Headshots don't need to be boring

When we use the word "headshot" most people assume we mean a photo of a 50-year-old real estate agent in a blue suit grinning against a white background. We imagine that as soon as the photo has been snapped, the smile disappears and they unholster their Blackberry and start typing away.

That doesn't have to be the reality of it.

Headshots should exhibit your personality.

These days there are many different types of businesses and the people behind them are just as varied. So why should headshots be the same boring kinds of headshots everyone else used to get? There's literally no good reason for it.

First off, nobody wants to work with "corporate brands" these days - even if it's actually a corporation! We want to know, like, and trust the people to who we choose to give our money and attention. That's where headshots with personality can help you.

Your company or business should reflect your values and personality as much as appropriate. Sure, that's a fine line - we don't really want to see morticians goofing off or university professors partying, and that's what we keep seeing online, too. It's just as much of a problem as portraying both of those kinds of people as corporate automatons.

And that's where I can help you out.

Did you know this is technically a selfie? Thanks, I hate that, too.

How to take a headshot with personality:

I'll give you the secrets to a great headshot - why? Because these are the basics that everyone should know, whether you're a photographer or not. Artistry and coaching to get a great shot are what I bring to the table. After we get these things sorted, it's up to you what the final shot looks like!

Here are the three things a headshot must contain:

  1. Confidence.
  2. Contrast.
  3. Catchlights.

Now, all of these things are easy to explain, they're just hard to pull off by yourself. You'll get it if you keep trying or find a photographer who can help you with it. 😉

The first variable is confidence.

There are 3 things on our faces we can change to get different expressions. To get a confident expression, we tighten the lower lids of our eyes, put a knowing smile in our minds, and let it start to develop on our mouth and nose. Go look at photos of actors like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, or Emma Watson. Compare their earliest headshots with their press shots now, and you'll see the marked difference. It's all because of those three things.

Lighting creates contrast

The second thing you can change is the lighting you're shooting in. You want to have The bright parts of your face offset by a darker background, and the light parts offset with a dark background. This is easy for me to do with my lights and experience, but what if you don't have either?

You will need to go outside and find good light. But where? I'll give you a hint: ugly places like parking buildings, alleyways, and overhangs often have great light in the middle of the day. There are a lot of photons bouncing around and creating giant pools of soft light for us to use.

Go inside a parking building. You want to start in the shadow and slowly move towards the side of the building and watch what happens to the light as it gets brighter. There will be a point you reach that gives you a decent amount of soft light on your face, but with shadows and pinpoints of light behind you.

Where to find good light in Fort Collins:

The alley behind (east of) the Civic Parking Structure

Civic parking structure, fort collins

Catchlights: The secret ingredient.

Without catchlights in our eyes, they look flat and dead, or if you have a lot of contrast in your image, they can look like black holes. If you don't make sure to have catchlights in your eyes, it's VERY difficult to fix in post-production and have it look good. So how to get them in the shot?

Basically, catchlights are the pinpoints of bright light being reflected in our eyes. They can come from a light source you've introduced or a natural part of your environment. If you're standing in the parking building facing the light coming in from outside, you'll naturally get largish catchlights. Move further back into the shadows, and those lights become smaller rapidly.

Large/multiple catchlights are best for kids and females, while smaller catchlights are better for males or if you want your subject to appear aggressive or to add mystery. Sure you can break this rule, but like all things like this, you should know the rule and have a reason for breaking it - intent matters.

Now you know what to do, it's time to play!

Go out and have fun, try different things like using white surfaces to create reflections or block light. Add things you wear or use every day. For these shots, I used two of my favorite hats that went with the theme of the shoot. I plan to add more once I get some better hats, too! Don't forget to play with your expression, too.

Don't get discouraged if you can't get it right the first time, these things take years. Also please reach out to me if you need any further tips. I can't wait to see your headshots!

Need some more inspiration? Check out these shots:

If you found this useful or have something to add, please tell me in the comments below!

Comment Form is loading comments...

Hi, I'm William

I'm a photographer

I specialise in modern portraiture. If you need a classy portrait, I'm your guy.

Feel free to contact me or if you want to find out how easy it is to create a modern legacy portrait with me, please click below.

Learn More