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Capture a Great Headshot With Ease

The Best Approach for a Photographer, Make it a Portfolio Shoot

Often the best approach for a headshot is to treat it as a typical portfolio shoot.

Often you”ll hear photographers or models commenting on their need for a good headshot for their portfolios and indeed, the ability to showcase your talent as a photographer of models should include a few nice headshots in your portfolio. Models, especially agency models, have comp cards to showcase their talents to potential clients and the front and most important image of a modeling industry standard comp card is the headshot.

A word of caution, don”t confuse an actor”s headshot with a model”s headshot, usually those are two different types of headshots and for this article the focus is on capturing a model”s headshot—not so much the technical aspects, but the approach.
Normally when a model needs a new headshot, a photographer should take the simple approach of just setting up a normal photo shoot with the model and let her know that if the headshot naturally appears, he or she will just capture it so there is no planned “headshot shoot.” This approach works because some models, even the more experienced ones, tend to “freeze” up when they know the photographer is focusing on a headshot. As a photographer, it”s always best to educate your models with the idea that the best headshot comes when the model doesn”t know the headshot is being taken.
Basically, when a photographer and a model agree only on a shoot to capture a headshot, it becomes too planned and everyone expects it to be done in 30-minutes. Based on my 30-plus years of experience as a photographer, the model becomes a different person and a great headshot is usually harder to capture in this mindset. Not to mention, the photographer becomes too focused on creating a headshot under a short period of time and tends to lose their creative passion.

Don”t Make Your Subject Tense
Never tell your subject you”re going to shoot a headshot–if you see one, capture it. If you warn your subject first, chances are they”ll freeze up with a tight face.
It”s this passion along with great communication and rapport with the model that normally creates a marriage of the minds to bring out that perfect smile—when the corners of the model”s eyes are in perfect harmony with the corners of her lips. Normally a great photographer won”t achieve this in 30 minutes. The best headshots are usually unplanned.

By simply turning the photo session into one aimed at capturing portfolio shots, the shoot will evolve and when the photographer sees a great headshot, they unobtrusively capture it—usually the model doesn”t even know it”s captured in the camera and assumes it”s an image featuring the total body. One advantage to this approach, if the model is posing in their favorite outfit, the image is usually easier to capture and one of the four S”s of glamour photography, sexy, sultry, seductive, sensual or a combination of the four will appear in the final image. This leads to a more alluring image, a more provocative but tasteful image with character.

Headshots are like portraits and in most people photography, if you don”t have “the face,” you have nothing. It”s always about the face when it comes to a great image of your model, especially the headshot. So if you or your model needs a great headshot, the best approach, treat it like a normal photo shoot and capture the headshot when it happens, not when it”s planned.

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  1. Head shots are NOT like portraits….if your model needs a great headshot, Don’t treat it like a normal photo shoot, Light it and frame it for the express purpose that it is intended. The make up and lighting should be approached different, as a clean look give the best shot…Hair and hands should remain away from the eyes, and the eyes should connect with the viewer. This article should be rewritten!

    • Head shots vary as head shots for models is not the same as head shots for actors. I do light the subject and the scene correctly, but focus on the mindset of the subject so my head shots are more flattering, as you said, “the eyes should connect with the viewer.” I go after the perfect smile, or the corners of the eyes in harmony with the corner of the lips–and that starts with the mindset of your subject which is what the article emphasizes. Obviously make-up and lighting is important, but worthless if your subject appears “frozen” or intimidated. Thanks, Rolando

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Welcome to (Lens Diaries™), a hybrid photography blog with social flair. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez.

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