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4 Simple, Effective Head Shot Photography Tips

4 Simple, Effective Head Shot Photography Tips
Image credit: Shutterstock
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Today, head shots are a critical piece of many entrepreneurs' media kit, venture-capital presentation and social-media presence. A dynamic head shot for some professionals can often be the difference between acquiring a job or not.

A good professional photographer will know how to get someone to relax in front of the camera, evoke the best poses and provide suggestions for accentuating an individual's positive features and traits.

Below are some tips for achieving the perfect head shot. 

Related: Look Smashing in Your Professional Business Photo

1. Equipment.

A lens with a large aperture (with a small f number) is a must when choosing a camera for shooting head shots. Remember, even today’s smartphones have such apertures. Or you can use an in-camera filter as a substitute.

Avoid using wide-angle lens when photographing head shots. Unless you’re trying to achieve a dramatic, artistic style photo, the subject will appear unrealistic, with imperfections amplified as in a caricature.

2. Background.

The type of background is important, so try to have some design details, rather than an empty sky (which is dull, reminiscent of passport photos) or one with an isolated element (that can be visible). The key is to have a background that will allow your head shot to pop. 

A plain background works best, but if the subject is in a crowd or busy area, blur the background as much as you can with the help of a telephoto lens, wide open. 

The background adds context to the image, so avoid having the composition being too tight.

Related: 5 Affordable Ways to Make Your Online Profile Stand Out

3. Facial expressions.

When it comes to facial expressions, confidence matters. I like to tell people that they can choose to smile (just without visible teeth) or not but never appear too serious. Make sure your subject looks at the camera and always have the camera slightly above to avoid the dreaded “double chin” look.

A subject might want to practice some facial expressions in the mirror. The photographer should always be aware of the direction of the eyes. This is very important to the composition. 

4. Composition.

To avoid a passport-type look in a head shot, avoid symmetry in the person's stance. Ask the individual to refrain from having the shoulders aligned but rather stand or sit with one in front and one turned to the back. 

At the very minimum, try to fit the portrait into a composition with a symmetric frame behind. For example, if there’s a door or a window behind your subject, a nice composition would include the head in its middle. If there’s a corridor, try to fit the person's head right in the middle. 

If the image is taken from a low angle, the person will not only appear taller but also stronger and more powerful. If the shot is taken from above the person, the opposite effect results. Remember, shooting from the bottom up can be unflattering for any person.

Semi-profiles can be a good choice. If a photography subject chooses to look to the side, then the part of the composition where he or she is looking should have more space than the other side. 

Don't neglect to consider the person's attire, even if it's only partially in view. In addition, foreground elements can be good additions as long as they are abstract and not too distracting. 

Always check your end result by testing it with a very small image. This is how the image will be printed most of the time. One good approach is to upload the photo to a social-media account and see how it looks at a small scale. Be sure to take lots of shots in various settings.

Related: 8 Types of Photos You Should Never Use on Your LinkedIn Profile