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What Does a Quality Headshot | Portrait Look Like?

Orange County Headshot | Portrait Photographer

What to Look For In a Quality Headshot | Portrait

Recently I photographed the upper school faculty at Tarbut V’Torah, a private Jewish day school in Irvine. This orange county headshot | portrait photographer wanted to do a kind of modern day, Irving Penneque theme. Just a simple grey seamless with minimal props. Teachers were encouraged to bring props that were either personal or directly related to the subject they taught or their position at the school.

orange county headshot | portrait photographer

The set up was quite simple. A 3’x4′ Chimera softbox camera right, with a ProFoto 300w/s compact flash head f8.0 – f11.0, a 2’x4′ strip light with another ProFoto 300w/s compact flash head was positioned camera left as a kicker about a stop less and a white Lastolite 33″ Tri Grip silver/white reflector directly opposite the softbox for fill. A Canon 5D Mark III with an 85mm 1.2 L was used for all portraits. Pocket Wizards were used to trigger the lights. A 12′ grey seamless for the background.

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So what does a client look for in a quality headshot | portrait photography? 1] Clean, crisp work that my clients can not create with a point and shoot or even with an off the shelf DSLR. 2] Gorgeous lighting. Possibly they can’t put a finger on exactly what makes it look special, but, it should be flattering light and possibly dramatic. 3] Expression: A quality headshot | portrait should show someone’s personality. Their human side or even their quirky side that tells the viewer something about them that they would not have known. 4] Is there a congruent theme? When doing a folio of group of portraits is there a uniting theme that ties the story line together? It’s important to note the these portraits were done on three separate days to accommodate teaching schedules. However the theme and the look is consistent. 5] For this shoot, which ultimately will be used for public relations, the skin tones have to look natural. If this were a fashion shoot or a more stylized shoot we could have gone black & white, possibly toned the images blue. or even desaturated them a bit. 6] It’s been said that “The eyes are the window to the soul.” For this shoot it was important to me that their eyes are easily seen. This is accomplished by having the softbox positioned shoulder height {length wise for the catch light and tilted up slightly for to create a natural vignette}, chin turned slightly towards the light, so that the eyes are filled with light and the catch light appears at three o’clock. As teachers who are constantly around children from grades k-12, it is important to me that they are portrayed as approachable and warm. Especially the fact that the parents will be judging the school largely by its faculty and curriculum. As photographers we have the ability to make deliberate choices of how we portray our subjects. Some esthetic considerations that come to mind are lighting and lens choices. 7] Posing or ‘Un-posing.’ How is the subject standing. Do they look comfortable, or uncomfortable? Are the hands properly posed? What are the hands doing? I do take the time to give direction when photographing headshots and portraits. It is important to me that individuals look and feel 100% comfortable. If I sense that they may feel or look awkward I’ll make the necessary connections and corrections to their posture, their stance, the tilt of their head, the direction of light, their body language and what their hands are doing. Paying special attention to tension held in the shoulders, furrowed brows, wrinkled foreheads and facial expressions, are tell tale signs of comfortability. 8] Connection. Each portraits session was done in under 15 minutes, most in 10 minutes or less. Its my job as a human being and photographer to create a connection with each subject. This does two things. a) It puts the person being photographed at ease, b) distracts them from the obvious – being photographed and c) Its just fun to connect, learn something about who they are, share some common ground and hopefully have a laugh together too. I know my equipment inside and out, and can chit-chat with ease while I’m behind the lens. In the beginning of my photography career this was hard to do. Now , it is second nature for me. Through practice and mastery, knowing your gear, and not having to think about what you are doing will allow you to be at ease and put your subjects at ease too.

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Marc Weisberg is an award-winning photographer based in Irvine, California. Marc specializes in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Portraiture. He’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and engaging images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 949.494.5084…. or email.

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