This blog post outlines some important steps for setting up and conducting a great head shot session.
When photographing people who don’t stand in front of the camera for a living – like models and actors do – one of the most difficult yet important aspects of the shoot is to make the subject look and feel relaxed.
Most everyone tenses up, from jawbones to shoulders all the way down to curled toes, and often it’s not even a conscious state, just something we as humans naturally tend to do when we want to “look our best.” Of course, it works the other way around and it’s very easy to see if the subject is tense and hesitant, or relaxed and being him/herself in a portrait.
So one of the absolutely most important aspects of my job is to make sure that the person in front of the camera, perhaps that’s you, and I build rapport, we establish trust, and reach a relaxed and comfortable state where things start to flow naturally, resulting in great head shots.
All of this takes time, which is why a 5- or even 10-minute-a-person, conveyor-belt style head shot shoot never results in the great pictures you deserve.
Here’s typically how one of my portrait shoots unfolds:
I take the time to get to know you a bit, and give you a chance to get to know me in a relaxed conversation that may sweep from today’s weather to weekend plans or upcoming vacations.
I outline and discuss how the shoot will unfold, so we get a common understanding of what our goals are; enabling us to get there together.
When we start shooting, I take the lead initially to help get you into a rhythm. As the shoot progresses and you become more relaxed, the posing directions will become more deliberate.
Important poses? I tend to save those – and outfits, if we shoot different looks – towards the end of the shoot. That’s another reason why a successful portrait session takes time – rushing it doesn’t do anyone any good. By the way, posing is not a bad word as some may feel: posing helps you look your best, and it is not contrary to looking natural and relaxed, if done right)?
As we shoot, I’ll share with you what we have captured. Some photographers don’t want to do that, but for me a successful shoot is the result of collaboration between the photographer and the subject. It’s also much easier for me to give directions and for us to tweak something if you have seen the portraits or head shots we’ve done so far.
That’s a pretty good outline for how a good portrait session goes down, without going into some specifics related to a studio, outdoor or environmental portrait session.
And you may have noticed that none of the above points mention cameras, lenses, strobes and a variety of other equipment that may be involved in the shoot. Those aspects are important as well, but they are for me to manage and are not nearly as important for a successful head shot shoot as the interaction and rapport you and I build throughout the session.
It’s all about the result and the story the portrait tells; truthful, engaging, impactful.
After all, no one really cares what brand of brushes Picasso, Monet and Da Vinci used when they created their wonderful art, do they?