I got a phone call yesterday from someone who wanted to schedule a session with me because she just had a session last week with another headshot photographer and she absolutely hates how the photos turned out. She said the photos don’t really look like her- that her face looks rounder and puffier in the photos than she does in person. She emailed me the photos and I could tell what the problem was right away… I asked if the photographer was standing really far away from her when he took the photos and she said, “yes! How did you know?”
I knew because these photos were suffering from what I call “long lens syndrome.” When you use a long zoom lens to photograph someone, it tends to flatten their features- which can be beneficial for some face shapes, like people with narrower-shaped heads, less hair (it flattens the sides and brings them forward to show more of the hair), and larger noses. But a flattening effect is lousy for people with round-shaped faces, large ears, or features that are far apart, since it flattens the face out and enhances the effect. But some photographers keep using longer lenses for all their subjects because it can increase depth of field in the photo- blurring out the background to an extreme, but artsy-looking level. And of course, with a long zoom lens, the photographer has to be further away from the subject, or “he was like 15 feet away from me!” according to this unfortunate victim.
When you choose a headshot photographer make sure they have a diverse portfolio and not just the same shot with the same background over and over again. A more diverse portfolio usually indicates that their style and method is flexible and that they can adjust what they’re doing to best benefit their client. You want a photo of yourself that looks like you at your best, most flattering angle. Make sure your photographer is photographing you from multiple angles during the session. I like to take a few basic shots, then inspect them, and change the lighting or the posing to find the most flattering angle for each individual. Sometimes it’s getting right in their face with a short, 50mm lens and a key light right above them. Other times it’s photographing them from halfway across the room, a 135mm lens, and the key light off to the side.
Headshot photography shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all Hanes Beefy T-Shirt. Because just like some of us look like crap in a Beefy T 4 sizes too big for us, some of us look like crap with the wrong lens and the wrong lighting for our face shape. Remember, you deserve to have your photographer work hard to try different poses, lighting, and angles to get the most flattering images of you. Crack that whip!