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“What’s your rates for a headshot - I just need one simple shot…”

“What’s your rates for a headshot - I just need one simple shot…”

I’ve heard this phrase in conversation over the phone, as well as read it in countless e-mail correspondences.

Although that assessment affects my senses like long, pointy fingernails screeching across a chalkboard, completely undermining my experience, passion and love for what I do, another part of me understands that people often base their opinions purely on face value.

And, to a certain extent, I get it.

When they view my studio headshots, they don’t see much involved - a plain, gray background, a tightly cropped face, and the top of their shoulders, that’s it

I can see how, based on optics, they would think this is a layup of a photoshoot and shouldn’t have a premium price tag.

However, they don’t realize that visual simplicity is the goal, and in order to create it effectively, a lot of moving parts are simultaneously in play.

At its core, every headshot session aims to produce images with authentic, facial expressions that present confident, approachable and likable aspects of the client’s personality, and eliminate any distracting elements that would take away from that goal.

In order to do that, there’s a variety of technical, physical and psychological considerations at play from shot-to-shot..

Technical - this involves camera settings, lighting and backdrop.  You want the lighting to be clean, with minimal shadows, and the focus of the shot on the client’s eyes.  

After several sessions, technical considerations become fairly automatic for the photographer, which is important because the other two factors are way more labor intensive and variable based on their client's’ appearance, personality and temperament.

Physical - photographers are constantly moving, turning and tweaking their clients faces, body posture and head angle to discover their most flattering angles.

This is why I describe a successful headshot session as a game of minutia - inch your nose a little here, drop your chin down a touch there, swing your shoulder over here, straighten your posture, rotate your head a little bit, etc.

It’s all about placing the client in a position where their entire face and body supports their facial expression.

Psychological - this factor makes or breaks the entire session, and is the most challenging for the photographer.  In order to get these amazing expressions, the client must not only feel comfortable in his or her own skin, but, be comfortable with the photographer behind the camera.

Once there’s trust and rapport between the two, then, the photographer must inspire a wide range of expression out of the client - photographers have their own ways to achieve this.

I basically talk a lot of shit and make them laugh.  That always leads to great results, :)

How do you feel about your headshot? Send me a link to it and I’ll be sure to share my opinion with you!

John DeMatoComment