Captivating headshots grab your eyes. It's so true folks. I can't tell you how many times I have been told by past clients how much notice they are getting from their new headshot. I'd love to say it's all my skill as a photographer, but it's really not. It is all about giving people confidence when they step behind that scary lens and start getting flashed by bright studio strobes. It's about bantering back and forth with the client...something I am constantly working on and not very good at. It's about positive affirmation during the shoot. People are amazing creatures and finding what makes each person smile is a true challenge. Some people like to hear that they are looking great during a shoot, and to some this is as bad as telling them they forgot their pants. It's all about being able to balance and rebound if you find you've said the wrong thing.
When you can draw true expression out of the eyes of your client, you have achieved the goal of any photographer. Capturing that expression can be an elusive target. Peoples faces change so quickly. As Peter Hurley says, "there are three things that can affect your expression - mouth, eyes, eyebrows." Capturing your clients natural look requires making yourself a comfortable person to be around. Offering just the right amount of cheesy joke/awkward comment/self-deprecating zinger can be just what your client needs to go from mug shot to glam shot. Be careful though - too much of this can wear your poor client out...take my word for it.
Clean Approach to Headshots
For the Client: I shoot all of my headshots on a plain white background. This is for several reasons. Your face must be the only subject vying for attention. It is very important for your headshots to stand out, whether you're an actor, lawyer, salesman, entrepreneur...you name it. Your face sells you. The white background cuts out the clutter. It cuts out everything that is not you. This alone will make your headshot stand out from the rest.
For the photographer: I shoot with AlienBees by Paul C. Buff Inc. (This is an unimportant fact to everyone except other photogs.) I tend to overexpose just a little to make my headshots very bright and fresh looking.
I focus on the eyes. If you don't have sharp eyes, you don't have a great headshot..we all know this. But I focus on the eyes with more than my lens. I believe that the eyes must have life in them. The eyes have to engage with the viewer of the headshot. That is a hard task for your subject to carry out when they are staring into the black hole of a lens. This is why skillful banter is key. You, the photographer, must create banter that will allow you to capture the life that you stirred up in your subject during that split second. It isn't easy at first. My tendency is to want to share that laugh or smile with my client while it's happening...and I have missed many great shots because of that.
I'd like to introduce you to Caitlin Kilcoin (the lovely woman above). She is one of the "movers and shakers" behind the popular HYPE Richmond program that the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce is the parent of. She came to me looking for a better picture to include on the Chamber's website and marketing materials as well as LinkedIn. If you don't know Caitlin already I'd be glad to introduce you. She is a connector and loves helping people. She is passionate about her job and really goes the extra mile to make the HYPE events fun, engaging and useful.