The Humble Art Of The Headshot

March 5, 2019
Someone taking a photograph with a DSLR camera

When actors and models first start out in their careers, they look toward the photographer. They might be the subject, but the photographer plays the window into that person. What’s needed first is a head shot, i.e. just a photograph of the person’s face, hair and perhaps a little of the neck. Everything above the collar bone line, is fair game. This humble art of producing great head shots has almost been forgotten by the rest of the world. It’s only when we look back at the great actors and actresses of the past, that we begin to appreciate what head shots really are. They capture the beauty of a person, their age, their experiences in life, their moods and a moment in time for their life. Photographers know that it’s not as easy or as simple as taking a snapshot of someone’s face. It’s much more than that because to get the most out of a subject, they need to highlight the best features, shoot them from a perfect angle, get a genuine expression and the crisp focus to boot.

The flat angle to angular

Head shots are not like a full body shot. The full body commands too much attention from each body part and the rest of the subject is lost in obscurity. Head shots however are designed to amplify and celebrate one’s beauty. This means, that the subject will most likely be at an angle, while the camera angle will essentially be square on to the subject. It means you will need to study the person’s face, from what angle do their features look most in proportion to one another? What angle does their smile look the most attractive? How does light bounce off these features? Your camera angle will be flat, but the subject will be at a particular angle to you, thus this challenge is much harder than it might seem.

Focus on the subject

Pure quality is needed to be found and captured for a head shot to be at it’s finest. That’s why the backdrop is so important. You can find bold colored backdrops from a company that specialises in this such as The Backdrop Lab. They have a range of colors to choose from, but the classic headshot should be done in a bright white backdrop. On the other hand if you want something that’s more creative then you have a choice of all kinds of shades that will suit any complexion and lighting style. Solid and abstract are the two types you should be aiming for since one is creative and the other is for pure focus on the subject alone.

The needed rapport

Crucially, the photographer needs to have a great rapport with the subject. Both must trust one another to get the best angle and quality that compliments your skill and the beauty of the person’s face. Communication is absolutely vital and the adherence to specific instructions is going to make the session go a lot faster.

The art of the head shot in the modern world of photography has almost been forgotten. However, it remains one of the most simple yet beautiful ways to capture time, a person and their beauty.

*this is a contributed post

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