How to Shoot Your Own Headshot
(Really, It's not hard!)
Everybody’s been there: Desperate for an updated business headshot, you enlist a friend, put on your favorite yellow outfit and stand in front of the white wall in your living room.
With the pop of the flash, you look at the image on the back of the camera and gasp, telling your friend how much you hate yourself in portraits. But you need something for your business card, and you don’t want to spend a fortune hiring a professional photographer.
Don’t fret! You can have that same friend take your headshot with more professional results if you follow some simple rules. 1. Turn off the Flash
The camera’s flash, most likely positioned directly above the camera lens, lights the entire face with no shadows. This is known in the trade as flat lighting. Professional photographers, who use this technique, will add shadows and other character features with very special makeup or with image retouching.
Without this help, your pictures just turn out making you look heavier and washed out. So, try using natural light
The best is directional light, like from a large window. We’re talking about soft filtered light, not direct sunlight. Many beautiful portraits are created with that soft evening light, and you’ll find it on your covered porch or lanai. You’re looking for soft light falling on you, the subject, from the right or the left side. [See large photo.] A large window or glass sliding door that doesn’t have direct sunlight coming through is also a fine indoor light source. 2. Make the Background Important
There’s a trend in high-end professional imaging to get out of the studio and use natural environmental backgrounds. So, when you find your soft directional light location, look beyond where the subject will be. If you see a shopping center, move to another location that affords a simple natural background—like a stand of trees.
It is easier than you think. If you’re inside, using window light or a large glass slider, pick a neutral wall (or remove busy wall décor) and move some furniture. The key here is a nonbusy, neutral background. 3. Clothing Is Everything
There are some well-founded rules in the halls of professional photography that suggest that wearing simple, solid, neutral colors, like blues, tans and beiges, will make a better picture. The theory is that with nondominant clothing and colors, the face and expression become prominent.
However, so many sales associates have been told they look wonderful in bright red that they insist on dressing in a bold color for their headshot. But, that doesn’t always work out.
A few more rules: Avoid yellows as they can make the skin look jaundiced in print. Also, since you’re essentially creating images for a printing press, avoid white and black, including navy blue, which looks black in print.
Without professional lighting, you’ll likely experience blown-out whites or blocked-up darks on the printing press. Baring your shoulders is also a no-no. Finally, avoid tight check patterns or fabrics that have a noticeable fine-square pattern. These fabrics can give you a funky pattern effect when you reproduce the image. 4. Makeup and Retouching
This section is easy. Here is the one rule—don’t overdo it. Despite what you’ve heard, you don’t need to add makeup to make an image look good. You’re using natural light, which is very forgiving.
Now, for those of you who know you’re Adobe Photoshop experts, beware. You can easily overdo it, and if you’re not careful, you’ll have everyone talking about how you look more like your daughter or son than yourself. If you don’t believe me, next time you’re at the grocery store checkout counter, look at a tabloid that has your favorite mature celebrity on the cover. You don’t want to look pasty or fake. Your customers want the real you, not a business card with an unrecognizable someone else. 5. Expression Is Everything
The difference between professional models and amateurs is the professionals’ ability to give a natural look for the final image. I know, you’re going to smile for the camera, and because you’re not a model, you’re very likely going to dislike your expression. For this reason, most great photographers engage in running conversation with their subjects. When it’s time to click the shutter, they’ll ask a question that evokes a natural expression. It can be anything from “Isn’t this the silliest thing you’ve done today?” to “Do you know you’re in the presence of sheer photographic genius?”
I’ll admit this seems corny, but folks, trust me. Expression is everything. Have some fun. You’ll be happy with the results.
With some time and patience, you can have your headshot taken by an amateur and be very happy with the results. Try it and see for yourself. John Frank’s photography has been featured in USA Today and on the cover of TV Guide. He is currently a real estate sales associate with ResiCore Realty Group Inc. in Lakewood Ranch.