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How to Prepare for a Headshot Photo Session

When people hear the word “headshot”, the image of Hollywood lights and star-studded events might come to mind. There is a common misconception that headshots are exclusively for actors and actresses gracing the pages of glossy magazines to promote their latest film; the truth of the matter is, headshots are a vital way for everyday clients to get to know you before they have the chance to meet you.

A headshot is your way of saying, “Hii” to the world before having the chance to come face to face with oncoming clients. This makes a headshot one of the most important business tools of the 21st century.


Picking a Photographer

This goes without saying but who you choose as your photographer can be the difference between a good headshot and a great one. Every photographer has a different style, a different way of shooting, and a different type of editing. This all equates to a very diverse result. When choosing a photographer, it’s important to keep your end goal in mind. Taking a personal inventory of who you are, the way you wish to brand yourself, and what you like when looking at a photo are all steps to take in the initial stage of picking your photographer.

Photographers come with all different levels of experience expertise. One might excel in editorial style photography but fall short in the headshot category. In the same way it’s important to choose a lawyer who specializes in your needs, it’s important to pick a photographer that specializes in what you’re looking for. While it’s easy to get carried away with a strong bio or list of accolades, your best bet when hiring a photographer is to look at their portfolio. Judge them by the quality of their work, not the quantity of years worked.

Just like in any industry, quality comes at a cost. It’s easy to get skewed by a fancy price tag and feel as though you’ve found the deal of a century, but how often do you get your headshot done? Is it better to get a deal today only to find yourself disappointed and needing to reshoot later? Find a photographer in your price range whose work matches your ideal outcome. Most people will only have their headshot done once every couple of years. So, with this in mind, do your research and ensure the photographer you choose has a portfolio you would be proud to be a part of.

How the photographer makes you feel while shooting is almost as important as the portfolio itself. Your comfort level will show through in the photos. Headshots used in a business setting should showcase your personality and confidence even if you’re not typically comfortable in front of the lens.

We at Hiilite pride ourselves on our “camera-side-manner”. While it’s important to keep things professional, it’s just as important to keep it fun. Our main goal is to capture the “you” that you want to be. Having a clean studio setting, the right tools, and taking the time to ensure you know what’s going on while we shoot are just a few of the things that help set a photographer out from the rest.

Different Types of Headshots

Once you’ve picked your photographer, it’s now up to you to look back at your original goals and understand the types of headshots available. It’s important to communicate your goals with the photographer you choose. Headshots are a team effort and the more clearly you communicate with your team, the better your results will be. Below are the three most popular types of headshots. Each one can be a perfect fit with the right application. Having a clear vision of where the photos will be used will also help you pick the type of photo you want.

1. Vertical Studio Headshot

This is probably the most common type of headshot you’ll see. Not only can it be used on business cards, but it’s a great photo to have for your client presentations, website social profiles, or for any other application you may choose. This type of headshot can also be used to show a touch of your own personal style (i.e: by showcasing your choice of clothing) or, help solidify your brand identity (i.e: by wearing a shirt that matches your company colours). Most people have a hard time thinking of themselves as a brand, but identifying what colors compliment your complexion and match the aura you wish to present can help set you apart from other competitors, and create a level of familiarity for your customers. Typically, a white background will be used in this type of headshot.

2. Peter Hurley Style

Peter Hurley is a headshot photographer based in New York. He has created his own style of headshot that’s not only crisp and clean, but also showcases a persons’ eyes like no other style ever has. He works closely with his clients to allow them to open up in front of the camera and in doing so, headshots done in this style not only have perfect lighting, but also feature more personality than a typical headshot would.
Peter uses a very specific lighting setup, but the look can be achieved in a multitude of ways. This style of image stands out on the internet and can give you the advantage of standing out on a social media site. The background can be any color the client chooses.

3. Environmental Headshot

This type of headshot is taken outside of a studio setting. It can be indoors, outdoors, at the office or just somewhere you really enjoy. A good environmental headshot doesn’t allow for you to be lost in the environment you choose to shoot in. This type of headshot is often more casual than a studio shoot. This is the perfect type to choose if you’re looking to express the more laid-back side of yourself.

Getting Ready

So far, you’ve chosen your photographer, picked the style of headshot you’re after and have set a time to shoot. Now you’re wondering what to do next. The process isn’t over once you’ve booked your headshot; now’s the time for you to get prepared. Feel ready for your shoot by getting these aspects ready before you head out.

1. Clothing

The clothing you pick for your shoot should reflect your personality as well as the personality of the brand you represent. See below for our tips when selecting what to wear:

  • Solid colours look great in headshots.
  • If going with a pattern, stay away from anything bold or distracting
  • If shooting on a white background, wear something that will contrast If shooting on a dark background, wear something bright.
  • Bring a few clothing changes clothes to the shoot. Ideally, bring clothing that is fitted, but loose enough to allow you to move freely!
  • Make sure that ALL clothes are ironed and pressed before the shoot. Wrinkles in clothing are difficult to Photoshop out. Don’t expect the photographer to do this.
  • Bring a lint brush or roller with you just in case.

