How to Create Amazing Headshots

December 19, 2017

Vince Griff

I always come across great websites with great photography that represents what the business stands for. After scrolling through some of the pages, I eventually come across the team page and I get stopped in my tracks by poorly lit images, most likely photographed with a cellphone with no consistency at all. Some employees are smiling, some are serious, a few people are standing with their right shoulder towards the camera, and some people are standing straight on with their face to the camera.

It seems like so much planning went into the website itself that they completely disregarded the headshots all together, and I feel that is a missed opportunity. Great headshots are a way for your potential clients to get to know you and your team, and start to build trust. It also shows that you don’t cut corners.

In the 8 years that I have been a professional photographer, I have reviewed many headshot sessions in all sorts of fields. In addition, I have planned and executed even more of these shoots myself. Over the years I have learned the secrets to creating amazing headshots, as well as making sure everything goes as planned while on a photoshoot. Here is what I have learned.

Go with a professional

I am not knocking anyone and I know that everyone has to start somewhere, but you want to go with someone who knows what they are doing. You are going to want someone who is able to plan the entire shoot and knows how to pose people in a way that makes them look good. A good photographer will capture the subject’s personality and display who they really are through the end result.

A professional is also going to be incredibly efficient with you and your team’s time. Someone who is just getting started is going to take longer to move between poses as well as find the right background for the subject. Finally, a professional photographer will be able to keep your team members engaged. It can be a nerve wracking experience to have a camera in your face let alone wielded by someone you don’t know.

A professional photographer will be able to be able to talk to the person being photographed and take their mind off of having a camera in their face and will usually be able to get the person to open up a little bit so you get a bit more of an authentic representation of the subject. Investing in a professional to take your headshots instead of just grabbing anyone who owns a camera to do it is one of the best investments that you can make.

Make sure everyone is on the same page

Everyone being on the same page is key to a successful photoshoot. If a guy comes to the shoot and he’s wearing a t-shirt and jeans and a woman comes to the shoot wearing a black dress and jacket, there’s going to be no continuity between the series of images and make your company look sloppy.
It is recommended 1-2 weeks before the photoshoot that you email all of the participants and let them know exactly what’s expected. Use this as a starting point…

 

Hello everyone,

I wanted to let you know what is expected of you for the headshot photo session that we have coming up on Photoshoot Date Here. All men are expected to wear dress pants with a nice solid color shirt and tie and to have a suit coat handy. All women are expected to wear either a pants suit with optional jacket or an appropriate dress with optional jacket. Everyone will be with the photographer for roughly 10 minutes, here is a schedule for when your time will be.

Place Schedule Here (more on this in a second)

We are planning to have the photoshoot at list location and you are expected to arrive 10 minutes earlier than your scheduled time says (if it is an offsite location. 5 minutes should be early enough if the location is on site). If you are planning on getting a haircut, it is recommended to do so a week in advance because a cut usually looks best 1 week later. We will be doing the looks for each person so be prepared to remove your suit jacket and tie as needed. Please follow these guidelines and the photoshoot will go smoothly.

Sincerely,
Your Name

 

This way everyone knows exactly what is expected of them and there is no confusion of when where the photoshoot is happening. This will also let people prepare if they would like to acquire a new outfit or schedule a haircut before the photoshoot.

Figure out your Framing / Crop ahead of time

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Your photographer will be able to help you with this part. This is whether you are going to need negative space on either side of the subject in the image and figure out the best way to frame the subject. Do you want to show from the waist up, the chest up, full body?

It is a smart move to have a bit more room then you think you’re going to need just to be on the safe side as your photographer can crop it later in the developing process if necessary. It is also important for the framing of the images to match. I am sure by now that you can see a common trend. You want all of the headshots to look similar to each other without being exactly the same so you can maintain individuality.

Do something that matches your company’s personality and style

When thinking about designing your website you would never go with anything that doesn’t match you or what your company doesn’t stand for, so why would you do something that doesn’t match your style for headshots? If you are a shop who sells surf boards and board shorts, there is no reason whatsoever that your headshots should be of you looking serious in a suit and tie. The opposite is true as well, if you’re an accounting firm, you probably shouldn’t be wearing shorts and a t shirt.

