So what is a simple headshot? Based on the requests, people seem to think it means “not full body”, “just a close-up” or “just one shot”, or it’s “just for LinkedIn”.
There was a time when this would have frustrated me, or made me get up upset because a prospect or client doesn’t value my work, my skill, my knowledge, or my time. Now I realize, as in most things in business, it’s not really that they don’t like me or my work – hey, they’ve made the inquiry – it’s just that they don’t really know what all goes in to the work. Iit’s an opportunity to educate the general public.
Let me share a few insights, and you’ll understand that short of me showing up with my cell phone, taking a quick shot of you, and texting it to you on the spot, there really is no such thing as a “simple” headshot.
Sure, I could do the cell phone thing, but I’d being doing you a disservice – therefore, I DON’T do that. Quite simply, cell phone picture are not acceptable for a professional business headshot. For one thing, cell phones shoot at 72dpi (not suitable for printing). They also don’t handle poor lighting or high-contrast very well, and don’t come with edits.
One hallmark of a professional portrait is having the eyes in focus, while everything else can be a touch softer, especially a beautiful blurry background. That effect pulls the subject out, and the eyes draw the viewer in. This effect is achieved with pricey, professional lenses that have a wide aperture.
You need images to be in high-res for printing – 300 dpi – for business cards, brochures/flyers, banners, book jackets, magazine articles, etc. Cell phones photos just don’t cut it.
One of the most critical elements is lighting. Photographers look for the light – it’s the key to everything. A person can’t just show up, at any time of day, and hope to find the perfect light in that particular location. Often there’s a scouting trip or familiarity with the session location. Early morning and evening light are best. Beyond that, it’s good to be familiar with the territory, unless you’re going for flash or strobes, which is not as flattering, in my opinion. Natural light studios are great, but are still limited in time of shooting based on best light.
And then there’s posing. Good photographers know posing, and will change things up. Some poses will feel more natural than others, and a happy, relaxed expression will show through. This takes a few minutes. Also, clients are often a little nervous at first, so it’s not unusual to toss the first few images for the more relaxed, natural images that come out during the session. This is why those “turnstyle” studios that have you sit, smile, and go just don’t work. Sure, they may capture your likeness for identification purposes, but your personality doesn’t show through. Check out, “5 Questions to Ask your Headshot Photographer”.
Then if there’s set-up and break-down of backdrops, moving furniture, and all that – that takes time and physical labor.
Once the session’s over, the photographer still has to download the memory cards, sort through the images to find the best of the best, and THEN the edits begin. For 20-30 finished images, that can take 2-3 hours.
Then we meet again for you to choose your favorite images out of those presented to you. Once selected, any additional retouches you request happen. That can mean filling in a chipped tooth, softening lines, removing a scar, a nip/tuck, or fixing a random fly-away hair. Those retouches can take up to 20 minutes per image, depending on what all is needed.
I’ve photographed hundreds of business professionals, and even an abbreviated session takes no less than 4 hours of my time. But that’s neither here nor there – the question is about getting a “simple headshot.”
The short answer is you can probably find a cheap and easy way to get an image that looks like you. That’s fine if you’re one of the worker bees, and need an image for your name badge, or the company directory. But if you need a professional headshot – a headshot that represents who you are, your personality, and your brand, then there are no short-cuts, no cookie-cutter fixes.
There is no “simple” headshot when you’re looking for professional quality.
Remember, when you invest in professional headshots, it’s because you want to be taken seriously, to be authentic, to be approachable, confident, and professional . . . and ultimately, book more business!