Chelsea by day, Chelmsford by night

Light plays such a huge role in the mood and storytelling of a photo, regardless of the subject matter. From romantic portraits taken under the soft glimmering light of the golden hour (think 90% of every Poldark episode) to harsh and dramatic street photography taken in the midday sun, we photographers use light to evoke feelings and stir emotions in our viewers.

Recently I embarked on a couple of city shoots and due to the time of day. the lighting (and the editing process) they couldn’t be more different. Below I have displayed images from each shoot side by side to illustrate how much control we can have on the mood of an image, just by playing with light and deciding when to photograph a city or building.

All images were taken with the same camera (Canon 5D ii) and lens (24-70mm 2,8) which demonstrates that it is you not your camera that controls the stories you tell and the scenes you set.

 

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Commercial street photography London10

 

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Which style / collection of images do your prefer. How does the lighting influence how you feel about the subject matter? I would love to hear your thoughts. Why not let me know in the comments below?

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/

Chelsea by day, Chelmsford by night

The life of a dirty low-light photographer…

Did you know…

The word “photography” is a combination of the Greek root words “photo-,” meaning “light,” and “-graphia,” meaning “writing” or “drawing.” Thus, “photography” literally means “writing or drawing with light.” (Source: https://www.reference.com)

That’s all very well, and most of the time there is more than ample light to play with during a shoot and it’s simply a case of identifying whether it needs diffusing (softening), shaping or controlling in some form. However what happens when there is very little light? How do us photographers cope with with night-time shoots, indoor events and a general lack of the bright stuff? Below are a few low-light shots from various assignments and a little explanation of how I utilised my dirty low-light skills!

Working with what you have

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This shot was taken during a charity event in a beautiful but very dimly lit cathedral (St. John’s College, Cambridge). In such sacred buildings, flash and artificial light are forbidden and it is simply a case of working with what you have. Tripods and slow shutter speeds do not work when shooting moving subjects (such as public speakers photographed here) and so I needed to be able to have a shutter speed that was fast enough to freeze the animated actions of the speaker above. Luckily my professional camera has a sensor that still produces high quality images at extreme settings and I could utilise this to help increase the shutter speed and get the shot needed. It’s a little “grainy” but this small amount of digital noise (the term we use for grainy images) is a lot better than a blurry under-exposed image that didn’t capture this charismatic gesture. For me, capturing the moment, mood or brand of the subject matter is the most important part of my job and in such extreme settings sometimes a compromise has to be made.

Looking for the Light 

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At times, even in the darkest of buildings, there are little spots of light that can help the subject to pop out from its surroundings and create a shot with real atmosphere. By exposing just for the brightest part of the image in a dimly-lit scene (known as spot metering), professional photographers are able to allow darker items in the shot to fade into the background and draw the viewers’ eye to the main focal point. The shot above from Acanteen’s Halloween event is a perfect example of how exposing for a small part of the image helped me to produce a sense of atmosphere and intrigue that communicated the story of the occasion.

Adding Artificial Light 

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For many events that take place in the evening, it is essential that I know how to use artificial light quickly and in a manner that flatters the attendees and performers. An external flash (known as a speedlite) is perfect for such occasions as I can pop it on to my camera and move around the venue and take shots quickly and without interrupting or slowing down proceedings. This flash is unobtrusive as it is never aimed directly towards the subject and is perfect for corporate and social occasions that need a little extra lighting. Sometimes there is only stage lighting to work with, but I love being able to mix my artificial light with the ambient lighting in the room. Doing so can create vibrant and colourful images that will help the event organisers to promote future events to potential new attendees.

Finding a Story in the Darkness 

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This shot is actually from my personal street photography portfolio, but it’s a great example of how light can be used to tell a story, set a scene or entice viewers to ask questions. Here I used the light in the shot to draw the viewers’ eye into the scene, but used the lack of details in the people’s faces to create a sense of the unknown. What is being said? What might happen next? We will never know but it makes us as viewers stop and think.

Therefore low-light isn’t always bad news and low-lit images can work well if you are looking for shots that force your clients to ask questions and spend those extra few seconds engaging with your promotional material or website.

So there you have it – a little insight into how I work in low-light situations. Sometimes low-light means a bit of extra kit, sometimes it means a bit of compromise but one way or another I can light up even the darkest of rooms (photographically speaking at least)!

Have you tried any low light photography? Let me know in the comments section below.

Until next time, 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 | www.linkedin.com/in/rosswillsher/

 

The life of a dirty low-light photographer…

“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.