You want to go with what you think your style should be and stick with it. Another detail that you’re going to want to figure out what you want your personality to be. When I mention personality, what I mean is do you want the images to come across as laid back, serious, funny, or casual. For example, a professional medical building should shy away from having funny headshots and stick to more of a serious personality. By all means, I like if a doctor could crack a joke or two when I’m at an appointment, but I don’t know if I would trust him or her if they are laughing and messing around while taking their headshots. If you’re in a creative field, there is pretty much no limit what you could do. You just have to figure out what you want your personality to be and stick to it.

Decide on indoor or outdoor portraits 

This seems like an easy one but I still like to bring it up. If you have a staff that has been with the company from the very beginning and there isn’t that much of a chance of anyone putting in their two weeks, then this tip really isn’t for you. If you are a company that is growing rapidly or you have a high turnover rate, then you have to really consider this.

You have to think, if you choose to do outdoor photos and you hire someone in winter, it’s going to be hard to get out in the cold and get the new hire on the website. There will also be inconsistencies in clothing because of the weather conditions. If you are outside in Winter, you are most likely bundled up with wind burned cheeks, whereas in Summer, you are probably in a thin shirt and looking warm as can be. If you have a high turnover and still want to do outdoor photos, you could always wait until it gets nice out but then your photographer is going to have to catch up in the spring with your growing team.

Develop a schedule

One very important factor of having a successful headshot session is to develop a schedule especially if you have a very large group. If you have a group of three or four people it really doesn’t matter all that much but if you have a team of 36 then you don’t want those 36 people standing around doing nothing and waiting for their turn.

If you create a schedule for when each person needs to arrive, then you won’t have anyone standing around wasting time and keep the line moving. Here’s an example schedule that I would personally use.

Times:

  • 2:30 – Michael L
  • 2:40 – Linda C
  • 2:50 – Lisa M
  • 3:00 – Bret S
  • 3:10 – Mitchel S
  • 3:20 – Nancy P
  • 3:30 – Andy S
  • 3:40 – Nigel G
  • 3:50 – Cynthia R
  • 4:00 – Brian E
  • 4:10 – Peter Z

Usually I don’t need more then 10 minutes with each person to get the photos that I need but every photographer is different. Some photographers may need 15 or 20 minutes with each person but 10 minutes seems to be my sweet spot.

If you are planning on doing the photo session off site, then you are going to need to schedule a little bit more time per person and instruct them to arrive at the location a little before their scheduled time just so you can keep the line and photoshoot moving.

Plan the photo session in advance

 By far the most important aspect of any photo session no matter the subject, is that you have to plan the photo session in advance. Often photoshoot requests come out of nowhere, and the client wants to do the schedule them by the end of the week. While his can be done with an experienced photographer, it is always recommended that the photoshoot is planned out two weeks in advance to ensure that the session runs smoothly and the highest quality is achieved.

Two weeks gives you and the photographer time to iron out all of the details, and it will also give your team the time that they will need to plan for their headshots. No one wants to receive the email saying, “Hey, just so you know we are going to be doing headshots tomorrow. Just wanted to give you a heads up.” That creates a tremendous amount of extra stress for the person being photographed, even more so than the photoshoot was already creating.

With time to plan, you are able to figure out snags before they happen and you can fix problems that may arise. Photo sessions are not supposed to be stressful or hard for people. Instead, they should be fun and the photographer should be able to capture portraits that actually speak to the character of your team.

Hire hair and makeup

This tip is not a must but it is something worth mentioning. Working with a hair and makeup person can make the photoshoot a bit easier on the photographer and makes your team feel more confident about how they will look. The makeup artist will be able to fix any nose or head shines that are present in the images saving the photographer editing time.

The hair and makeup person will be able to instruct which way the hair should fall and how heavy or light the makeup should be applied. Again, this is not a must for a successful photoshoot but it is something to consider in the planning stages.

If you follow these tips and tricks, you are ready to get the best possible headshots to match your brand and show off the talented people behind the scenes. Planning ahead is by far the most important part of any photo session and headshots are no exception. Follow these simple tips and you are already off on the right foot.

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