Help with Headshot Photoshoot

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by jaredwaynef, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. jaredwaynef macrumors member

    Aug 23, 2009
    Hey guys, long time lurker of these forums here,

    All of you do some awesome work, and I've perused the forums for an upcoming photoshoot I'm doing for a friend. She needs a professional looking headshot for a few articles she's getting published in a few publications. I've read a lot of the tips and tricks all of you have, but probably my biggest concern is not with my camera, focus, etc, but her.

    Don't get me wrong she's a fun person, but I know from random experiences with her in the past that when the camera gets in front of her. She can get shy and her smiles and face can easily appear forced and unwelcoming.

    SO my underlying question with all of this is: for those of you that do portraits or work with human subjects, what do you recommend doing to help "break the ice" with a model/subject? She's in her mid to late 20's, so I don't think jingling keys will work like it has for me in the past (I used to do baby young children photos). :D

    Thanks for any helpful advice in general. I'm kinda stressing out about this shoot because it's my first of its kind, and I don't want to make awful mistakes.
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    The best thing you can do it keep shooting and talking to her about anything she is interested in. Find a subject that she is truly into and you'll see her light up I bet. I've done a fair amount of head shots and for the ones who seem to be more uptight, I find just having conversations with them and not asking them to pose much helps.
  3. Dwee8le macrumors member

    Aug 1, 2010
    Amsterdam, Holland

    More or less the same advice as above: what I have learned from a good portrait photographer that usually shoots actors or singers: let them do a piece that they are comfortable with. For actors/singers that should be the moment where they're most comfortable: singing their song or doing that one monologe.

    So, try to create a situation in which she is more/most comfortable. Maybe ask her to speak about her favorite song or band or movie and ask her questions about that to get her talking and shoot away... Those shots should be more "real" than those forced posed pictures. Maybe also using some zoom lense so you are not right in her face shooting a picture, but there is more distance (like 135mm or something).

    Good luck!
  4. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Scotch. :)
    OK, seriously... Take your time. When she arrives sit somewhere in your studio... not quite in front of the camera, but somewhere nearby where she can get acclimated to the space. Chat for a bit. Offer her a drink - wine or something - and have one yourself. In your case, though, just sip... you need to stay sharp. When you and she are comfortable then move her into position. Move her in the middle of an interesting conversation.

    Use a remote trigger... preferably a longish one. You want to be able to sit next to the camera where you can engage her without the camera coming in between. You'll have to have everything set up ahead of time, so you are only doing last minute adjustments. Frame the scene fairly wide to give yourself good cropping room. The photo is going to be reproduced fairly small, it sounds like, so cropping won't affect anything.

    Now just pick up the conversation where you left off, get her talking again, and start posing her. You might have to resort to "ambush" shots where you just basically have a conversation and fire the shutter when you like what you see. At times you can go back and repose something you liked and didn't quite get. You can also get her to hold a pose, and then talk with her as she holds that pose.

    Good Luck.
  5. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    You haven't said whether you'll be using strobes or not, but if you will be in a situation where you can fire off bursts of frames, that could help a lot. With people who tend to have more strained poses and tense smiles, it's usually the moment they think they're 'done' that they tend to relax and look natural. If you're popping off individual shots, it can be difficult to catch that moment of relaxation, so it helps to shoot a burst of many frames at once so you end up getting that natural 'moment after' on the tail end of the burst.
  6. jaredwaynef thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 23, 2009
    Thanks everyone! I appreciate the advice. Honestly, I was planning on having her sip (clearly not get trashed off) wine. It made sense to me knowing that wine probably won't get her completely crazy but will loosen her up. So that's definitely a piece of advice that helps me to hear from someone else that shoots professionally. It's kind of a relief :)

    Secondly I'm not using strobes. I'm just using my own flashes. I have a 530EX and a 430EX II. I'll also be using a couple of white light lamps that I have for a little extra lighting, but nothing professional (I'm still just starting out in the world of portraits, so I haven't invested in quality studio gear yet, although I plan to).

    The zoom lens is a great idea. I'll have to rent one though as I've always focused on landscape and videography since I purchased my DSLR. So most of my lenses are shorter in focal length. But I'll test those out too. (I'm too in love with my 17-55 f/2.8 especially when it's stopped down.)

    But again thanks a ton. :) I love this forum so much. :D
  7. ocabj macrumors 6502a


    Jul 2, 2009
    Unless you gel your flashes or continuous lighting to match, don't mix lights. Color temps won't match and things will look off.
  8. jaredwaynef thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 23, 2009
    I don't know why that never even occurred to me...:eek:

    Thanks for potentially saving my white balance and everything. :)
  9. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    May not be issue... depending on a few things. If you going to present a B&W image, then the colour doesn't matter.

    If you are shooting in colour, then test the colour of your lights. It may be possible to selectively light the background (for instance) with a cooler light. The warmth on the subject will balance nicely against the cool background.

    If you are shooting just a headshot, you may need only two lights on the subject. One main light and one hair light (which is not as necessary if she has light hair.) You can fill the shadow side with a reflector.

    Alternatively put her next to a big bright window with indirect light, and use a single flash more or less above the camera to put the catch-light in the eyes. Keep the lighting simple for a headshot. You'll be more relaxed, and that will help her relax. Remember, this is a photograph of her - not a test of your lighting skills. Keep it simple...
  10. TimTheEnchanter macrumors 6502a


    Oct 24, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Have a video for you to watch, Peter Hurley and his "Art Behind the Headshot" session from the G+ Photographers Conference.
    (skip the first 1:30 of him tossing shirts and hats to the crowd)

    Peter is one of the best headshot photographers out there right now. Beyond lighting, it's all about connection with your subject and how to make that connection.
  11. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2010
    i remember reading an interview with a prominent portrait photographer (can remember who now tho :()

    basically he would just fire of the flashes a few times, try a few standard poses etc, and then tell who ever he was photographing he 'had the picture' but he'd shoot a few more for fun and to make sure.

    As the person (he photographed a lot of celebrities) loosened up as they thought he had the picture he needed, they would relax...and then he would really start to photograph them...
  12. acearchie macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2006
    Sounds like a good idea! Definitely going to try that one in the future although I don't want to get to the stage where I then have to backtrack and explain that I never had "the shot!"
  13. Dhelsdon macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2010
    Canadian Eh!
    There is some very interesting ideas in here!

    I've never done a portrait shoot myself either so these tips are very helpful, and they make total sense.
  14. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    I tell my students that doing portraiture can be both the easiest, and the most difficult kind of photography.

    Easiest because you can do good portrait photography with a minimum of equipment. A single 90-135mm lense and a good window. There is Hollywood photographer who shoots movie stars in his garage... using the light that spills through the door.

    It can be the most difficult because it means dealing with people. The best portraitists are also good at making people play their part in front of the camera. Some photographers are much better with food. Or silverware. Or a box of something. :)

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