A quick look back before a big launch forward…

This week has been all about setting new goals for Ross Willsher Photography and thinking about all the exciting shoots I have coming up over the next 12 months. However, with the festive season arriving and departing – as ever – in such a blur, I haven’t had a proper chance to reflect on my successful first year as a professional photographer. Therefore, I think I can afford a quick look back at some my photographic highlights from 2016 before turning my attention to new challenges and successes that lie ahead.

I am lucky enough to shoot both commercial photography (headshots, food, products & events) as well as wedding and family photography, so my workload is diverse and I get to meet a wide range of interesting people as a result. That also means whittling down my favourite images was pretty hard to do. Therefore, I have chosen my favourite shot from each genre of photography I had the pleasure of shooting. I hope you enjoy this (extremely brief) overview of what I do. If you are looking for professional photography – be it to capture personal memories or to market you business – please do get in touch. I pride myself on taking images that reflect the individuality of my clients.

Website Shot

Working with the friendly professionals at Limeberry Catering was one of my highlights of 2016. The team are dedicated to delivering high quality service & produce and in doing so they make my job very easy. They also put an equal amount of work into their premises to ensure that each of their venues have the perfect atmosphere for an exquisite dining or drinking experience. I love the vibe at Bottle Bureau in Chelmsford – its dark walls and dimly-lit tables (along with a fresh and funky drinks menu) make this a must-visit bar. The team are also responsible for The New London and The Ship Inn – both of which I have had the pleasure of photographing and can recommend just as heartily.

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Wedding Shot

As wonderful as they always are, weddings can be chaotic and crazy occasions. The planning alone can be extensive and exhausting and the day can be over in the blink of an eye. My job is to not only capture all the wonderful and magical memories of the day but  to create images that serve as a reminder of what the occasion is really all about. The very essence of every wedding day is simply two people in love. I think that this photo sums it up perfectly.

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Headshot

Ah headshots…suited and booted, crossed arms and bright white background time eh? Well…probably not if you’ve booked me! I like to do most of my headshots outdoors when possible – not only does it provide more interesting and vibrant backdrops, it also helps my clients to relax and forget their emails and Outlook calendars for a short time. I feel strongly that your headshot should reflect not only your brand but also your personality. Jeannie from Real Revolution Healing is a yoga instructor who likes to offer her clients an escape from hectic city life during her workshops and classes. To reflect this, we shot her portraits in the countryside as the evening sun was golden and this was the result. I love how the light, the colours and Jeannie’s expression all work together to bring a sense of warmth to the photo.

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Food Image

I love food photography. It’s something I definitely want to do more of in 2017. Colours, textures, shapes; food photography offers it all. However, photographing food can be a lot more challenging than people think – you have to ensure the images make the food look appetising and fresh; with enough shadow to create depth and texture but not too much that the lighting is too harsh. Obviously the colours are the first thing that hits you about this image but I also love how the composition isn’t overly perfect. Some of the spices have overlapped into each other giving a sense of movement and culinary creativity.

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Family Portrait

Before I became a photographer, I spent 10 years working with children with special educational needs. I’m so happy that as a photographer I still get to work with children and young families as they can be the most rewarding shoots of all. Again, I like to do these shoots outdoors as it helps everyone to relax and results in a set of images which tell much more of a story. Often we will take a walk around a venue and stop at various locations to take a range of group and individual photos. I think forced smiles on perfectly behaved children make boring images! Muddy hands, cheeky grins and the odd strop make far better memories in my opinion. This image sums up my approach to family portraits – beautiful locations, natural smiles and moments that can be treasured on living room walls for years to come.

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Street Image

Street Photography is simply “people-watching” with a camera. I love trips to the city to capture entertaining images of the everyday things people do. In the image below noone is screaming or shouting, there’s no romantic moment or comical character. However, I just love the moment-in-time captured and the questions one could ask on viewing it. What is the lady so engrossed in? Where have they been to and where are they going? Of course, we will never know..but it won’t stop us speculating!

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Event Capture

Events can be great fun to photograph – in 2016 I photographed concerts, Hollywood-themed balls and even a Santa’s Grotto. However, one of my favourite images from last year was this shot from the Peterborough Memory Walk in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. I take a similar approach to weddings and event photography – letting much of the action unfold organically and capturing natural moments as they happen. My event photography is all about ensuring the shots capture the magic of the day so the they can be used to promote future events for businesses and charities. This shot highlights how much fun you can have raising money for a great cause.

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These are just some of my highlights of 2016 and you can see more of my work on my websites below.

Weddings and Portraits – www.rosswillsherphotography.co.uk

Commercial – www.rosswillshercommercialphotography.co.uk

Thank you for reading. Click here to contact me if you would like to know more about how I could help you capture memories or promote your business in 2017. Who knows – maybe you will feature in my “Best of 2017” blog.

I hope you have a fantastic 2017 and I look forward to working with you soon.

