Headshot Portraits . Vancouver . 2019
After over a decade of creating portrait images for people and brands, I understand it can be an intimidating experience for some people. Having a big lens stuck in your face can be exciting but can also result in “the deer in the headlights” situation. My job as a portrait photographer is to capture the subjects personality. No pressure, really!
Usually prior to the portrait session, I’ve spoken to this person who’s about the come to my studio by email only and maybe over the phone for a few minutes. So I literally know nothing about this person and now I need to step into their personal space, try to make them feel comfortable in front of my camera and do my best to capture the personality of someone I just met.
We as people are often so self critical because we live in a society of make believe perfection. With perfectly photoshopped celebrities made to look 20 years younger then they are and in a world of perfectly curate Instagram selfies, it’s hard for everyone to feel great about all their imperfections. Women are specially harsh on themselves, when let’s face it, there is so much pressure to look like your 25 forever. We look at magazines, clothing advertising and everyone modeling doesn’t look a day over 30. So, of course, we want to look young, beautiful, sexy, sophisticated, etc.
Some of the usual things I hear are: “I never take a good photo”, “I’m not photogenic”, “I do this weird thing in photos”, “Can you fix these lines on my face?”. I heard it all and I know how it feel, because I feel the same way about myself. I usually hate photos of myself and I used to be in front of the camera for over 10 years when I windsurfed professionally and was the sports model for the all the brands that sponsored me.
I try to explain to clients, that the celebrities or most of them anyway, do not look like the cover of Instyle Magazine in real life. There is an entire production and team of artists working to make this person look like a million bucks. Lighting, professional hair and makeup, wardrobe styling and let’s not forget the hours of photoshop work involved in creating this perfect image of that person. If you took that same person with no professional hair and makeup, in frumpy clothing in the worst portrait lighting possible, they would look like a totally different person. Why do you rarely see pictures of celebrities looking like they just rolled out of bed on the street? because they know they are being watched and photographed and it might not always be in the most flattering light. Also, if you ever watch red carpet events and the actresses posing for the camera, they know exactly how to pose to look their best.
Posing is essential! Unless you’ve been a model and an actor, chances are you might not know how to pose to look your best. It’s my job as a photographer to guide the client. Sometimes you get people that are ok with being in front of the camera but a lot of he time you get people who have no idea what to do. Even more, we all have habits we do in everyday life that you never notice until it’s frozen in time on a photograph. Like the classic double chinner! Often people with no double chin, will unconsciously create a double chin by pushing their head back. Some people tend of push their pelvis forward which makes the midriff look bigger then it actually is.
Professional hair and makeup plays a big roll in creating stunning headshots and portraits. I’ve photographed so many women and the first thing they say to me when I suggest hiring a hair and makeup artist is: “well I don’t really wear makeup”. The thing is if you work with a talented makeup artist, which is a must for me, they do a really good job at doing makeup that looks like you’re almost not wearing any makeup. It’s about enhancing features and painting away the imperfections. And, what ever the makeup artist is not able to hide, it can usually be taken care off in photoshop.
Lighting is king! One of the main skills as professional photographer is the understanding and knowledge around light, how to use it and how to create it. It’s also equally as important to know what kind of lighting to use on a certain subject. You could use hard light on a young model but if you use hard light to take a photo of a women in her fifties, she probably won’t love the results. When it comes to creating portraits of a women so she can feel beautiful and make her skin look as youthful as possible, soft light is your best friend. It makes me so happy when a client falls in love with their own image.
As intimidating as it is for a client to be in front the lens, it equally as stressful for the photographer trying to capture the essence of this stranger, hoping that at the end of the session they will love the outcome. When doing headshot portraits, I do work with my client. I show them the images as we go along so they can get an understanding of what they look like through my camera and my direction. I do this, so there are no surprises. That way, if they are doing something they don’t like or not loving the way they look, we can work together to make sure they walk away a happy customer!
After all these images are not for me, they are for their own personal use, to put out into the world whether it’s for advertising on their website, the back of a bus, to show a casting director, on a dating site or good old social media.