Headshots. Why we love them. Why we hate them. Why we NEED them.

Headshots.  

A word that immediately brings fear and loathing in Oklahoma. :-) Seriously though- why do we even need headshots to begin with? Well a headshot is generally used by professionals to allow clients a chance to see who they will be working with.  People will judge you by that photo.  They will form an opinion of you before they have even met you, just based on your photo.  I know- harsh right? But it's true.  A good headshot can really be an amazing thing.  You might get that date, job, book or movie deal based on your photo.  A bad headshot can have the opposite affect.  A headshot- like ANY photo in the world- can be interpreted in so many ways; ultimately you are the one that is going to have to be happy with it and how it represents YOU.  

Few may know this about me- but I am extremely picky.  Especially ESPECIALLY about how I look in a photo.  I loathe being in front of the camera.  I know, it does seem a little strange considering my career is taking photos, making clients feel comfortable in front of the camera, fixing hair, adjusting shirts or ties, coaching you into position- but seriously.  I don't like being on the opposite end of the lens.  Many fellow photographers and close friends have offered to take my photo- but I know how picky I am- and I wouldn't want to put them through my process.  I am very critical about my smile, how I'm positioned, my hair- I drive myself crazy. lol  When a client comes to me, and expresses their apprehension for the camera I understand you.  Believe me. 

I've gotten comments about my current headshot over the years, such as:  "What's with the big shadow behind your head?"  "Why is it so bright?"  "Why are the shadows so harsh?"  Why Why Why.  Why? Because I wanted it that way.  Because I like it.  Because for the first time in my life I was photographed in a way that made me feel pretty, made me feel confident, and more importantly- happy!  I shot myself that way because that is exactly how I wanted ME to look.  I shouldn't have to explain it- that photograph was for me.  I also have to consider where the questions are coming from- other photographers.  Do I take it personally?  Heck no.  

So when it comes to your headshot, how do you prepare?  How should you smile? How should your hair be styled? What are you going to wear? There are many questions, but perhaps I can put your mind at ease (just a little) by helping you out and giving you some pointers.  

Serious? Smile? Sqinch? 

Serious? Smile? Sqinch? 

My advice:  Dress as if you were going to the office.  Most of the headshots I shoot are women and men working in offices as attorney's, news anchors, business owners. You will already have the wardrobe.  You will already know how you will want your hair, makeup, etc.  Practice smiling in the mirror.  Seriously- I've done it.  I know exactly how I want my smile to look and I have to practice it over and over again so that when I'm in front of the camera I can pull it off.  Do you want to show your teeth when you smile?  You can smile without opening your mouth by letting your eyes do the talking and still have a great shot!  Being in front of the lens is a strange thing.  You forget everything and you instantly feel uncomfortable.  I think for me it's even worse because I am by myself. :-) Practice how you want your arms positioned in the shot, do you want them crossed? Hands in pockets? On your hips, at your sides?  What looks better?  Practice with the shirt or dress you will be wearing for the shoot, that way you can see how it photographs as you are moving around.  You might notice that the shirt you want to use for your headshot wrinkles in a weird spot- or maybe you can see through it.

Practice moving your face up and down.  Do you look better with your chin down slightly?  Which side do you find yourself photographing more-if you take a lot of selfies you might notice a pattern.  These are all important things to know, these are things the average person doesn't really think about until it's picture day.  Believe me, I had no idea I even had a side until my headshot 2 years ago.  I'm always positioning myself to the right, and turning my face to the camera.  I know if I do it the opposite way- I look funny- not haha funny- weird funny.  

Some people squint when they smile- I know I do, slightly more on my left eye, making it appear a little smaller.  I've done that my whole life, I can't help it.  There are ways to position your face to as to minimize that (and I will do that for you- so don't worry about it!) but I still choose to photograph myself the way I do because the way I see it- it's me.  It's a part of my face, it's what it does when I smile- I can't change it. Take it or leave it.  

The hair.  Men- you have it easy.  You are the lucky ones who get to spray it with water in the morning, run your fingers through it and your good to go.  You may however want to think about the last time you got your hair cut.  You can never go wrong with a good cut and shave before pictures.    WE on the other hand have to get out the irons.  Curly, straight, flattened, shiny, middle part, side part, ends flipped, ends straight, hair up, hair down.  So. Many. Options.  You may even want to get your hair done before your headshot that way it's one less thing to think about.  I can only speak for me, if I don't straighten my hair it will look like a brown christmas tree.  I'm not even joking.  It is so thick and wavy- it will not lay flat on it's own.  It takes about 10 minutes to dry with a hairdryer, 30 minutes to straighten, then I like to spray some stuff on it. Believe me, my hair is a process which is why I always wear it up and out of the way.  Bottom line: wear your hair and makeup as if you were going to the office or out to a nice dinner.  Wear it in a way that you are used to that is tried and true.  

So what to wear?  Guys, again you may have it easier- some nice shirts, perhaps 1 or 2 different colors- 1 or 2 different sports coats, pick a matching tie and handkerchief and you are set!  I like to photograph against gray or white- mostly gray.  Picking shirts/jackets/dresses that stand out against that color is a good idea.  Guys, white shirts, dark jackets- ties that stand out- Ladies- colors that will stand out against the gray- I love bold colors- but staying away from patterns or stripes for a headshot is a good idea.  Think about what this headshot is for.  It's not a yearbook photo- this isn't picture day at school- this is YOU- the handsome, beautiful, smiling, professional.  

Headshots are hard.  They really are.  All photographs are personal.  Family photos for example feature your whole family and the attention can be divided between your face and the faces of your children and your spouse.  A headshot is just you.  Your face, your smile, your hair.  You.  There is no escape, the camera doesn't lie- it's just you- front and center and a lot of people just squirm at the idea.  Make it personal, make it fun.  You are handsome, you are beautiful.  I want to make you feel that way.  If I can make you feel amazing after seeing yourself on the big screen- I have done my job folks.  Stand in front of a mirror and work on your angles and your smile- it's that simple.  Discover what angles you like, what smile you like, and what looks you want to avoid.  Of course I will guide you throughout the shoot- but the more you know about yourself beforehand, the better prepared you will be when we shoot.

I made myself feel amazing 2 years ago with my headshot.  I was responsible for my happiness, my confidence, my smile, and the way I felt.  That being said, I made myself feel amazing today.  

                                               I am happy, oh so happy....

                                               I am happy, oh so happy....

So until next week peeps!  Smile!  It's free!

 

~Leia

 

Leia Smethurst

Leia Smethurst Photography, PO Box 18694 , Oklahoma City, OK 73154, United States