The headshot photo | Always different, always the same
I had to change my car recently, and it’s been an interesting exercise choosing a new one. All cars are basically the same aren’t they? They all have a steering wheel, seats, a dashboard. You turn the key, put it in gear and drive off. They do the same job – get you from A to B. But they’re all different too aren’t they? Sit in the driving seat of a car for the first time and you’re wondering where the switch is to turn on the headlights. The windscreen wipers and indicators are the wrong way round (or even on the same stalk!), you don’t know which side the petrol cap’s on, or how to adjust the seats. It goes on and on.
But underneath these differences, the fundamentals are the same.
I could just as easily be describing professional headshot photos, or business portraits.
I better start by making this point quite clear. A headshot photo is not the same as a general portrait. It’s a quite specific business portrait. Which means it has a specific job to do. It is a representation of you (of course) – allowing customers and potential clients see what you look like. But in a business context. It’s not the same as a snapshot of you on a night out. So you’ll be dressed as you do for work. But it also has a second, subtler role to perform. It asays something about you as a person. It shows a little bit of your personality to the viewer. How it does that differs from shot to shot. And that’s where the differences start to build up.
I’ve included a few examples from several shoots to show the similarities and differences between headshots. They’re all, basically, the same photo – that is, a head and shoulders portrait of somebody. But look how different they all are. The range of expressions; the degree of formality, or lack of; the dress codes; the amount of space around the subject; the colour of the background; the decision to go black and white or colour. All of these things lend a certain meaning to each individual shot, and make each headshot unique.
(You can also choose to go outdoors, or use the office environment as a background. I’ve done both of those things on plenty of occasions. But for most headshots intended for social media, I’d recommend making that background as plain and distraction-free as possible).
A headshot is as individual as the way you cut your hair or wear your clothes. And part of the trick of taking a great headshot is finding out what you want to get across, and helping you achieve that. That starts with a conversation – so feel free to call or email to get the ball rolling.
(And yes, I did steal that phrase in the title from the late, great John Peel).