Headshots that Shine

Mandy Hughett, PhD needed an academic headshot for her new position. She needed to look both warm and professional.

Mandy Hughett, PhD needed an academic headshot for her new position. She needed to look both warm and professional.

Melanie Patrick, certified labor and postpartum Doula, poses here with a client. She conveys exactly the serene, nurturing energy that clients hope to find in a doula.

Melanie Patrick, certified labor and postpartum Doula, poses here with a client. She conveys exactly the serene, nurturing energy that clients hope to find in a doula.

Headshots have a bad reputation. Honestly, they make me think of a slightly angled face in front of a boring flat background -- basically a passport photo with much better lighting. But now the term can mean so much more! In fact, commercial portraiture doesn’t really even really have to be a true headshot anymore. It be whatever we want it to be. It can be action shots (oh, you’re a metalsmith? Why don’t we capture you doing that really awesome thing you are so good at!) or it can be a casual pose of you exuding a warm air of confidence, sitting on the steps in front of your business. As entrepreneurs, we need portraits to represent us as the face of our business. More important than making the most attractive picture is making the picture that makes our customers want to give us their business.

As a photographer I encourage my clients to think about a few key things when planning out our portrait session.

1. What’s your story?

Remember, you are acting as a representation of your brand. Make a conscientious decision about how you want your customers to see you. It doesn’t just have to be your face on a blank background. You can choose a setting that makes you feel comfortable and authentic. If you discuss with your photographer the message you are trying to convey, they can assist you in a styling a photo that captures your brand in an intentional and authentic way.

Christie Smith, LCSW lit up for the camera when she had an opportunity to interact with a child, a key element of her counseling practice. 

Christie Smith, LCSW lit up for the camera when she had an opportunity to interact with a child, a key element of her counseling practice. 

2. Don’t forget to play

Stephanie English, LCSW is a member of the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement. We chose to shoot her with her own beloved pet to convey her deep understanding of the love we have for our animals.

Stephanie English, LCSW is a member of the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement. We chose to shoot her with her own beloved pet to convey her deep understanding of the love we have for our animals.

A straight-on photograph of your face and torso is not flattering. For anyone. Ever. Not even supermodels. Play around with asymmetry and slightly different angles. A one centimeter difference in the direction of your jawline can make an enormous impact on a photo. We no longer depend on film, so photographers are happy to snap 40 photos with only slight variations. Lift one shoulder, shift your weight, cock your head. Try it all. One of those poses will shine above the rest.

 

3. The devil is in the details

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve completed a photoshoot, only to be uncomfortably surprised to find that the outfit my client chose clashes with their brochure colors. Maybe all of the other photos on the website are soft and hazy and we chose a bold contrasty photo. At Detail and Design, we are able to work together as a team to make your branding perfectly cohesive, but most commercial photographers don’t have that luxury. Make sure you know exactly what colors and style your design is and communicate that clearly to your photographer.

 

4. Find your comfortable place

Ali Rudel, of East Durham Pie Company, savors a taste of her freshly baked pie.

Ali Rudel, of East Durham Pie Company, savors a taste of her freshly baked pie.

It’s rare for me to photograph people who truly love being in front of the camera. Even when I work with professional models, it usually takes them a few minutes to warm up to the camera and look truly relaxed. Personally, I don’t even like being in photos myself! That’s why I like to be behind the camera! It’s a uniquely self-conscious situation, trying to represent your brand. But looking comfortable outranks just about everything else when it comes to taking an impactful portrait. Sometimes I have my clients include their pets or kids. It might be the location or activity that helps them feel authentic and relaxed. Occasionally it just takes shooting for 30 minutes until they get used to being in front of the camera. Whatever it is that helps you get to that place, remember that being comfortable will make a better photo than simply looking gorgeous. But don’t worry, we’ll make sure you look and feel gorgeous, too.

Remember that ultimately your headshot needs to represent YOU. Not just your face, but your style and your personality. Keep these tips in mind to help create a headshot where you shine.

Lis Tyroler is Detail & Design's photographer.