Portrait and Headshot Photography

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Photo by Sean P. Durham 2019

Portraiture has a long history. It’s always been a very important part of society and family values.

There’s a sort of confirmation of who we are when we have a portrait done by an artist, a photographer, and for some, a biographer who writes down our lives in words.

Headshots are a recent introduction made necessary by the fact that our lives are being browsed by potential clients and algorithms trying to figure out where we fit in.

It’s no wonder that since headshots are really an offshoot of portrait photography, it is difficult to say exactly how a headshot should look.

One thing’s for sure, it depends very much on what business you are in, how you want people to see you in everyday life and who’s looking at your photo.

Headshot Photography

Social media is often the first stop when a person is looking for a service professional or product information. Customers like to inform themselves about products before buying, so a quick read, a question or two to other product users, or watching a video that explains the subject helps us to make decisions about the things we purchase.

When we accept the answers we get, we have shown that we trust the sources of information.

Those sources could lead the client to your website, or page, where they will immediately be confronted with your headshot.

A Headshot is your Shop Window Dressing

As soon as you land on a website, a landing page or an social media page, you’ll see a photograph of the person who is offering the information that you want. We make judgements about the person and attach that judgement to the written word or video. We can’t help but judge, it helps us to put things in order so that we can make a good decision.

We are constantly attempting to find a point of reference that we can trust.

Your headshot is an integral part of that process for a client.

A good headshot for business will give your readers and listeners a first stopping point to think about you.

Headshots don’t tell the person much about your social life. They show the customer your professional side. A fine balance between professional look and friendly approachable person is essential to help influence a potential customer.

Browsers are people and people love to invent their own narratives and fill in the gaps when they need information. People search the internet for services when their emotions are telling them that they need to make a purchase.

Remember your headshot could serve as the starting point of a new buying process for clients.

Portraits are a free for all situation. Often the photographer is in danger of pushing their own ego and projecting ideas onto a portrait sitter. The end results of that can often be embarrassing for the person being photographed.

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Portrait Photo by Himanshugunarathna on Pixabay

How often have you read a news article of a new biography about a famous person? The book is considered to be a bag of lies that discredits the person because it focused on the faults and scandalous parts of that person’s life.

It should have been an accurate portrait of the complexities of a person’s life — not always the good stuff, but the mistakes and the screw ups should be included. Yet, at the same time, the biographer must remember when writing about the screw ups that she isn’t there to do a hack-job on her subject. The same applies to portraits and headshots.

Finding the keen balance between being a human being who isn’t perfect and showing the truth of the matter applies both to headshots and portraits. A photographer likes to be in control of a photo-shoot and can often have trouble knowing when they have gone too far with their needs in posing a subject.

Headshots tend to be boring mostly because the photographer wants to be business-like about the procedure. This leads to the mediocre, blandness that can be seen in many headshots these days.

The photographer doesn’t want to upset the sitter for a headshot by being a demanding “arty” type of person.

If you’re in the business of being creative there is every reason why your headshot should be artistic.

The freedom that portrait photography offers, allows the sitter and photographer to discuss things and get to know each other a little better. Character traits become obvious during discussion, a good photographer will discover facts about the person that are interesting enough to raise the emotions. This helps enormously when setting up and posing.

It’s a great idea for a headshot photographer to also ask questions, find out who the sitter is and get to know their personal side. This will come out in one way or another anyway.

Moody lighting that creates a feeling of depth in the space around the portrait sitter can be highly effective in revealing personality. The low-key lighting that we automatically associate with unseen things opens a vein of thought for the viewer of portraits. That vein of thought is subjective and up to the viewer to decide on what it means — that’s where we get into the art of portrait photography. A headshot doesn’t allow for these things simply because we don’t want people to make subjective judgements about a business person’s private life, we want them to think about the competence and abilities of the business person being photographed.

Low lighting and moody shadows don’t make good headshots. It leaves a space wide open for the potential customer to think too much about the inner personality of a person.

Your headshot is about trust building and should be something that sticks in the mind. Good lighting and strong facial features, soft shadows and clothing that look like your everyday working clothes are good headshots.

A headshot is representative of the person’s daily life. Their business life and their competence. Bright features that are well lighted and the face angled so that it catches the light more than shadow is optimal as a starting point in posing for a headshot.

It’s not rocket-science and it isn’t art, either.

It depends very much on who the person is and what they do for a living. My own headshot, at the moment, is a relaxed version of me and doesn’t really show the serious side of myself. I’m a writer and photographer, it won’t do any harm if people think I’m artistic or enjoy my daily life with a joke or two.

If a bank manager shows a headshot that is not serious, she’ll be in danger of eliciting viewer ideas about being too flaky or slap-dash about her job. Would you give your money to a comedian who also wants to handle your investments?

At the same time a bank manager or investment manager who tries to be too conservative and “all suit and tie”, is going to give the impression that they are not easy to approach or talk to.

There are too many social beliefs about bankers that easily go into the negative.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I walk along the street and see one of those designer type shops with expensive looking products in the window that don’t have price tags on them, I get an uneasy feeling. I don’t want be left in the dark about the price, it puts me at a disadvantage when I walk inside to view products.

Shop windows can be inviting, interesting and stop you in your tracks attractive. You need to know that going into a shop will not be an embarrassing experience when it comes to payment, or quality of products.

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Image by LisaRedfern on Pixabay

The shop window is a headshot of what’s inside, what you can expect from a person.

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ddimitrova on Pixabay

That’s all that people browsing for your service are after, they need to trust the person. A well balanced headshot will allay any worries about the company when a person knows that they are going to be dealing with a real person who is easy to talk to, and wants to help you get what you want.

Written by

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Living http://seandurham.eu

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