It’s January, and no doubt one of your New Year’s resolutions was to get a better photo for social media. In this blog post I will share with you images from my first photo shoot of the year as well as a list of my top professional headshot tips. Bottom line: turn the volume up and get colorful.
Meet Author Extraordinaire, Jiordan Castle
This is Jiordan Castle. She is a soon-to-be household name whose book of young adult writing, Disappearing Act, will be published later this summer. You might also know her as the other half of Jiordan and Jerrod. I photographed their wedding at Housing Works Bookstore Café in January of last year. Her wedding photography package included a second portrait session. And while most of my clients reserve this session for an engagement shoot, Jiordan wanted to put my skills to use for her book jacket portrait.
Planning Jiordan’s Portrait Session
Disappearing Act is a true story with a focus on social justice themes. The tone of the book is serious, but solidly accessible. As such, Jiordan wanted a professional portrait that had an authentic feel and which could be used for the back of the book as well as for any promotional events.
I started planning for Jiordan’s session by asking if her editor had any specific requirements. This is always key if your headshot is going to end up on a book or in a specific sort of media. In general, a vertical close crop shot is what is required, but some websites will need a ‘hero’ image in horizontal format.
Since Jiordan wanted to ‘keep it real’ with her photo, I thought an environmental shot – either outdoors on location or in Jiordan’s writing space – would be best. Due to inclement weather, we had to keep our session indoors in Jiordan’s apartment. But with high ceilings and lots of light, the photos still turned out great. Especially since we ended the session with a full family portrait that included both Jerrod and their fur-child, Hacksaw.
Professional Headshot Tips – What to Wear
You should look like you, but with the volume turned up. I give this advice to my brides, as well as my executives. You want to make sure that you recognize yourself in your portrait, but let it be the more polished version of you. Wear what you would normally wear into the office, but maybe add a nice blazer if appropriate or an accessory. Make sure your hair and makeup look neat and that your clothes are not wrinkled.
Try on each outfit before your shoot. And I mean actually put the clothes on your body; don’t just hold the clothes up to you in the mirror. Analyze each piece of clothing from the waist up and look for lines, bumps, etc. Any wardrobe imperfections will be magnified in front of the camera. Pulled apart neckline? Can’t use it. Too tight shirt that shows your bra underneath? Can’t use it. If you see something wrong with your outfit, the time to fix it is before the camera starts clicking.
Color will get you noticed. White, or any color resembling beige, will make you look washed out. Black says ready for a funeral and always shows hair and lint. The goal of your portrait is to stand out from the background – literally and figuratively. The greater the contrast, the more you get noticed.
Make your neckline a top priority. People don’t often think about this, but in a headshot, your neck line is going to be front and center. Pay special attention to any tie knots or jewelry near your face. Furthermore, make sure the edge of your shirt is well pressed and tidy.
Professional Headshot Tips – How to Pose
Be thinking something. Nothing kills a headshot like dead eyes. When you are being photographed, it helps to be present with something in mind as the camera is clicking. If you are a model or actress, be thinking about the role you were meant to play and try to project that through your eyes and facial demeanor. The eyes truly are the window to the soul, and if you’re thinking that you hate your job, your photos are going to reflect that.
Keep your chin down. I’m not sure why we all have a natural inclination to tilt your head up, but I somehow keep having to give this request when people jump in front of my lens. Practice looking into the camera at home, and when you do, make sure you put your chin down looking into the lens. You want the focus to be on your eyes, not your nostrils.
Tips for looking slimmer. We have all added on the COVID-19…pounds, that is. It is definitely true that the camera adds ten extra pounds. To look a tad slimmer, angle yourself in profile and have the camera looking down at you. This is not a magic solution, but you never want to be photographed with the lens in direct parallel to your body at its widest point. The camera will magnify whatever angle you present, so you should angle yourself to the side rather than present your your hips to the camera.
Professional Headshot Tips – Photography Details
Lens choice matters. Make sure your photographer is using a 50mm lens or greater. A 50mm lens sees things as your eyes do. Even better is to use a 70 to 200mm telephoto lens which will shorten the distance between the camera and the subject. This in turn will pull all your features together, versus a wide angle lens which will make everything (body and face) appear wider.
Know where your light is. If you are shooting with a professional photographer in a studio, then you want to orient your face towards your main light. Certainly you will need to take direction from your photographer, but in general the rule is to focus your features towards the light so that you don’t have too many shadows
Your background shouldn’t compete with your foreground. You want a shallow depth of field so that you are the star of your portrait, not the background. This should not be an issue with studio portraits, but for environmental portraits shot on location, then make sure your background is blurry. You want people to notice you first, not what’s behind you.
Professional Headshot Tips – Don’t Forget
Wrinkles and stray hairs are the worst. Nothing is more difficult to remove in Photoshop than wrinkles in clothing or stray hairs. Make sure your clothes are always pressed beforehand. No one has time to iron during a shoot. Beware of stray threads, blouse loops (for hangers), and anything that causes lines or bumps, including your undergarments. These ‘little’ problems will grow to become the only thing you see in the final image.
Beware your nails. For most social media portraits, you will be concentrating only on your face. However, if your headshot will include images from the waist up, then you can be assured that at some point your hands may come into the frame. If that is the case, then make sure you take care of your nails. Nothing looks worse than a person with a great smile and raggedy fingernails.
Pixel size and image sizing really do matter. It’s a bit annoying that every brand of social media has a different size requirement for their portraits. Here is an easy link to find what size and image resolution you need for each brand of social media. Also, here is a helpful online tool for resizing your images:
A final word of advice: I view social media simply as online advertising. Keep this viewpoint in mind when you approach your portrait. You are selling yourself to the world; would you buy what you are selling?
If you would like to view more images from my executive headshot portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsCorporate.com