Heads-up! How to nail the perfect headshot

“YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION.”

It’s an old saying but one that is more relevant than ever before in this digital age. With Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles – in addition to a professional website – now an essential part of any marketing campaign, first impressions are no longer solely made face-to-face.

Headshots are your chance to provide potential clients, casting agents or employers with the perfect first impression and to communicate in one image the person behind the brand. In order for your headshot to do this, it needs to be two things;

A) Professionally taken

A quick snap taken by a friend with their latest smartphone may seem the most cost-effective option, but aside from the compromised image quality, there is no substitute for a professional photographer’s ability to light, pose and direct you to ensure that your headshot makes the maximum impact.

B) Reflective of your personality and brand

Wearing a suit and tie and standing in front of a studio backdrop may work really well for a bank manager or accountant. However, this may not truly reflect the brand and personality of a personal trainer or actor. The location, styling and posing of your headshot needs to reflect who you are and resonate with the type of clients / audience that you are trying to attract.

It is important to find a photographer who will listen and get to know you, make you feel comfortable in front of the lens and know how to light and pose you to help you look your best.

However, your attitude and preparation to a headshot shoot can have a massive impact on its success. Below are some of the simple things that you can do to help your photographer to get a headshot that captures your unique personality.

1. Have a clear direction

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Before the shoot, think about how you want to be seen and what characteristics you want to portray. If you are a performer think about the types of roles or performances that you want to be cast in. Are you seeking roles as a villain or a leading love interest? Are you an opera singer or a rock musician? The slightest change in expression and intensity of the eyes can change how you look in your headshot so be clear about what you are wanting from the shoot and share this with the phtographer before the session.

This applies just as much (if not more) to business headshots – what are you trying to say about yourself and your brand? You may want to appear friendly, warm and approachable or appear more authoritative and convey a strong sense of leadership.

2. Wear clothes that compliment you and your brand

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Choose clothes that are comfortable and help you to feel relaxed. Again, think about the audience and what you are trying to convey. Choose colours that compliment your eyes or skin tone – pastels look good on fair skin types with blue eyes, whilst rustic colours (brown, green, orange) compliment green eyes. If you have dark eyes, most colours work well providing they contrast your skin tone.

The strength of Emma’s headshot above is not only down to her beautiful smile but also due to the colours of her outfit complimenting the earthy tones of the natural backdrop.

White or black tops can look a little too contrasting, whilst shirts or blouses with a collar frame the face neatly. However, rules are there to be broken and it all comes down to your personal style. Depending on the look you are going for you may want to avoid high-necked tops that don’t flatter the jawline or low cut tops that are too revealing. If appropriate, a bright scarf or cardigan may add that all important splash of colour that makes your headshot stand out from the crowd – especially if this colour matches your logo and marketing materials.

I always allow clients to bring more than one outfit if they are unsure or want a variety of looks.

3. Practice

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Spend some time before the shoot looking in the mirror trying different expressions – see what you think works for you. I help to guide clients on the day but it never hurts to arrive with an idea of how you look when making various expressions and an understanding of which expressions give a stronger sense of your personality.

4. Talk to your photographer

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Before the shoot, make the photographer aware of any concerns or worries you have – let them know anything you feel self-conscious about. During the shoot, don’t be afraid to suggest ideas and provide feedback on the shots taken so far. Only you can decide whether a shot truly reflects you or not and a good photographer will love hearing your input. The session is a collaborative process – not simply the photographer giving directions to you – so be honest and open.

5. Keep posing simple

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There are unlimited ways of posing and your photographer should provide gentle advice and direction. However, we are not looking for a Vogue cover shot on a headshot shoot and simple works best. This shot of Opera singer Peter is simple in pose and composition but incredibly powerful and perfect for use in concert programmes.

Some general rules to flatter your facial features include keeping your shoulders back and relaxed, and making sure your core (tummy) muscles are tight to support your posture. To avoid double chins appearing in your photos (regardless of whether you have one or not), roll your shoulders back, try to bring your forehead forward towards the camera and tilt it down a little (think “up and over the fence”). This stretches the neck, smooths out any lines and separates the jawline from the neck itself. As result your face will appear slimmer and more defined. Again, you can practice this before the shoot if you are unsure.

6. Be open-minded

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Headshots can incorporate a variety of styles now and so we can try several ideas in a session to get the look you are after. A good photographer won’t ask you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable but don’t limit yourself by not being open to suggestions. The shot above of Belinda was taken right at the end of the shoot when we decided to try one more pose and style before we brought the session to an end. We hadn’t planned to shoot Belinda in her hat and scarf but as soon Belinda put these back on, her posture and expressions became much more relaxed and we decided that this shot caught her true personality better than all the previous shots we had taken.

7. Think about the eyes

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A good headshot is all about the eyes and connecting with the viewer. Look into the camera as if the lens is a person viewing your headshot for the first time (a casting agent or potential client) and think about how you would persuade them to hire you and what you want that first impression to be.

