Forget going out to hire a professional photographer to get your headshots done. You can do it yourself at home with your own equipment. All you need to learn is how to take a good headshot of yourself like a pro. You don’t even need any fancy pieces of equipment or a large studio.
If you are taking headshots of other people to help with your own portfolio, or if you’re just new to professional photography and haven’t done headshots before, this guide will help immensely! We’re going to show you how to take a good headshot using some pro tips, like how to use lighting to your advantage, how to dress, and what tools you’ll need to get the job done.
The Best Equipment For Headshots
To take a good headshot yourself, you’ll need a few simple and inexpensive pieces of equipment. But don’t worry, it’s not much. You mostly need to worry about having sufficient light and a steady tripod.
For lighting, you’ll want a reliable reflector. This is a tool that will create extra light. You have to focus it where it needs to go, to better showcase the face. You can easily set up an inexpensive reflector out of view of the photo. With a reflector, you can make a person’s face have an extraordinary glow while giving them twinkles in their eyes.
You’ll need a remote. This will allow you to take the photograph without actually touching the camera. Whether you have a smartphone or a professional DSLR camera, a remote is critical because you don’t want to physically touch the camera when taking the shot.
That leads us to the tripod. Since you’re not going to touch the camera, you need a tripod to keep the camera steady and avoid shaky photographs. Be sure that your tripod is tall enough to give you a photograph of your subject at eye level.
Finally, always make sure that you have enough batteries and memory cards so that your day of shooting won’t end with insufficient memory space or a dead camera!
What To Wear For Headshots
Headshots all have to do with the model’s face. But since being naked is ill-advisable, you’re going to want to have the subject be dressed in plain, neutral clothing that doesn’t distract from their face. A grey shirt, a plain button-up, a dark turtleneck – anything that’s not loud or noisy. No bright colors. Everything should appear natural. You don’t want distracting patterns or busy colors that draw the eye away from the face.
As a side note, it’s important not to wear anything like sunglasses or accessories – and when it comes to makeup, be sure to keep it to a minimum and looking natural.
The Best Location For Headshots
Headshots can be taken inside in a makeshift studio or in the great outdoors. So long as you have plenty of natural light, you can take headshots anywhere. The big difference between headshots and ordinary pictures for portraits is that you really don’t want any background to stand out or dominate the picture. Whatever is in the background should be secondary and should complement the person’s face.
To be honest, the background can be anything. At the beach, in front of a building, beside a plain wooden fence, or at home in front of a white wall. You’re going to be using a bokeh effect to bring the subject’s face into focus while blurring the background, so as long as the colors don’t clash and there isn’t too much business in the background, you’ll be okay.
When shooting outdoors, it’s ideal to shoot in the shade. Yes, you want maximum natural light, but the shade will provide an even amount of light for the subject’s face. Never shoot in direct sunlight, as this will oversaturate the picture and make the headshot seem off-putting. Try to have as little color in the background as possible. Also, be sure whatever color there is works well with the clothing your subject is wearing.
The Right Pose For A Headshot
Having the right pose and the right expression is critical to getting the best headshots. Remember that headshots are to showcase a person as a professional. It’s not about who wore it best or who has the nicest smile, it’s about displaying someone in a way that makes them professionally desirable.
Always keep the camera at eye level. This is very important. You want a classical portrait feeling, and this only comes when taking the picture at eye level. Low or high angles are extremely unflattering. Plus, it’s not about creativity. Headshots should be as simple as it gets.
But there is one angle that you want to capitalize on: the best angle. Everyone has a good side, and you want to capture this in the headshots by having the subject stand slightly sideways to show the best angle that makes them the most photogenic. This will also help the subject to feel more confident during the shooting.
To capture the best angle, the subject should be standing sideways with their head gently turned so that most – but not all – of their face is visible. This always yields the best results.
And as for the expression, keep it flat. A slight smile, a content look, an approachable smirk. Use your discretion and play with whatever expressions make the subject feel the most confident and look the most approachable.
Laughing is honestly a hit or miss with headshots. An open-mouthed smile can sometimes be a bit too much to convey approachability. It differs from person to person. Usually, somewhere between a roaring laugh and a thin smile is the sweet spot. Try having your subject think about something happy to get a natural smile that’s not too dramatic. Or if you want to step it up, tell them a joke and get a natural laugh. Just never try to fake a laugh, as fake laughter is easily noticeable and will look awful in a headshot.
If you’re looking for a deeper, more serious headshot, try moving the camera closer to the subject to get a more expressive picture. Expressions are always intensified the closer the person’s face is to the camera. You can have them tilt their head slightly up or slightly down to change the intensity.
What Camera Settings To Use For A Headshot
Now that you know what to wear, what equipment to bring, and what poses to strike, it’s time to talk camera settings. There are some basic camera settings that will help you capture the most amazing headshots as a photographer.
First of all, you want to always shoot in manual mode to have full control of things like aperture and shutter speed. Automatic mode can work, but you don’t want to chance it with headshots. These are very important. If you’re using a smartphone and not a camera, consider downloading a manual camera app to help you finetune the camera settings.
There are four key settings to keep in mind. The first is ISO. You’re going to be shooting with a whole lot of natural light, so the ISO should be kept extremely low. The lower the ISO, the less grainy your photos will be.
Second, is the shutter speed. This should be set to very fast. The faster your shutter speed, the sharper your photos. Since you’re dealing with people’s faces, you want the shutter to open and close quickly to make the pictures sharp and crisp.
The color temperature should always be set to neutral. This is part of the theme for headshots. Everything should be neutral and natural. Never set your color temperature too cold or too warm.
Finally, the most important setting is the aperture. You want the subject’s face to stand out above all else in the picture, with the background being blurred. For this to work properly, you need a large aperture setting. This means a smaller f-stop, somewhere around f/1.8 or f/2.5.
Using a larger aperture will capture all the important details of the subject’s face while creating a relaxing blur effect with the background. The smaller the aperture, the blurrier the background. You may have to mess around with the settings a little to get the best effect, but it can be done.
Taking headshots is actually pretty simple. You need a tripod, lots of natural light, a plain background, and a bit of creativity. Remember to always have your subject dress in plain clothes that aren’t too busy, always try your best to capture their best side, and always shoot at eye level.
Keep the aperture large for a pleasant blurring effect, make your subject laugh or smile to catch them at their best, and don’t be afraid to mess around with different poses and expressions. And last but not least, if you’re taking headshots with a smartphone, download a manual camera app and connect your phone to a tripod to prevent shaky pictures.