I know it is ironic but I spent 25 plus years working as a professional head shot photographer and I dread having my picture taken. I think it all stems back to picture day in elementary school. When the class photo was posted I was always a full head taller than the next tallest kid and everyone would laugh at me. By the fourth grade I was as tall or taller than the teacher and being a very shy kid it was painfully embarrassing.
Fast forward all these years later and I still dread being photographed but for entirely different reasons. So when the magazine I write for, Merrimack Valley Home, informed me that they were sending a staff photographer to take new head shots of me in my home studio my initial reaction was that familiar feeling of dread and loathing.
The shoot was last Thursday and I am happy to report I survived the whole ordeal. Since some of you may also not look forward to having your head shot taken I thought I would share my tips for getting the best head shot possible.
1. Hire a professional head shot/portrait photographer. Just because your next door neighbor is a cracker jack sports photographer or your cousin Ed shoots the most awesome sunsets, does not mean they are going to be able to take a good head shot. Head shots, and portraits in general, have a whole different photography skill set than a product photographer or architectural photographer has so choose wisely.
My photographer was Adrien Bisson of Adrien Bisson Photography and he is an experienced head shot photographer so I knew I was in good hands. He has a very calm manner (he never once shouted “work it baby”) and was more than willing to share sneak peaks of the images to his neurotic subject.
2. Think about your Brand when you chose what to wear. Don’t go too crazy with this but if your brand is all about color then don’t be photographed in all black against a gray or white background (even if you do think it’s slimming). Also, if you always wear glasses or a signature statement necklace then wear these in your photo. The best head shot is ultimately one that looks like you.
3. Stand or sit at a slight angle. Nothing says “mug shot” more than a square shouldered, straight on shot. Try facing your body a bit to the left or a bit to the right. We all have one side that photographs better than the other so try out both if you don’t know which is your “better side”.
4. Lean in. No, not in the Sheryl Sandberg way but literally lean forward into the camera. Since you are facing a bit to either the left or right what ever shoulder is facing the camera, lean in and down a bit. You also want to jut your chin out and down a bit. Trust me, it might feel odd but it works. It is slimming, brings life to the shot and creates some visual interest.
5. Smile with your eyes. Dead eyes with a smiling mouth fools no one. I used to tell my clients to think of the person they most love in life and imagine they were standing right there. You want a genuine smile and sometimes it’s hard to muster up one in a photo studio in front of a stranger surrounded by lights or reflectors. Engage in conversation with your photographer. Talking helps relax you because unless you are a professional model, smiling “on cue” is nearly impossible. Note* Please don’t say “cheese” as that really never looks good.
6.Get a little help from your friends. Choosing “THE ONE” can be challenging. If you are a perfectionist (like me) or especially critical (like me, and most woman I know) then it is hard to be objective when making that final selection. Ask your friends and loved ones to help with the final choice. You want your head shot to not only look like you but ideally to express a bit of your personality. Are you quirky? Always smiling? Always tipping your head to the left? Whatever your friends and family think represent the true you is the one to use.
So my friends, now I am stepping out of my comfort zone and asking for your help in selecting my final head shot for the magazine. Please let me know which one you like the best.