In Lake County, Ohio we have a lot of marketing/communications professionals. Many of them belong to a local organization know as Lake Communicators. Every year, the organization publishes a directory of members (yes, some folks still like hardcopy) and list them on the web site. To make it easy for members to have a professional headshot, one of the photography members will agree to create member headshots. As Tom Szabo is one of the few remaining photographers in the group, he returned this year to conduct the photo shoot.
Prior to the luncheon meeting, Tom comes in early to set up a portable studio. The studio consists of camera, tripod, main light with a 7 foot diameter umbrella, back light, back drop, stool and light stands. Each member needing a new/updated head shot steps in front of the camera working with Tom to create a suitable image. Subjects do have the opportunity for a quick review of the image(s) and where requested, re-takes are provided.
Portraits can sometime make people a bit nervous. However, most members know Tom and He works with them to relax. The result is a headshot that appears confident and reflective of the persons personality.
Since the photography service is available before and after the luncheon meeting, there’s not a lot of time for casual conversation. However Tom finds a way to break the ice and ease members in front of the camera. These are professionals with busy schedules and not a lot of time. So most are sit down, a couple of quick words, pose direction, shoot and go on to the next person. That means all set up and lighting checks must be completed and finalized before members arrive.
Below is a gallery of this years work. For those of you photographed this year tom-szabo.com wishes to thank you for your time and hope you are pleased with the results.
Fashion magazines – OK, I admit to looking at them. No, No, really, I’m not that way. The fashion industry spends A LOT of money on photographers to advertise their products. So it stands to reason that they would be hiring the best fashion photographers, they can get. So why not look at their work for hints, tips and how to’s?
Next your going to ask me what should you look for. I’ll offer two things to look at: Poses and Lighting. Poses should be pretty straight forward. No you don’t have to expect your subjects to be professional models. But when you tell your child to hold for a picture, suggest body positioning or hand placement that you’ve observed in a magazine.
As far as lighting goes, start with reading catch lights. These are the white dots that appear in the subject’s eyes. If you look close enough you may be able to count the number of dots in a single eye. This will tell you how many light sources the photographer used. Upon further review you might be able to tell if they are round or square, further suggesting square reflectors, rectangular or square soft boxes or round for umbrellas.
In addition to the catch lights, look for highlights positioned against shadows. This will help you identify the main light position relative to the subject.
To help you get started, look at the images used in the article at this link. Tell me what you think or feel free to ask me your questions.
Can you determine the light source and direction for this portrait?
Portrait photography requires that you always think about lighting. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a boat-load of studio equipment or a cell phone. I found this short video demonstrating 3 different set ups. These set ups will demonstrate how you can change the result using some minor tweaks of lighting.
Obviously you’ll notice how much equipment a professional photographer uses. That’s not the point. The point here is when taking a picture of another person or persons, you have to open your eyes and plan your shot accordingly. I hope you find the video helpful! Feel free to post your questions, comments or thoughts.
Notice how your eye is drawn to the subject in this image?
Using LinkedIn as an example, look at the profile pictures that people use? In addition, have you noticed how many people don’t have a profile photo?
Let me offer some suggestions as to how your professional head shot should or should not look:
Lighting – Look at your photo to insure the lighting is even and flattering. Stay away from bright backgrounds when you are in shadow. When taking your picture in the office, use fill flash. This will keep the big black covers off your eyes. Oh yeah, take off the sunglasses. If you have dark hair, don’t stand in front of a dark or black wall. Your hair will practically disappear from your head.
Exposure – Many sites may darken your photo. So if your photo is already too dark, you may disappear from view. Check that your photo has enough brightness.
Location – Find a location that compliments you and makes you the appear as the subject. Stay away from photos taken at parties or your night out with the gang. In case no one told you, your car is absolutely the last place to take your professional head shot as a “selfie”. In addition, forget the “duck-lip” look.
Color Balance – If you want to look professional, use the proper white balance setting on your cell phone camera. This is why your picture looks overly red or blue. Pay attention to the ambient light. If there is a lot of a single color in the lighting (a lot of red lights from the neon Budweiser sign at the bar), go to another location.
Crop – There are way too many profile photos where the subject was cropped from a group photo. That hand on your shoulder from the person standing next to you is a dead give away. Crop the photo to include your head and shoulders. Don’t crop off the top of your head an ear or your chin. Stay away from cropping too little. You become almost unrecognizable when dropped from the waist to above your head.
Aspect Ratio – Make sure you maintain the correct aspect ration on your photo. That will prevent the photo from being squashed making you look like a “pin-head”. Make sure the file is sized so the image does not shrink after you upload it. When this happens, you may almost disappear on some screens.
Photo/No Photo? – Use a photo as opposed to the grey silhouette icon. Most professionals will delete connection requests from unknowns with no photo.
To truly be viewed of as a professional in your industry have a professionally created head shot done. How can you be viewed as valuable if you won’t invest in yourself? If you have any questions or want to learn more about your professional head shot, please feel free to contact me.
So how do begin to understand a photographer’s thought process? The best way is to spend time talking with a photographer. Most of us do not get the opportunity to speak with world renowned photographers. So here’s the next best thing, read an interview. Lauren Halligan of the Saratogian News, speaks with Sarah Pezdek-Smith about her work. See if you can pick up a helpful hint.
Let’s start by saying as soon as you press the shutter, your image is protected under federal copyright laws. Many social media sites are changing their “terms-of-service” to minimize or eliminate your rights under the copyright laws. Do you wonder why photographers are so fussy about protecting their work. You may say, “but I’m not a professional, so no big deal”. Maybe that’s true, but do you want to give up your rights so quickly? Copyrights first, then what?
Find out more by attending this free 1-hour webinar
If you’re not looking at your subject and visualizing the resulting photograph, chances are you’re DOOMED! That’s right take a quick look at the surrounding elements and the subject then ask yourself: How will this look when finished? For People Photography, the first thing you should check is whether the face is in shadow or not. If the face is in shadow, then move to illuminate the subjects face. In addition, what background elements are there to add or distract to the surrounding environment. Want to improve your photography? Read, Practice; Read, Practice; Read, Practice; then repeat.
Have you ever wondered why your pictures have a blue or yellow cast to them? Most likely you forgot to change the white balance setting. Want to understand White Balance and it’s effect on your pictures? Read the attached article.
After adding a contact on a professional social media platform, I was presented with a list of suggested contacts. I was amazed at how many connection suggestions had no or a poor profile photo. How can I confirm our connection if I can’t see who you are?
If you are going to add a profile photo to a site for professionals, please use these suggestions:
Use a neutral background. That means DON”T hang a sheet behind you!
Watch the angle of the flash. You don’t want a sliver of shadow to outline you.
If you’re taking the picture in your office, turn on the flash. You don’t want black eyes.
Use a professional pose. Don’t pose like you’re doing a porn shoot.
Forget the “selfie”. Have someone take the picture.
Resize the image to upload so it fills the space allowed.
Of course, if you want to look real professional, schedule a sitting with a professional photographer. Your personal brand will be greatly enhanced. I hope this helps.