8. Don’t be afraid to laugh

Headshots are important and can have a huge impact on your publicity but that doesn’t mean the process should be dull and monotonous. Allow yourself to laugh when it doesn’t go right first time, be willing to try different ideas and enjoy the break from sorting emails, learning lines or chairing another meeting. Trust me – you’ll soon wish you were back in front of the camera.

Looking for a new headshot? I would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to call 07590 520 539 or email info@rosswillsherphotography.co.uk to chat to me about your headshot needs. Alternatively visit my website to view more of my work and contact me via the online form.

Have a great week

Ross

 

Ross Willsher is a social (weddings and portraits) and commercial photographer based in Chelmsford and covering Essex and London, who is passionate about creating images as individual as you are.

His work can be viewed at http://www.rosswillsherphotography.co.uk / http://www.rosswillshercommercialphotography.co.uk

info@rosswillsherphotography.co.uk | 07590 520539

facebook.com/rosswillsherphotography | @RWillsherPhoto | instagram.com/rosswillsherphotography | http://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswillsher/

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Heads-up! How to nail the perfect headshot

Top tips for photographing property

When selling or renting out a property, the images you take can really make or break a potential buyer’s decision to book a viewing. Photographing property needn’t be overly difficult or time consuming, but remembering these key things could really help to sell your property faster (and at a higher price).

Tidy Up

It’s amazing how photographs can be ruined by even the smallest of objects being left in the shot. From a used dish cloth hanging over the kitchen tap, to a full-to-bursting laundry bin in the bathroom, remove any item that distracts from the space and style of the room you are shooting.

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Stand in the corner

9/10 times, the best position to shoot a room from is in the corner. This often provides the biggest sense of space and enables you to fit a maximum amount of a room’s features in the image. Where this isn’t possible, take a walk around and keep shooting until you find a spot that maximises the sense of space.

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Don’t be afraid to move furniture 

Sometimes, simply moving an item of furniture only slightly can have a massive impact on your image. Don’t be afraid to move that armchair slightly closer to the wall to show more floor space, or to rotate the coffee table so it doesn’t take up so much of the image. Remember it is the room being promoted – not necessarily its contents.

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Keep verticals vertical

The biggest error I see in property photography is what is known as “converging verticals” – this is when walls look like they are leaning into each other. Make sure that you shoot from a position and angle where the main walls in the room appear vertical in your view finder. Often the height at which you shoot from can play a major role in this, so play around with viewpoints until it looks correct.

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Highlight the main features of the room

Ideally, when photographing a room you will have enough space to capture both the floor and the ceiling to give a real sense of the room’s dimensions. However, where space is limited, you may not have this luxury and a compromise might need to be made. Always try to shoot from a height / angle that showcases the main features of the room – for example make sure you shoot from a high enough angle to see the tops of worktops in a kitchen but low enough to include the bath in a bathroom shot.

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Think about the light

Rooms should be made to look as bright and airy as possible. A dark and underexposed image can be the biggest turn-off for perspective buyers. Sometimes, the light from a window will be a lot brighter than the rest of the room itself and if you do not have the ability to add an off-camera flash or produce a composite of several images, it is better to overexpose the window light than underexpose the room.  If a room has a window, always include a shot from an angle that showcases this.

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Show space / connecting rooms

The more you are able to give a feel of how the property works as a whole and flows from room to room, the stronger your set of images will be. Therefore, always try to include shots of open-plan areas and connecting rooms. It helps buyers to envisage how they would live and interact in the space.

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Include details

For all properties – but especially those being rented out as furnished and / or short stay accommodation – include close-ups of the little details that make the property feel homely and welcoming. The attention-to-detail in how you have decorated your home can help to add an extra dimension to your property images that not all vendors will have thought of.

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Don’t forget the exterior

Always include images of the front of the property and any gardens / additional space. Whether the property is fully detached or part of a block of flats, provide the viewer with a sense of location and the external environment.

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So there you have it – a few simple tricks to vastly improve the quality of your property images whatever camera you are using. If you have any questions or comment feel free to add them in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

Ross

Ross Willsher is a social (weddings and portraits) and commercial photographer based in Chelmsford and covering Essex and London, who is passionate about creating images as individual as you are. His work can be viewed at http://www.rosswillsherphotography.co.uk / http://www.rosswillshercommercialphotography.co.uk

info@rosswillsherphotography.co.uk | 07590 520539

facebook.com/rosswillsherphotography | @RWillsherPhoto | instagram.com/rosswillsherphotography | http://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswillsher/

 

 

Top tips for photographing property

“Up and over the fence” and other strange phrases used by photographers.

Every profession has it’s own jargon and technical terms that sound strange and nonsensical to those not working within the industry. Photography is no exception, and in fact photographers can be some of the biggest culprits. However, aside from the “everyday” photography terms such as aperture and shutter speed, there are some rather amusing phrases that even I think sound ridiculous to the uninitiated!

