A good quality “headshot” or business portrait is becoming more and more important. In a world full of so many Social Media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Foursquare to name just a few), the image that you use to promote yourself will potentially be seen by hundreds and eventually thousands of people.
As a full time professional photographer, you might expect this guest blog to start selling you my services, declaring how important it is to project the best images by having them shot by a pro such as myself. Whilst I’ll happily take your money if you do want to engage me, that’s not the purpose of this blog!
In recessionary times such as this, what’s most important to me is doing my bit to improve the quality of headshots out there, and if the (entirely reasonable!) cost of a pro shoot is out of reach for you currently, then my tips for doing it yourself will be invaluable.
My headshots are taken with remotely controlled lights, positioned and set up to make the most of your beauty and minimise any wrinkles or faults you might have. If you just click your “point and shoot” (or camera phone), then it’s tiny, on-axis flash will leave you with three problems:
- Red eyes – your pupils will take on a “vampirish” bloodshot appearance as the light from the flash reflects straight back into the lens.
- Flash shadow – the flash can cast a strong, unnatural shadow behind or around you, adding to that “rabbit in the headlamps look”.
- Deep wrinkles – the harsh and relatively small flash will emphasise any “laughter lines” that life may have given you, making you look older than you actually are.
So how can you minimise these issues without incurring extra expense?
Window light gives a free, natural and flattering look to any portrait. Wait until a bright day, and find a blank wall with a window to one side. Position your subject in front of the window, and turn them so that they are side on to it. Stand so that you are shooting the subject with the blank wall behind them, turn your flash off, and take as many shots as you need to get the right portrait.
If it’s especially sunny, you might find that a net curtain softens the light further, reducing the contrast and making for a flattering capture.
So that sorts out the lighting and the background, what about the pose? Pretty much every social media strategy guide will tell you that a good profile shot should make you look professional but approachable. In the world of social media, being seen as a human being rather than corporate entity is a major plus, so a friendly but competent pose should be aimed for. Rotate the body to twist the shoulders to slim people down, stand as far back as you can (and use the camera’s zoom) to reduce the appearance of a large nose. Shoot from eye level generally (though a pose from just below the eye line can minimise a receding headline, and shooting from above eye-level with your subject slightly looking up will reduce the appearance of any double chins).
If you don’t just want a plain blank wall behind you, consider whether there is room for any products, company logos or “tools of the trade” that can enhance your portrait. Be careful to position yourself so that nothing “grows out of” the subjects head however!
Once your image is taken, there are options to further improve it online for free – Adobe Photoshop Express has options to crop, resize as well as more advanced editing features like fill light, sharpen, and exposure. However be careful not to try too hard, or you might end up featuring at Photoshop Disasters blog!
Finally, once you have a good portrait, consider uploading it to gravatar.com. A “gravatar” is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site? Upload it to gravatar and your image will be more and more visible and that’s the point isn’t it!
Dan runs Daniel Davies Photography, based in Enfield who have a reputation for producing studio quality corporate photography on site for their clients, meaning a reduced cost and less disruption to their working day. Follow Dan on twitter, or facebook, or visit his website.
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