2. Hair

  • Bring a brush and some hair product (gel/hairspray) with you to the shoot to help calm fly-aways.
  • Start with your hair down and towards the end of the shoot put it up in a ponytail for a more casual look.
  • If you can afford it, hire a hair stylist for the morning of the shoot. If you choose to do your own hair, stick with a style you know how to do. The more tamed your hair is, the cleaner your headshot will look.

3. Makeup and Face

  • Start natural. Just enough to cover up any blemishes. The photographer will take out anything that isn’t permanent. Natural skin is significantly easier to edit than too much makeup
  • Build up the makeup as you go. Add eyeshadow and darker lipstick later in the shoot should you want a different look
  • Try not to use matte styles of makeup. It will dry out your skin.
  • Bring your makeup and moisturizer with you to the shoot in case your skin does get dry or you need touchups.
  • Bring lip balm or lip gloss with you to help keep lips looking soft.
  • The night before, brush your lips with your toothbrush to help get rid of any dead skin. Lightly exfoliating the face and body can also be beneficial.
  • Don’t do any extreme beauty regimens right before your shoot, like facial peels, tanning or extensive exfoliating. Your skin could look very irritated.
  • Get rid of any unwanted hair a few days before your shoot. Clean up brows and upper lip hair.
  • FOR MEN. Shave right before you leave for a shoot. A 5 o’clock shadow can’t be Photoshopped easily. Use cooling gel or aftershave to help with skin irritation.
  • Bring some oil absorbing sheets to soak up any oil or sweat that might build up during the shoot. The studio lights can get pretty hot.
  • These can be bought at nearly any store that sell makeup or face products.
  • Leave your coloured contacts at home and bring clear contacts with you. Coloured contacts can look very fake in photographs. Also bring eyedrops with you.
  • If the budget is available, hire a Makeup artist to do your makeup and stay with you during the shoot for touchups.

4. Practice!

  • Practice, practice, practice. Before the shoot look at your face in the mirror and see what side you like better. Everyone has a good side, find yours.
  • If you have one eye that is visibly smaller than the other bring the side of your face with the smaller eye towards the camera. It will help reduce the difference between the two.
  • Try different expressions in the mirror. Do you look better stoic or perky? A good photographer will get different expressions from you during the shoot but knowing what expression you like before shooting is a great tactic to use to ensure you leave happy.

Kelowna portrait photographer

During the Shoot

  • Ask the photographer to put some music on if the shooting takes place in a studio. This will help ease some tension. Let him/her know before the shoot starts what you like to listen to.
  • Follow the photographer’s direction. More often than not we will ask you to move your face in ways that seem silly. While it may feel weird in the moment, the photographers lens sees things differently than your eyes do, so trust your photographer and just go with it. Trust me—the photos will look great!
  • Headshot sessions should be fun. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down. We’ve seen it all so no matter how shy you are, remember we’re not here to judge, just the opposite.
  • Don’t force your smile. It will look awkward in the images and your cheeks will be sore after the shoot. A good tip is to leave a little space between your teeth when smiling, enough to put the tip of your pinky in between. Your smile will look more genuine.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the photographer for a minute while to stop and gather your thoughts. Maybe take this as a chance to review the shots and ensure you’re getting the style you had in mind.

6. After the Shoot

Yay! You’re almost done. After shooting, it’s important to go over some final notes with your photographer. Just like you had to choose a shooting style, you now need to communicate how you’d like the photo to be edited. Here are some things worth discussing:

  • How much photoshop? Are there things you would like taken out? Some clients want everything to be gone (moles, scars, wrinkles, etc). This can give you a very polished but somewhat unnatural look, so again, refer to your original goal when making photoshop requests.
  • Take a good look at your selected photos and look for things you could live without. Don’t feel awkward asking or being asked about this; this is what we do and we want to make sure you love how your image looks.
  • If you don’t want any alterations done, please let us know beforehand. If we don’t know what you want, we’ll do our best to take out anything that isn’t flattering while leaving the rest. Acne, redness, or other blemishes might be there for your headshot tomorrow, but can be easily photoshopped out to show off your best self without changing the overall image or postponing the photoshoot. If you do want any major editing done, please keep in mind that it may cost extra.
  • As photographers, we spend more time editing than shooting. This is important to note when requesting a turn-around date to deliver your photos by. While some edits can be done on the same day, shoots with a large number of photos, or photos with significant edit requests, will take much more time to complete.

Hopefully this guide will help you prepare for your big day in front of the camera and will make your experience a little more stress-free. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at [email protected]

William Walczak
Kelowna Commercial Photographer
(866) 424-9153

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