During intern critique night, the subject of “what makes a good head shot” came up. Since I photograph a lot of head shots – a lot – I thought I would put my two cents in on the subject!
I have specialized in head shots for the last 3 years. So, what makes a great head shot, you ask? Well, you might as well ask what makes a great photo. But, here are some pointers:
1. Connection. Eye contact is KEY. You want to be able to look at the image and feel the person is looking you in the eye. If your subject isn’t intrigued then neither will the person viewing photograph.
2. Simple backdrop. We are here to see the person in the photo, not where you took the photo. If the backdrop is visible then it should support the subject and not be distracting.
3. Clothing. Simple solid colors are always best. Also, try to avoid solid white – it can be distracting. The eye tends to go toward the brightest part of the image and you don’t want that to be the shirt your subject is wearing. Also, minimal jewelry.
4. Vertical: In my experience, comp cards are generally vertical. If you take a horizontal shot, make sure you pull back enough to where it can be cropped vertical. There is nothing worse than having your client love the (horizontal) shot you took only to hear they can’t use it because it can’t be cropped vertical.
5. Posing: Head shot means just that. Pose from the shoulders up and fill the frame. Don’t “cut off” the top of the head. Proper facial expressions can also affect posing. Change up expressions!
But, most importantly, you need a good photographer! You have to have fun and feel comfortable during a head shot session or it will reflect in the photo that is primarily, well, your face. Head shots are about capturing your personality, so make sure you bring it to your session.
Looking back at all my past sessions since August when I started with LeahandMark as an intern I have only photographed two male models, yes only two males. One of which was a newborn. Why is that? Is it because female models are prettier? Is it because I am a female photographer and I studied more female posing? Is it because I just happen to know more female models? Well, yes to all of the above.
When I saw the location for the intern group shoot was a railroad museum I knew I wanted a male model. It’s not to say that male models aren’t “pretty”, because they really can be. Yes, I do know way more female models. And you know what? It turns out I can pose a male model just as easy, if not easier, than a female model.
Female models can go into “hard modeling”. Hard meaning into over posing, (which Mark explained to the interns during the shoot). Looking back at some my images makes total sense. With females I tend to let them and put them into over exaggerated model poses when I run out of ideas for posing. Thus far, I haven’t found this to be a problem with the male model.
Yes, I did ask my male model to try some poses which he wasn’t comfortable in. The same type of pose the female model was able to do because she was more flexible and comfortable with her body. She was able to contort herself and still be aware of what she looked like in the pose. Even some gender neutral poses still only look nice by one or the other sex given the location.
Is there only so much you can do pose wise with a male model? Is it all about posture and facial expressions with a male model? Body language?
There aren’t a lot of male models out there (I’ve been looking) and if they are out there they are not making themselves known. This photographer will keep looking. A good model is a good model – male or female. Time to see what is out there.