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Professional Headshots & Business Portraits FAQ

You have questions?
I have answers.

Professional Headshots & Business Portraits FAQ

Professional Headshots & Business Portrait FAQ

What is a headshot?

A headshots is a close up photograph of a person showing only their head and face. Normally a persons neck and a small portion of their shoulders are included in the photograph to provide a compositional foundation.

Why do I need a headshot?

In today’s online world the first time many of the people who will influence your life and your career will see you is online, such as on LinkedIn, Facebook, Dating Sites, etc.
Your headshot, or profile picture is making your first impression with these people. (See this article: First Impressions: Why You Need a Good Headshot for more details.)

What is the difference between a good headshot and a bad headshot?

A good headshot shows only the persons face focusing on the expression, while projecting the persons character traits, such as good humor, self-confidence, empathy, or approachability. The lighting should be well done and contribute to the communication of the persons authentic self-image in a professional manner.
A bad headshot may show a person from so far away you cannot see their face clearly, with dark or distracting shadows, bad color, or include distracting elements in the background such as flowers, trees, cars, or people.

Do I really need a professional headshot? Can’t I just use that photo that a friend took on his/her mobile phone at a wedding?

A photo cropped from a snapshot will always be a photo cropped from a snapshot and may give people the wrong impression about your seriousness and professionalism.
Similarly a snapshot with your friends great camera is and will always be just a snapshot. There’s a lot that goes into a professional headshot such as clothing selection, posing, managing your hair body posture and expression that can only be done effectively by an experienced professional. (See this article: Your Headshot is Either Helping You, or Hurting You for more.)

What do photographers mean when they use the term “Look” or “Outfit”?

A “look” or “outfit” is a persons dress for their headshot. An example off this for a man would be a photography in a suit and tie would be one “outfit”, where the same person photographed in a polo would be second outfit.

Are headshots just for executives, models and actors?

In todays online driven world a headshot is a crucial component for anyone who wants to make a good first impression on the people they come in contact with, either personally or professionally.
Headshots were originally used by actors, and models to help casting directors and ad agents determine if the persons appearance fit the character they were to play. Business portraits have been in existence since long before photography was even invented. Since the advent of the internet and social media the headshot genre has become wildly popular for people from all walks of life. People use headshots on their websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Social Media and on dating apps.

How often should I update my headshot?

If your headshot is more than 3 years old, shows you in an out of date hairstyle, or unfashionable clothes it’s time for a new one.
Younger people can get away with updating their headshot every four to five years, women should update every two to three years, men between the ages of 40 and 60 can update every five years at most. After the age of 60 both men and women should consider updating every five to six years.

I feel funny about getting my picture taken.

The right photographer for you will be able to help you relax in front of the camera so you can express yourself with relaxed authenticity.

I’m not photogenic.

It’s not your job to look good in your photos. It’s your photographer’s job to make you look good. A professional will use flattering lighting, work with you to find your best angles and bring out the expressions that are most appealing.

What’s the difference between a headshot and a portrait?

A headshot is a highly stylized close-up portrait that shows something special in a person’s facial expression, posture, and body language that engages and holds the attention of viewers. This close-up format has become popular for online uses because it focuses on what’s most appealing about us to people – our faces.
Traditional portraits use many formats. The most common are waist up, bust, or head and shoulders. Full body portrait are also done in certain circumstances, but are not as popular as these others. These portrait formats show a great deal of the persons surroundings and their dress that make for wonderful decor pieces, but can be distracting.

What’s the difference between a studio session and a location session?

A studio session uses controlled lighting, unvarying background and a controlled environment. The photographer has absolute control over every aspect of the photography and the subject enjoys the luxury of privacy and is not rushed to perform before the light changes, or wait for a group of children to go by.
A location session is done outside using daylight as the primary light source. a photographer will select a scene they feel is appropriate to use as a background for the subject. In the San Francisco Bay Are many photographers work on location because they don’t have a studio due to the high cost of rents. Location headshots can be wonderful, but the person being photographed must be comfortable working in public and be prepared to adapt to changing weather conditions, noise, and passersby.

What should I wear to my headshot session?

I like to create headshots with a lot of variety in dress, and expression.
I suggest my customers bring in several different outfits that are appropriate for the different professional roles they play.
For women I suggest 8 -12 conservative professional outfits that range from casual Friday to boardroom presentation formal. Including their favorite outfit.
For men I ask for them to bring in 6 to 10 outfits along with a suit and tie if they would ever wear one at work.
No large patterns or loud colors, but if you love a particular shirt, sweater or jacket – as long as it’s not frayed at the collar bring it. If you love how you look in an outfit it will show in your headshots.

