Headshots / Portrait Photography – and how to get it right!

Headshots / Portrait photography

Headshots / Portraits come in many different guises from the standard business photo taken against a white or neutral background for corporate standardisation to shots against equipment, cars, vans, food etc to add background interest to the photo.

Thankfully the days of the headshot being someone sitting behind a desk signing what looks like an important document or worse still the hand cupping the chin in that “I’m thinking big thoughts” pose are (almost) behind us.

For me as a commercial photographer in Sheffield, the modern headshot is about showing the personality of the individual.

Richard Branson is arguably important and a deep thinker but his headshots are full of smiles and very casual at the same time.

The first thing for me when doing a portrait shoot is to find out what the person wants. I may offer some suggestions before the shoot on what to bring to wear and suggestions on the day on poses, style etc but the person being photographed has to be comfortable in the style, pose, environment they are being placed in.

There is no point in photographing someone in a pose they don’t feel comfortable with or out of character – e.g dressed in a business suit and tie when they are a tradesperson. There has to be a connection between the viewer of the photo and the subject. A plumber dressed as a city businessman doesn’t make that connection for me.

Worse than that though are the “look at how much of a fun person I am with my drunk in Doncaster or bladdered in Barbados Linked In profile photo. Would you buy a product or service from that sort of person? No, neither would I.

I took the photos below outdoors with a very simple setup, one light on a stand placed to the side of my camera and Anne facing the lens. With the light to the side there are no flares or reflections in the glasses. The background is blurred out enough to add a bit of interest but forces your eyes to concentrate on what’s in focus – the face and especially the eyes.

As a starting point I tend to take shots of the person front on to the camera then left side / right side. If the person has a logo’d top then I have that in the shot for a bit of subliminal advertising.

In the 5 photos below 3 are taken against a consistent background and the last 2 are taken on a road with a hedge in the background. The constant throughout though is the smile, interaction and the sharply focussed shot.

Would you buy a product or service from this person? I have to, I’m married to her and she’s my accountant – and a bloody good one at that !!