Below I have listed some of the phrases you may or may not have heard a photographer say in your presence and a short description of what they actually mean.

Up and over the fence

Nope we are not talking about how to get away from a particularity difficult client (although I’m sure we’ve all been there)! “Up and over the fence” is a phrase used primarily when shooting head shots to help eliminate double chins (even for those who don’t necessarily have one).  Often, people’s natural inclination when being photographed is to pull their face away from the lens and draw their chin into their neck, thus creating a double-chin effect. Asking people to push their chin forward then results in a gurning face as the chin is lifted unflattering in the air. Instead, I ask my clients to imagine that there is a fence that just reaches the bottom of their chin, and to lift their chin over the top so that the chin is on the opposite side of the fence to the neck. This elongates the neck, separating it from the chin and creates a defined jawline that is slimming and flattering.

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A strong jawline is slimming and flattering and sometimes we need to use a little imagination to create the right pose for this.

The Decisive Moment

This phrase was coined by famous street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. It relates to pressing the shutter button at the precise time everything in the image comes together and creates the perfect photograph. Whilst this often still relates to street photography, timing is important to taking the perfect shot in all genres – it could be the exact moment you start to smile naturally and relax in you head shot shoot, or could be capturing a moment in time at a corporate event.

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Timing is everything – especially at action-packed events.

The golden hour

Now I’m sure most of you will have heard of this term and many will even know what it refers to. The golden hour is (in general terms) the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset where the sunlight is low in the sky, soft and golden. This lighting provides optimum conditions for both landscape images and portraiture as the contrast between highlights and shadows is not too extreme, but enough to convey shape and depth, in and around the subject matter.

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Photos taken during the golden hour have a much subtler contrast between highlights and shadows.

Feathering the light

Feathering light relates to the position of the subject in relation to the light source. Instead of aiming the light directly at the subject (or placing the subject directly in the light if using natural light), feathering the light involves placing the subject at the edge of the light source to create softer and more subtle lighting. For example, it would be the difference between standing in front of a car’s headlights, or standing on the pavement on the edge of where the headlights illuminate the space ahead. This is a popular technique across a range of photography genres, especially when seeking to create a more sensual feel to the image.

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On the edge – feathering the light can create an ethereal atmosphere in an image. Here the subject had already positioned himself on the edge of the light source and the result was too good not to photograph .

Bouncing the flash 

At events, the one question I get asked more than any other is “Why aren’t you pointing that flash in the right direction?” This answer is simple – using flash directly on a subject causes flat harsh lighting with red eyes and dark shadows. Instead, by pointing the flash to the ceiling or a nearby wall, the light is “bounced” off this larger surface and reflects back softer; creating flattering lighting. If done correctly, bounced flash can be hard to spot and is a great technique when time and lack of space may limit more complex lighting setups being utilised.

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Bouncing the flash off a ceiling or wall is far more flattering than pointing it directly at the subject. Here there are no red eyes and no distracting shadows behind.

Hyperfocal distance

Now I could I could get really nerdy here, but that’s not really my nature so I will keep it very simple. The hyperfocal distance of a scene, is the distance a photographer needs to focus his lens at, in order for everything in the image to be sharp. This usually relates to landscape photography where an object in the foreground (a gate or a wall for example) needs to be as pin sharp as the object in the background (a hill or mountain etc.). The scientific amongst us can calculate exactly what that focus needs to be based on maths and science – the rest of us use an app!!

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When everything in the scene needs to be sharp, hyperfocal focussing is the answer.

Just one more

Question: How many photographers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: Just one more! It’s an old joke but does highlight one of the most overused phrases in the industry. Why do we always ask for one more shot even after we have the perfect image? For some, it’s simply to really make sure the image is captured and we have several shots to choose from when editing, for others it’s a bad habit that is hard to get out of. I tend to say this when clients are starting to relax and the images are looking better and better with each shot. Sometimes the best image can be the very last one taken so whilst I don’t like keeping people longer than they feel comfortable, I like to keep trying new ideas from the start of the session to the very end.

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Just one more – taking photos can be addictive and we don’t always know when to stop!

These are just some of the strange photographic terms you may have heard or hear in the future – are there any other terms or phrases you have heard but don’t understand? If so comment below and I will endeavour to make sense of them for you.

In the meantime, have a great week.

Ross

Ross Willsher is a social (weddings and portraits) and commercial photographer based in Chelmsford and covering Essex and London, who is passionate about creating images as individual as you are.  His work can be viewed at www.rosswillsherphotography.co.uk / www.rosswillshercommercialphotography.co.uk 

facebook.com/rosswillsherphotography | @RWIllsherPhoto | instagram.com/rosswillsherphotography

 

 

“Up and over the fence” and other strange phrases used by photographers.