Any Experience with Headshots?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Shacklebolt, Mar 8, 2008.

  1. Shacklebolt macrumors 6502a


    Sep 2, 2004
    So, I've looked up some rudimentary stuff about headshots online - namely, black and white headshots are out, face and 3/4 shots are the standards, that f/4 is the widest an aperture should really go, that lighting is paramount (that one's obvious) and the background shouldn't be solid but shouldn't be flashy either. That and patterned shirts are a no no.

    Any other experiences/advice?
  2. TWLreal macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2006
    You should lead your crosshair by a little bit to compensate for bullet travel and network or computer lag.

    But in all seriousness, how do you explain f/4 as being the widest you should go?

    My go-to lens for portraits is a f/2.8 and people go even lower with f/1.8, 1.4 or 1.2 primes.

    I wouldn't follow any strict rules, just go with it. If it looks good, it looks good.

    Telephoto lenses generally give a better perspective. I'm more of a technical person so I can't just give out general advice.
  3. Everythingisnt macrumors 6502a


    Jan 16, 2008
    I have had excellent results with a tripod mounted camera w/ telephoto lens.

    And who said b&w headshots are out?? :(
  4. Mac 13 macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2007
    Los Angeles,Ca
    Sounds like okay advised but where did you get it from? I haven't found anything on the net and it's hard to get any info from establish photographers. :confused:
  5. Shacklebolt thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Sep 2, 2004
  6. GuyNextDoor macrumors member

    Jan 30, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    Hey Shack,

    Total noob here, so forgive any protocol faux pas...

    I had headshots taken 3 years ago, so I can relate my experience from the other side of the camera:

    - When my shots were taken, it was still OK to shoot B&W, only because color reproduction was less perfected and pricey (color was pretty much becoming the norm in LA for film/TV, but B&W was OK for NYC because of live theatre traditions). Today, color is IT for new shots, only people working from older shots can get away with submitting B&W. My photog shot RAW so he could produce either. I've got the B&W version, but have to switch over to color when my latest batch of repros runs out.

    - Your thoughts on composition sound good - some shooters who've mastered the lighting and composition requirements do sometimes use unique backgrounds (brick walls, rooftops, streets), but done badly (and I've seen some of those) it becomes distracting and detracts from the purpose of the shot, which is to make the subject look their best. (There's nothing like seeing a streetlamp sticking out of someone's head like an antler; LOL) There are probably photogs who break the "patterned shirt" rule, too.

    - More on that point; some subjects (and photogs) will overdue makeup/lighting/post-production looking for a perfect portrait, but casting people HATE when the h/s is so overproduced that it doesn't look like the subject anymore. Auditions are given based on the face in the picture, and if that person doesn't walk through the door, the casting director will be pissed at their wasted time, will likely reject the actor no matter how good they might be, and WILL remember them in the future. The best description of a h/s I've heard is, it should look like the subject on their BEST day.

    - Don't know about proper aperture, but make sure entire subject falls into DOF (no fuzzy nose-tips or ears). And my photog bounced light up under my chin & nose to eliminate those shadowy areas.

    - I've seen hundreds of h/s, and the most important feature to capture is likely the eyes. In the best shots, there is a spark of life in the eyes that makes you linger on the picture and piques your interest in the person pictured. In the ho-hum ones, they eyes are dead, and the picture is not engaging, no matter how beautiful the subject may be.

    In NYC and LA, the most prestigious reproduction shop (and probably the most pricey) is called simply "Reproductions". Go to, they have galleries of samples from scores of pros in those cities. See what you future peers are doing. If you're in/near NYC or LA, they also keep more extensive books of samples that anyone can come and browse.

    Some shooters are excellent generalists, while others seem to excel with certain subject types (women, model-types, "regular" people, etc). As a "regular" guy, I looked for someone whose book had good shots of my type. As you build your portfolio, you may see a pattern emerge from your best work; could help you target your marketing and build a niche for yourself.

    Sorry for being long-winded, but I hope that helps a little.

    Good Luck!

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