Headshot Photography: From Mugshot to Art
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Headshot Photography: From Mugshot to Art

Headshot photography, or portrait photography in nicer terms, is often misunderstood and poorly executed, despite its importance in both business and art. In this article, we will discuss a few techniques which will allow you to stage the perfect headshot photography project.

From corporate and professional photography projects to personal photography, these tips and tricks will help you stage a better photo shoot and achieve the desired results. As such, we will focus on a number of key elements, which can turn your random mugshots into pieces of art.

Headshot Photography – Setup

As with all things, a good headshot photography session should start with the correct setup. Here, it all depends on what your purpose is and on what you look to achieve.

Headshot Photography: From Mugshot to Art

Corporate headshot photography is usually employed for “Our Team” pages, in order to present employees and collaborators. Regardless if your company is a multinational corporation or a local firm, these pictures must inspire trust and professionalism, with a dash of friendliness. In addition, they should also subtly present the environment of the company and establish a positive attitude towards it in the viewer’s eyes.

Location & Personalisation

In this context, you should first choose the location very carefully. A law office, for instance, must present its lawyers as dynamic and constantly willing to solve a client’s needs. So, why not stage the photo shoot outside the office, to underline a willingness to travel to any location in order to support the client? In addition, you should pick some relevant landmarks in your hometown, which underline a strong level of local legal expertise.

Let’s choose another example, where your firm acts in the field of tech and IT. Here, the employees’ photos should present a job-related context, preferably with some types of equipment and other relevant elements in the background, for starters. You can also personalize the photos and make them funnier. For instance, a network administrator can have a picture with network equipment in the background, or a t-shirt with the same.

Allow us to dwell just a little more on the benefits of personalizing each employee’s photo. While standardization might have been cool in the past, this is certainly no longer the case. By adding unique elements for each employee, you will not only improve his/her self-esteem by showing how special he/she is, but you will also indirectly tell your clients that everyone in your firm is an expert and loves what he does. And who wouldn’t want to work with such a firm? In business, making a good impression from the start by using images is a good tactic for building client fidelity later on (provided that your services are also good, obviously).

Headshot Photography: From Mugshot to Art

Headshot Photography – Lighting

Okay, so we’ve chosen the ideal location and setup for our headshot photography session. What next? Well, now you should make sure that the lighting is properly dealt with by your photographer so that the pictures go one step beyond the ordinary corporate portrait frame. There is really nothing worse than a picture with poor lighting, awkward shadows or annoying background lights.

A great idea you can use here is HDR Photography, which turns an ordinary picture intro a piece of art by combining shots of the same frame, taken at different exposure levels. The incredible amount of color and the absence of intruding shadows might just make your headshot photography project eligible for presentation in an art gallery. HDR photography is much more simple than it sounds, and you can check out a how-to guide to HDR photography here.

Headshot Photography: From Mugshot to Art

Headshot Photography – Poses and Posture

An absolutely vital element for making your headshot photography project shine is to carefully plan and direct subject posture. For business photos, posture is very important when trying to send a message to the public. As such, postures should be friendly and casual, with an invariable big smile on the person’s face. A morose face will ruin 10 hours of photoshopping a perfect HDR photo set in the most relevant setting.

Furthermore, try to inspire trust and confidence. Don’t keep your arms locked or your hands in your pockets. Make your smile natural and don’t force it – a naturally positive attitude is what you should keep in mind whenever doing a portrait.

Headshot Photography – Cameras

For the best quality, you should use a semi-professional camera. It should have number of features, such as manual exposure and an image stabilizer. Point-and-shoot cameras will probably not be enough if you want to take your photos to the next level. Try a DSLR or a mirrorless camera for the best effect.

Headshot Photography: From Mugshot to Art

DSLR Cameras are very good at taking hi-res photos and will do superbly if used for a headshot photography project. Mirrorless cameras are also very good at this. Truth being said, there is no notable performance difference between DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras when it comes to what the two different technologies can achieve. The real difference comes from individual camera models and the features they incorporate. However, we must mention that DSLR’s are more versatile when changing lenses, while mirrorless cameras only accommodate a limited range.

If you’re still not sure which one to choose from the two, check out this great article comparing the two.

Professional Headshot Photography

If you’re not sure you can pull this off by yourself, don’t worry.  You can make use of professional photography services for the very best results. Given that most corporate headshot photography projects don’t occur very often, using the services of a professional photographer can be a better idea if you don’t have an in-house employee with photography knowledge.

Headshot Photography: From Mugshot to Art

For instance, check out Mark Jordan, a reputed photographer from Orange Country and one of the best in this sub-discipline of photography:

Whether you are in NYC or Los Angeles, always look for the best professional photographers. Though prices might be higher, it will definitely be worth it.

Headshot Photography: Conclusions

Headshot photography might be a little more complicated than you would expect. Good equipment and some knowledge of photography are required to create memorable photos which will suit your needs. However, with a little research, effort, and investment, you will be able to truly go from mugshot to art.