Headshot session


I have just had the privilege of working with a professional young actor who needed up-to-date head-shots to submit to casting directors in the film and television drama industries.

Producing head-shots that are more than just pictures of faces is a challenging task; in a practical, methodological sense, it is partly about lighting, partly about technique and partly about the final processing choices being appropriate for the portraits' end usages. Ninety-nine percent of it however is about the development of communication and rapport between subject and photographer and advancing a comfortable and friendly two-way relationship. This ensures that initial nervousness is progressively eliminated and the essential character of a person is coaxed out and revealed through natural, emotionally subtle expression.

Without meaningful two-way communication, comfort and spontaneity will suffer and there will be barriers between subject, camera and tog that will hinder the path to successful results. It will often take a few dozen attempts to relax into natural poses and postures, but there is always a time in a shoot where everything flows smoothly and productively with subject and photographer working in harmony.

Left: Felix

Nikon D810, 85mm f1.8 Nikkor, ISO 64, Natural light with silver reflector below camera, 1/250 second at f2.8, tripod

23rd January 2016

Nailing camera focus on the eyes is essential for a successful portrait, as the eyes have to engage intently with the viewer. If either photographer or subject misses their focussing target, by even a tiny margin, the lack of engagement is always apparent - and viewers are not going to relate as fully as they would if the focus was pin-sharp on the eyes.

Left: Felix

Nikon D810, 85mm f1.8 Nikkor, ISO 64, Natural light with silver reflector below camera, 1/250 second at f2.8, tripod

Conversion to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro

23rd January 2016

When you are working with a fast aperture, like f2.8, acquiring accurate focus is critical. Depth of field at that f-number means that a millimetre is the difference between sharp and blurry. And it's not a challenge for just the tog either... It's hard having a lens thrust in your face for an hour or more while someone fires off dozens of shots from behind the viewfinder. Even a professional actor like Felix can find the process repetitive and tiring. Eyes need to be focussed directly onto an imaginary point inside the barrel of the camera lens - and pose, posture and expression need to be relaxed, natural and controlled all at the same time.

As ever, you can learn all about the theory of head-shot lighting and the nitty-gritty of the equipment you're using - you can know your accessories, light modifiers and methods inside-out and back-to-front - but, ultimately, it's all about timing the shot at the moment when the character is revealed - and it's about working together as a team to nail the split second of the shot that captures it.


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