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

A quick look back before a big launch forward…

Finding the right wedding entertainment

Getting the most out of your wedding entertainment seems like a really obvious thing to be pointing out, however mis-communication between clients and their entertainer happens so often, and can ruin the atmosphere of your day.

Take time to do the following things to ensure you don’t have an entertainment mishap at your wedding!

  • Pick entertainment & times suited to your wedding..

This seems like a simple one, I know, but many couples don’t think about the quiet periods at weddings. While you’re off having those spectacular pictures taken, your guests are left mingling inside your chosen venue, without anything else going on. Treat your loved ones to some amazing live music or even something a bit different, like a magician to add a talking point to your day.

Have a chat with your venue. Most of the time they will be able to provide you with advice regarding when…

View original post 600 more words

Finding the right wedding entertainment

Relax – It’s in the bag: Part 2 – The Camera Lenses

Following on from last week’s blog where I talked about some of the features of my camera body and how it helps me to take great photos of you and your business, this week we are looking at my lenses and seeing just what they do for us on our shoot.

Canon 50mm f1.8

The Canon 50mm is a fixed lens meaning that it only has one focal length (and cannot be zoomed in or out). The number 1.8 refers to its largest aperture setting (the hole through which light enters the lens and into the camera). The smaller the number, the larger the aperture and therefore the more light the lens lets in. At f1.8 lots of light can flood into the camera to create the shot. This lens is small, lightweight and exceptionally sharp.

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What this means for you

Your business premises might not be the brightest and most spacious location in Essex but that doesn’t mean we can’t get some great shots for your website or social media platforms. The 50mm lens is unobtrusive, and with it’s ability to let in lots of light, we don’t have to use vast amounts of artificial lighting setups that might interrupt your workflow and take up valuable business hours.

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Canon 24-70mm f2.8

The Canon 24-70mm is a great all-round lens that can be used for wide-angle scenes and flattering portrait shots. If I only have space for one lens when ton assignments, this is the one I take as it allows me to shoot such a variety of subjects quickly and to a high quality. It can let in lots of light for hand-held shooting in dark locations but also has impressive manual focussing abilities for landscape photography on a tripod.

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What this means for you

To make your website engaging and a cut above those of your competitors, you need a variety of high quality images that provide prospective clients with a strong insight into the property, personalities and products behind the brand. This lens has the versatility to take shots ranging from exterior location images through to close-up product photography. To be able to switch quickly from a close-up image to a staff group photo helps me to save you time and get back to more pressing tasks.

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Canon 70-200mm f2.8

The largest of my lenses, the 70-200mm is great for taking shots of people and objects a little further away. It still lets in lots of light in dark environments but is also great for photographing moving subjects: be they mechanical, human or animal. The 70-200mm lens is great for creating soft blurred background as it compresses all objects in the frame.

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What this means for you

Many people are a little concerned when this large lens is pointed in their direction as they feel it will highlight all of their (perceived) flaws. In actual fact the focal length of this lens and its ability to compress objects to make them appear closer together really flatters faces. Take a headshot with a wide-angle lens and you will see how distorted and unattractive your face looks – this lens does the opposite. So don’t be intimidated by its size. This lens also helps you to really stand out from the background and make your portrait “pop”.  At events this lens allows me to capture expressions and gestures of guest speakers without obstructing your audience and attendees.

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To see some more of the work created with these lenses please take a little look at my website. Alternatively, please get in touch if you would like my lenses and I to create some images that will help you promote your USP.

In my next post I’ll be talking about memory cards and batteries and their importance. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any comments or suggestions for future posts.

Have a great week.

Ross

info@rosswillsherphotography.co.uk | www.rosswillshercommercialphotography.co.uk 07590 520539

Relax – It’s in the bag: Part 2 – The Camera Lenses

Head’s Up – how to nail the perfect headshot

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“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 what you are all about. 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 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 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 and approachable which  is understandable, but you also have to consider where the photo will be used. If your company hits the headlines for the wrong reasons, a picture of you with a cheesy grin will give a very bad impression.

2. Wear clothes that compliment you.  

 

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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.

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.

I always allow clients to bring more than one outfit if they are unsure or want a variety of looks. The strength of Clare’s headshot above is not only down to her beautiful smile but also due to the  colours of her hair, jacket and eyes complimenting the earthy tones of the rustic location.

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

 

Before the shoot let the photographer know of any concerns or worries you have – let them no 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 Peter West – a brilliantly talented Opera Singer whose Facebook page you can visit here – 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 from Holistic Health Hackney 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 commercial and social photographer based in Chelmsford and covering Essex and London. To view more of his work please visit www.rosswillshercommercialphotography.co.uk

Head’s Up – how to nail the perfect headshot