With Nationals for dance, skating and a variety of other sports and activities coming up, I’m often asked if I can ‘take a quick head shot.’  For me, having a client into the studio for a ‘quick shot’ defeats the purpose of hiring a professional.  Our sessions are meant to be fun, memorable, and are designed to give you a large variety of images to choose from.  Our sessions are a bare minimum of 30 minutes.  ‘Quickies’ are best taken at home with your own camera.  Now that does NOT mean that mean that every photo taken at home has to be of poor quality, or even that it has to look unprofessional.  Nor does not mean that you have to spend oodles of money on expensive gear.

Here’s a quick tutorial for taking  a head shot at home that will be suitable for sending off for programs at your upcoming events.

Any camera will do.  Point and shoot, DSLR, etc. They are all good. I would not recommend doing this with your phone, however if your phone is a  newer model smart phone, and 5 or more megapixels, it will work for you in a pinch.

First, find a nice big window.  No fancy studio set up required.  Next get a big piece of white cardboard.  Your kids likely have this somewhere in the house from their last school project.  No cardboard? A white sheet of paper will also work.  Roll up the blinds so that you don’t have ‘lines’ across your subject’s face, and use your curtains to block or diffuse (make softer) any light that hits their face in an awkward way, or that casts any big shadows.  This window faces east and the time was about 11:00 AM.  Here’s my setup:  (My apologies for the dust bunnies and the doggie chew toy in the picture; but I did say that no fancy set up was required! )

Location for natural light headshot

Now remember, you want a head shot;  not a portrait.  No hands should be in the picture. Hands are for portraits. Head shots show expression, and are all about the person’s …. yes, you guessed it, face.  If done well, the face will express the personality.

I had the the subject sit on the edge of the sofa. Front shoulder dropped down with the hair off of that shoulder to better show the face.  I held the cardboard with my right hand and moved it around until it reflected the light to ‘light up’ her face and lighten any dark shadows that might have been under her eyes due to her staying up too late doing homework.

Here you can see the positioning:

Shine Photo: Natural Light Tutorial

Finally, I zoomed in and took the head shot. Again remember, it’s about the face.  Only a bit of the shoulder should show in a head shot. Keep any makeup natural, and wear clothes with a collar that flatters the wearer. Spaghetti straps or strapless tops are not usually attractive for a head shot, especially on younger subjects, as it can make it look like they are not wearing clothing.

Camera settings:  Canon 40D (my older 10 megapixel camera)  with a 24-105 L lens. Aperture Priority F8, ISO 100.  Here’s the key:  Make sure your flash is turned off!   Especially if you shoot in full automatic mode.  You can turn the flash off in your menu settings and some cameras will let you do it with a push or two of a button on the back or top of the camera. Even your phone will let you turn it off.

Download your picture to your computer or take it to a printer right on the card for printing. I used Photoshop CC to add my watermark and a little vignette around the edges to draw the attention to my subject’s face. Total time for this shot:  less than 10 minutes.  Wish I could clean my house in that time frame.

Finished Head Shot:Shine Photo: Natural Light Head Shot

If you find the settings confusing, join me for one of my workshops where we’ll teach you how to make full use of your camera in language that won’t give you a headache.  Click on the Photography Workshops tab at the top of the page for the latest dates and times.   Head shot sessions available at our studio for performing arts, and professionals starting at $99.00 for a one hours session with multiple clothing changes.