expectations. Ask if they want something really classic and traditional, or more modern and candid. Do they want a solid or a clean background or maybe an urban setting for a more funky look.

2. Go outside

Natural light is ideal, but try to avoid bright harsh sunlight which brings unflattering shadows. Look around for interesting backdrops and colours, metropolitan backgrounds are popular; a city location with natural light can produce great results. The background should be out of focus but a hint of greenery or texture can look great.

3. Pose the client

Poses are limited with a headshot, but subtle turns of the head and shoulders can make a huge difference. Ask them to move their head forward and down to extend their neck, this creates a longer slimmer extension (and you also avoid the dreaded double chin). Shoot at a slight angle as it tends to produce a streamlined look.

4. Create separation from the background

The trick to getting people to stand out is pulling them away from the background. Most people have a natural instinct to stick to walls and doors. Have them take a few steps off the background and set your f-stop (aperture) to f/2.8. This will create that nice blurred background effect that will make them stand out. If this doesn’t work, try getting them to step a few more paces away from the background.

5. Focus on the eyes

Eyes make or break a portrait and are said to be the window of the soul. At the beginning of a shoot, when still building a rapport, consider shooting in f/11 as it hides a multitude of sins. The down-side is everything is in focus, however it is better to have an image that is in focus that you can crop down than to have a whole set blurry images. As the shoot goes on, try lowering the aperture value to f/8, f/5, f/3.2 or f/2.8. The wider you shoot the more razor thin the focus area is, so it’s easy to miss. Get the safe shots first then risk it later when you know you have a crisp shot to fall back on.

6. Sit down, stand up

Change it up, people look different standing up and sitting down. Vary your poses and composition. This will provide a greater range of results to choose from.

7. Something to hold on to

If someone is struggling with what to do with their hands give them something to hold so they feel more natural and secure. It might only be a headshot, but when the body is more comfortable, the face is too.

8. Silly Faces

A great way to help people relax in front of the camera is to ask them to pull a funny face for the first shot. This is a brilliant way to break the ice and, once they have pulled a face, everything from thereon in seems easy.

9. Keep talking and be positive

Chat with your client and take photos while you’re doing it as silence will add tension and kill the atmosphere. Ask questions, praise them and always keep things positive. Even if you’re not satisfied with the images, never express that. Reassure them that they’re doing it right and you’re getting great images. The first ten minutes are probably going to be awkward until you both start to relax. Very often the best photographs come at the end of a session when people feel more comfortable.

10. It’s a headshot, not a mugshot

Shooting headshots can and should be a fun experience. It’s up to you to make it enjoyable for your model or client. Find the happy medium of being loose, yet professional, keep the client comfortable, but also guide them through the shoot so they feel at ease. If you enjoy it they will be much more likely to enjoy it too.

If all this goes over your head, don’t worry we have an in-house team that can help. Throw us a bone on 01325 486666 or email info@harveyandhugo.com.

Related links;

Top 10 tips to taking the perfect press shot

How to perfect the basis of your business press release

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