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Headshot Guide
Tips, Tricks, and Advice for the Perfect Headshot!

Dancer Headshot
Dancer Headshot
Acting Headshot
Acting Headshot
Singer/Actor Headshot
Singer/Actor Headshot
Acting Headshot
Acting Headshot
Corporate Headshot
Corporate Headshot
Artist Headshot
Artist Headshot
Musician Headshot
Musician Headshot
Modeling Headshot
Modeling Headshot
Corporate Headshot
Corporate Headshot
Business Headshot
Business Headshot
Corporate Headshot
Corporate Headshot

Whatever line of work you are in, if you are promoting yourself, you need a great headshot. More than just a flattering photograph, a great headshot is a powerful tool for making people remember you. This is because facial recognition is wired deeply inside every human mind. It is very much to your advantage to provide a headshot that people can identify with and remember you by.

Table of Contents
What Careers Benefit?
What Makes a Great Headshot?
Headshot Comparison
How can I prepare?
How often should I update?
What's a "comp card"?
How do I find a great photographer?

What kinds of careers benefit from a great headshot?

There are so many careers that can benefit from a great headshot, it would be hard to list them all. Doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, realtors, and journalists almost always require a great headshot. For models, actors, singers -- any performer in fact -- having a killer headshot is an absolute necessity.

There are countless other careers that can benefit too: pretty much anyone who has a public face. If your clients or customers see you, then a professional headshot will help plant your face more firmly in their mind. If you are auditioning or meeting with agencies, a superb headshot will help you stand out from the crowd. In either case, a great headshot will serve to put a real human face with your name.

Of course, it is important that the headshot is of the highest quality. Anyone can distribute a picture of themselves, but if it doesn't convey the proper image, then it won't be a benefit. Creating a great headshot may seem simple, but like so many things, the little details matter.

What makes a great headshot?

The goal of a great headshot is to showcase you looking your honest best. To this end, there are several ingredients that make great headshots stand above the simply average.

First, the headshot has to look professional and refined. It takes skill and talent to get the proper soft lighting, sharp focus, and expert composition that a talented headshot photographer provides. Expertise in color correction and subtle retouching also serve to make a headshot stand out.

Achieving all this is difficult with amateur equipment and techniques, but even some professional headshot photographers will fall short. It is very important to choose a headshot photographer who demonstrates in their portfolio the skills and talent to deliver a great headshot.

Next, the headshot has to look natural. People are very attuned to the sincerity of a photograph. If the pose, expression, lighting or composition of the shot looks forced or unnatural, it will undermine the purpose of having a headshot in the first place.

To look natural, it is important that you feel comfortable with the photographer and the photography process. On location or in the studio, a peaceful, relaxed environment will help, but the photographer's manner will play the most important role. Their attitude in setting up and photographing you will have a huge impact on how natural you feel in front of the camera. Whether you're a professional model or a camera-shy business person, a great headshot photographer will help you to feel and look natural on film.

Looking natural doesn't end with the shoot, however. It's also important that the photographer knows how to make natural looking adjustments to the image afterwards. The camera sees differently than our eyes, and therefore adjustments need to be made in post-processing to give the most natural result. There is both an art and a science to perfecting the image without making it look processed.

Lastly, but just as importantly, the headshot must reflect your personality. Only you can bring your personality to the shoot, but a great headshot photographer can help spot it, capture it, and be sure it comes through in the final result.

You're the star, so make sure you find a photographer that understands this. Find someone who demonstrates in their portfolio a range of personalities that seem true to the subject. Take some time looking at different photographer's headshot examples; see if you can get a feel for each subject. Try to sense whether you think the photographer will accurately capture your unique personality.

To help with capturing your personality, talk a bit with your photographer about what you want to convey in your headshot. Think about which facets you would ideally like to represent about yourself. Is it sharp intellect? Good humor? Trustworthy business skills? Style? Warmth? Sensuality? The lighting and composition techniques will be different for each.

That's a lot of talk about theory. How do these points translate into a great headshot? Let's see an example of a headshot comparison:

Headshot Comparison
(click here to enlarge and see detail)

Notice the enormous difference between these two headshots, which are of the same model and are both taken by "professional" photographers. Which looks more natural to you? Which one draws you in? Notice the richer colors and finer detail in the second shot, particularly in the eyes and hair. Notice the personality and expression. Which one gives you the impression of a more professional model? This is the difference a great headshot can make.

How can I prepare for a headshot?

Simply put, be prepared to look your best. Generally this means making sure your hair and skin are in good shape. It's probably not a good idea to make any radical changes to your normal hygiene regimen just before the shoot, as new skin cleansing and hair care products could bring about unexpected results.

If you're not experienced with hair and makeup, and depending on the type of headshot you're looking for, it can be beneficial to hire a professional makeup artist or hair stylist. Some photographers will provide this service.

Keep clothing simple. Mid tone colors work best. Avoid all-white which can tend to wash out. Avoid busy patterns that can distract from your face. Since the headshot will primarily focus on the face and upper body, try to pick something that falls well on your shoulders and flatters your neckline.

Get plenty of sleep the night before, eat healthy and light the day of the shoot to avoid feeling bloated or hungry. These will all help you to look your best.

How often should I update my headshot?

You should get a new headshot whenever your appearance changes substantially. It is important that your headshot looks like you on your best day. If you change hairstyles, gain or lose weight, or feel you're looking more mature, it is probably time to update your headshot.

Even if nothing noticeable changes, it can also be a good idea to update your headshot regularly, perhaps every year or two, just to keep it fresh and in style. A great headshot should feel timeless, but hair and clothing styles do change.

What is a "comp card"?

A "comp card", also called a "zed card", is a usually an 8.5" x 5.5" photographic compilation that generally includes a headshot, a few other representative shots, and the model's basic stats. If you are an actor or model, a comp card is a very good idea. Sophia can can put together a comp card for you for a nominal fee.

You can read a little more about comp cards at Wikipedia.

How do I find a great headshot photographer?

Thanks to the internet, finding a great headshot photographer is much easier than it used to be. You should be able to find a wide assortment of professional headshot photographers just by searching for "headshots" in your favorite search engine.

Be aware that due to the recent improvements and availability of inexpensive digital photography equipment, there are a lot more people offering photography services that are not really up to professional standards. Take your time and do your research.

There are many sites you can find that will list headshot photographers in your area, but the most important thing is to find someone whose work you like. Look at a variety of headshot portfolios until you're satisfied.


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