I had the pleasure of photographing two clients for professional head shots last week. They wanted updated photos for their LinkedIn profiles and other professional use: bios and profiles for company websites, conferences, and web conferencing such as Skype. We did the session in studio and got a number of nice images.
Before actually meeting in the studio I asked them what they wanted their photos to convey and if there was anything else I should know. Justina wanted to convey "personal power, approachability, dedication, creativity and professionalism." Andrés wanted to come across as "experienced, confident, capable, professional, and friendly." He also shared that "I don't think I am very photogenic and am shy when it comes to photos - I generally opt out...being perceived as young, I am especially wanting to avoid pictures or angles that make me look very young."
The key to any good head shot is the person's eyes and expression, so for both Justina and Andrés, I made sure to have catch lights in the eyes to make them sparkle. I used soft lighting to illuminate Justina; the big catch lights and Justina's great, nay, beautiful smile really make her photos. For Andrés, I used hard lighting to create more shadow and bring out his features. Soft lighting tends to wash out details (such as the effects of aging), while hard lighting does the opposite. In this case, hard lighting helped achieve the more mature and experienced look that Andrés desired. His "half-smile" also helped convey approachability with a hint of gravitas.
Most importantly, in order to capture the head shots they would like, I wanted to make sure both Justina and Andrés felt comfortable in front of the camera. Part of that was communication before our appointment with a list of ways to prepare for thee session, including wearing clothes that they feel good in. The other part was during the actual session. I chatted with them about what I was doing and why, and also chatted with them about their lives--what they're excited about for this year, and what they've been up to. Gardening is an interest we all share in common. I shared my silly fear of worms! Additionally, as I photographed, I had the images upload real time to my Mac Book. I invited them to take a look at the different photos to get their feedback on which images (poses, lighting, expressions) they liked.
At the end of his session, Andrés gave me the best compliment, saying he had been worrying about the appointment but that he "had fun and felt really comfortable." Yay!