Why is headshot variety important?

Having a variety of headshots in different dress and with different expressions to work with is important because it shows that you are a person of depth and character, not an interchangeable, cardboard cutout of what a person in your position should look like. You wouldn’t want to use the same photograph for your LinkedIn profile as you would for your Tumbler feed because each platform shows a different part of your personality.

Do I need a hairstylist and make-up artist for my headshot session?

I get asked this a lot and I have to answer No! you do not need a hair and makeup stylist, but I very strongly recommend women do book my hair and makeup stylist.
She can custom blend colors for you on the spot to get just the right shade of rose in your cheeks. She also stays with us though the shoot to help style your hair for each shot, and will touchup your makeup as we progress from the casual relationship building look to boardroom commanding glamour.

Do you recommend make-up for men?

I do not recommend makeup for men.
If a man has long hair and it is important that it flow well then booking my makeup artist makes sense.

Should I get a haircut before my headshot session?

Yes, I recommend everyone get their hair cut three days to a week before the shoot. Your hair will look more natural if it has a few days to grow in.

Should I shave before my headshot session?

Scruff looks good on a man. If you often go without shaving It’s a great idea to get a few shots with the scruff and then a few with a clean look.
Regardless it’s important that if you want a clean look the you shave just before your shoot. Five o’clock shadow starts show in the camera at about noon.

Should I wear jewelry in my headshot?

I prefer to not show jewelry, other than studs in headshots. The glitter and shine will compete with your eyes, but there’s always time to try a few shots with something small and refined. I’ve seen pearls come off perfectly, where a diamond just disappeared.

Headshots seem expensive. Can you remind me why I should make this investment?

Where can I get a professional headshot?
The best advice I can offer her is to Google, or Bing “Professional Headshots Near Me” and carefully compare the options available to you. I do suggest you give more weigh to the photographers approach and personality than their cost, if you can.

How do I choose a headshot photographer?

The first thing I would look for is if I liked their work. If the people look natural and relaxed in the samples the photographer shows, or do they look like their scared or faking a smile?
The next thing I would look for is the photographers approach. If the photographer works on location but you’re not comfortable perming in front of people then they probably aren’t the right choice.
Does the photographer give you control over your session or do they have fixed packages. Fixed packages and limited time shoots are fine if you get your headshot done all the time, but for someone who does this infrequently it’s unreasonable to expect them to be able to perform on demand. Even experienced actors need trim to “warm up.”
Then, finally look at cost. If you’re making six figures, or hoping for a promotion to do so make the investment.

What makes a Headshot session with you different from other Photographers?

The most important thing is that I listen to my customers. I make the time to learn about them, their hopes, and dreams, where they are in their career and where they want to go. I pay attention to them and find ways to build a solid working relationship based on mutual trust.

The next thing that differentiates me is that I train my customers how to be photographed well and give them the time they need to succeed.

I know how hard it is to be photographed. I’ve been there and received disappointing headshots because the photographer expected me to perform. Even models and actors need direction. I coach my customers on how to present themselves to the camera, I guide them in expressing themselves with confidence by speaking with them about their accomplishments and reminding them of events in their lives that will elicit the response we need to get that special look that engages and hold the attention of the viewer.

Finally, I work with my customers to help them select their business portraits. It’s hard to be objective when it’s your own face on the screen. I will offer an objective professional critique of the content, character and tone of any photograph my customers ask about free of jargon, bias.

Do you work in a studio or on location?

I prefer to work in my Palo Alto studio to gain the advantage of a controlled environment and the privacy we need to truly focus on the task of creating spectacular headshots of every on elf my customers.

What background colors should I choose for my headshots?

A color that brings out your eyes is a good choice. If you’ve already done your branding we should work with your colors.

Why do you shoot horizontally?

There’re several reasons. First, we see things horizontally our eye travel back and forth across a frame or the computer monitor from one side to the other first, then begin traveling up and down. By shooting in the horizontal format we make use of people’s natural reflexive way of seeing to capture their eye.

Should I do my own makeup, or book a makeup artist?

My recommendation is to hire a makeup artist. They will custom blend colors and shades to give you the perfect look whether that is relationship building casual or boardroom commanding glamour.

I make the time to help my clients select their headshots. 

Due to information overload, selecting photos is the hardest part of any photo shoot. I’ve been doing it for 35 years and am very good at it. 

You’re in control.
I’ll offer my unbiased opinion and professional interpretation of any photo if you want.

Working together, we can narrow your choices from 50+/- great headshots to the 8-12 absolute best in about 15-20 minutes.

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