Categories for Headshots

Headshots: four eyes or two?

April 2, 2009 Published by . Leave your thoughts

I’ve taken a lot of headshots for people who, at some point during the photo session, suddenly turn to me and ask, “should I wear my glasses in the photo?”

And, as usual, my answer is, “it depends.”

The first question to ask is, “do you always wear your glasses?” If the answer is yes, then put your darn glasses on for the headshot. A headshot is supposed to be a photograph of you, depicting what you generally look like on a regular basis… while looking your best and in a good mood, of course. So if you’re always wearing your glasses, then wear them in your headshot.

Now you might be thinking, “I always wear my glasses, but sometimes I take them off when I’m on stage… or I want people I’m auditioning for to know that I can go without glasses too…” Aha! Very good point. Gold star. Most people look completely different with and without their glasses, so if you want people looking at your headshot to see both of their options, what do you do? If you’re expecting an answer like “you should always wear your glasses in a headshot” or “you should never wear your glasses in a headshot” then I apologize, but you’re not going to get that here.

There is no right or wrong answer to something like that- it all depends on what you want, need, and are comfortable with. Here’s a case study with Victoria DeFrancesco Soto. She came to me asking for headshots for publicity purposes as a television personality and expert on minority figures in international politics. (With the recent Obama campaign, she’s obviously been a busy lady…) She normally doesn’t wear her glasses on camera, but is looking to expand her reach and believes some people might think she looks more learned and professional with her glasses on. So we snapped most of her photos without glasses, but made sure to grab a handful with her glasses on.

Now she has the option between two different looks and can use the glasses headshot for gigs she knows she’ll wear her glasses for, and the other one for purposes that she doesn’t think having glasses on will necessarily give her a leg up.

Like with any question about determining your look for a headshot, just remember to go with your gut and what you believe depicts you at your best. And ask yourself simple questions like, “do I ever wear my glasses?” And if your answer is, “only when I wake up in the morning to get myself from the bedroom to the bathroom where my contacts live, I’ll never wear them outside!” then of course you should leave the glasses off for the headshot. Or maybe ask yourself the question, “am I a Groucho Marx impersonator?” If the answer is yes, put your Groucho glasses on.

And find a headshot photographer who will ask you these questions so he or she can help you set up the best possible photo.

"Standard" vs. "Artistic" headshots

March 5, 2009 Published by . Leave your thoughts

The general “rule” for photographers when lighting a headshot is to light it evenly, diffuse it nicely, and keep shadows to a minimum. The idea is to take a portrait of someone that shows every inch of their face- because that’s what a headshot is– a photograph of a person that is a clear representation of what they look like, to help casting directors, agents and anyone looking at the photo know who that person is.

So most of the headshots I take are very bright and lit rather simply and minimally. But that can get boring for me. I didn’t spend all that money on cameras, strobes, grids, and fancy electronics to take high school portraits, did I?

To keep me happy as a photographer, I like to try new things and get a little creative with the lighting. After all, “rules” should be in quotation marks, because if you know what they are and why they’re there, can’t you try breaking them now and then?

So here’s the challenge: make a headshot more interesting with a more dynamic lighting setup, but still be true to the headshot’s main purpose: to be a clear representation of a person. When you start changing lighting and angles in a photograph, a person’s face can appear a little different than it did in the photo before. Our faces are 3D and photos are 2D, so any change in angles and representation will make a person look slightly different… which we don’t want in a headshot– a photo of someone that doesn’t look like them.

I was taking headshots for Hannah yesterday, and after taking a majority of the photos in a more “standard” headshot lighting setup, I changed the lighting to make the headshots more “artistic.” Hannah asked which would be better for a casting agent.

Good question.

My only answer is whichever photo you are more comfortable giving, and which one you feel looks more like you at your best. If the more “artistic” or interesting-looking headshot still conveys your look, your style, and your attitude, then print that sucker and hand it out. But if you’re more comfortable with a “standard” look, then go with that. Some may say that the “artistic-looking” headshots will give you a leg up on a casting director’s desk– if the photo pops, then the person pops too, right? Others might say it’s a gamble. But I think as long as a headshot is doing its job, then it’s already a winner.

Is that an accordion in your pocket?

December 31, 2008 Published by . Leave your thoughts

I just wanted to share this headshot I took the other day for Dixieland musician Felicia Carparelli. Yes, that’s a bright and shiny gold accordion on her lap. Accordions just make me smile. When she called me for headshots I asked her what the photos are for, and she said she plays the piano and accordion and she’ll need some basic headshots to give to bars and clubs where she plays, so they can hang it in their window under “upcoming musicians.”

So I told her to bring the accordion to add as a prop to some of the shots, so she’ll have a photo of her that clearly represents that she is a musician and what instrument she plays. While taking the photos she adjusted her hold on the accordion and said it can get a little heavy. “I should have learned the harmonica,” she said.

I said, “just be happy I didn’t ask you to bring the piano and hold that on your lap.”