In order to take a great photo, you don’t need to go to a professional. As long as you understand the fundamentals of your backdrop, lighting, facial expression, attire, and hair and makeup, you’ll be able to take a great photo!
The very first step in taking a great headshot, is to do your research and take a look at examples of several headshots, perhaps even of well known actors whose work you admire. When you find one you like, think about each of the elements in the photo: the backdrop, the lighting, facial expression, clothing, and hair and makeup. Once you’ve noted all of these aspects, you’ll be able to emulate them in your photo. There are times when reinventing the wheel is effective, and there are times when emulating the best of what’s come before is best. A headshot falls into the latter category!
The right backdrop will make your face stand out.
A simple monochrome (one color) backdrop is ideal.
Avoid using a busy background as a backdrop. The simpler your backdrop, the better.
Avoid standing in front of a window or other bright light source. Doing so will obscure your face in the photo.
Using the right light will make all the difference.
Find a soft, even source of light for your photo. When shooting indoors, you can use the natural light from a window, which creates soft highlights and shadows on your face.
Avoid bright lights, which will make you squint, and will produce harsh shadows on your face.
When shooting indoors, avoid fluorescent/neon light. Incandescent light is best, or a combination of natural and incandescent light.
How To Be Photogenic
Your expression will draw us in.
Your facial expression is the single most important element of your headshot. Feel free to use whichever facial expression you like, however, keep in mind that because emotions are contagious, if you look like you’re having a good time, we’ll be drawn to your picture.
While we may think that we have a “good side” and a “bad side”, in reality, these are perceptions in our own minds that are not evident to others. As long as we can see you, you’re showing your “good side”!
Wear a neutral colored dress or shirt. V-necks accentuate the neckline and work well. Heavy patterns or colors may be distracting.
Hair & Makeup
Light makeup can be used.
- Ladies should do their hair and makeup as they would if going out for a casual-to-upscale event. In other words, it shouldn’t be overly heavy or glamorized.
- For ladies, focusing on light makeup to accentuate the eyes will be effective, as your eyes will be the most prominent feature in your photo.
- Men with a heavy “5 o’clock shadow” area, even after shaving, should use some light foundation or concealer to cover it up.
These days, any camera will do, but a good tripod will work wonders.
- Given advances in digital photography technology, almost any camera or phone will work well. There’s no advantage to using professional equipment.
- If you don’t want to take the photo yourself, you can ask a friend to help you with your photo session.
- If taking the photo yourself, you’ll need a tripod (or homemade equivalent), and you’ll want to set your timer, so that you can get into position prior to the photo being taken.
After you take a few photos, take a look at them and ask yourself, “do I like it?” and “is this the best I can do?” If the answer is “yes”, you’re done. But if it’s “no”, then make adjustments to the items we’ve covered above, and try again!