Photography Tips for Professional Head Shots

Professional Head Shots by Wendi Riggens Photography

Wow!  Last week, Devan and I attended a photography meetup-conference-seminar-workshop-whatever you want to call it hosted by our lab.  For the second year, I was asked to teach, and I spent 3 of the 4 sessions doing just that. I’ll post more about my classes in a day or two, including some images of our beautiful models and the people in my classes!

Last year, after the group photo of everyone at the event, I was roped into doing some unexpected head shots for a few of the attendees, and we had such a blast. I absolutely LOVE doing headshots, and this year decided to actually schedule a time to do them.  With the help of my friends Dave Wolanski of Dover, Delaware and Joe Weaver of Nashville, Tennessee, we photographed dozens of photographers, and had a great time doing it!  I focused on natural light headshots, while Dave worked with OCF (off-camera flash) head shots, and Joe broke out his Lensbaby for some unique focus ones!

As I let people glance at their head shots after I took them, I heard over and over, “how do you do that?!”  My goal with head shots, or any image for that matter, is to get it as perfect SOOC (straight out of camera) as possible.  Here are my tips for creating professional head shots using natural light!

1 – Lighting – look for consistent lighting and aim your subject approximately75-degrees to the source. For these shots, we shot outside the hotel against a light-colored wall with light sidewalk.  The sun was to the right of the subjects peaking around the building. I did not use a reflector. I tend to over-expose my head shots by about 1/2 a stop, just enough to hide some of the natural flaws and wrinkles that people hate to see, but without blowing out the image.

2 – Angles/Posing – My subjects kneel on the ground in front of me, or I stand on something to keep myself elevated above them.  Shooting down is the most flattering angle, but you don’t want to be too high up. Their body is angled 90-degrees to mine, and I have them turn their shoulders to me slightly and their head even more so. I then adjust my own angle and show them how I want them to adjust their head, to account for each person’s features and to find the best angle for them.

Here’s a shot that Dave took of me shooting. Nothing fancy at all!

3 – Smiling – I never take just one or two shots when doing head shots.  I aim for three faces.  The first is their serious face, the posed, “I hate being in front of a camera” face, to get it out of the way.  Then I talk to them, loosen them up, and usually get the two faces I am looking for: 1-the natural smile, and 2-the natural laugh. These are always the shots that they love!

It’s a quick, easy, and relatively painless process, and I LOVE how the shots turn out!  When doing quick-and-dirty head shots like these, I proof them straight out of camera.  For professional clients, we do minor retouching to make them look even more amazing!



Jim Cayer - First let me say it was a pleasure meeting you Wendi and thanks so much for the headshots. Looking forward to another year and another 5k. Thanks again.

Dave - Great explanation Wendi! It was fun doing the shooting with you!

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