I may be proverbially shooting (pun intended) myself in the foot and writing myself out of a job, but in a world where photos are multiplying by the millisecond and technology is exponentially improving weekly and selfies are a noun and a verb, a quality headshot is not optional. Ergo, this tutorial: how to take your own headshot.
If you have a cell phone camera, a window, a photo editing app, you can have a quality head shot. Add in a tripod (human or mechanical) and you’re golden.
Photography. By definition in the linguistic root, the very act of creating a photograph is that of “light drawing” (photo = light, graph = draw, write). Obviously, light is going to be inherently important in the process of taking your own headshot.
Look at the light. For me, that means looking out my window. Sometimes, that will mean standing in the shade and looking toward the sunlight. If you don’t have a nice window, a door to the outside will work well.
Ideally, the light you’re looking at will be natural (not electronic) and you will not be standing directly in the sunlight. The ideal phrase is “soft light” and will help you avoid unsightly shadows; minimizing shadows will limit the size and appearance of dark circles, acne, etc.
Pro Tip: The bigger the light source, more you and your background will be evenly illuminated.
A headshot is focused on your head. When I am looking at your headshot, I do not want to see the pile of dishes on the counter behind you or the mess of toys on your living room floor. If your background is a solid colour, then, you’re allowing your face to shine as the focus and you’re minimizing distractions from behind.
Pro tip: choose a background colour that accentuates your eyes, enhances your online presence, or is an extension of your brand.
3. Focal Length
Have you ever noticed that the person on the edge of a photo is sometimes the one to look the widest (conversely, the person in the middle of the photo looks the skinniest) ? The standard cell phone camera has a fairly wide angle built-in lens. Wide angle lenses have more pronounce distortion. Distortion is going to make objects near the edge of the frame appear “fatter”.
If possible, don’t fill your wide-angle frame with your entire face. Put your face at the center, crop out the more-likely-to-distort edges.
Pro tip: on higher quality cameras (and especially DSLR options), take your headshot with a zoom lens! This will not only compress the background and shorten the depth of field, it’ll also help minimize any Christmas weight you haven’t taken off. 😉
Relax! Laugh! Smile! Smize! Laughter makes everyone look more relatable.
The closest thing to the camera is going to appear the largest on the frame; focus on the eyes! Everyone loves to see eyes . . . especially when they’re smizing!
Angle, background, facial expression are going to bring personality into the photo. Are you looking at the camera? Away from the camera? Is the background colorful or neutral? Are you smirking or grinning or politely smiling?
Pro Tip: If possible, have someone else take the photo to avoid the “selfie arm” — filling your frame unnecessarily with arm is easily avoidable!
5. Filter It.
Although filters are grossly overused, they’re beautifully beneficial. Using your favourite photo app (I recommend VSCO), focus on improving colour and contrast and avoid the over-enhancing or over-filtering. This photo is about YOU not the filter you chose to use.
In the writing of this post, I discovered how hard it is to get a good photo on the selfie side of my camera phone. It’s incredibly poor quality (as I am sure you can see) . I ultimately chose to have my husband take a snapshot of me on my point-and-shoot camera (not my Nikon DSLR, for sake of the experiment!) in front of a geometric patterned wall, added a VSCO filter for slightly increased contrast and some warmer tones, and – voila! – I have a new headshot!