A good photo on your blog or social media can make all the difference. However, when you’re working with a budget, or even just starting out, getting those quality images done by a professional might not yet be an option.
But don’t selfie and don’t be tempted to crop down a wedding photo! Clear your photo library of the 800 pictures of your cat that you don’t need (we get it she’s cute) set aside a couple of hours, iron your best shirt and use this handy guide to taking some of those professional-looking headshots you’ve seen online.
And grab someone to help you if you can. It will make things a whole lot easier. But if you have to shoot alone then pick up a cheap tripod, it’s always handy to have one at home in today’s visual world.
Cameras on phones have come a long way so don’t be afraid to use one for your headshot. Although they don’t replace the quality or versatility of a DSLR they’re a cost-effective way to get those much needed social media and blog shots.
Working With Light
So here’s some really quick photography jargon that will benefit you:
Light is measured in Kelvins. This in short means how cool or warm the light is. The lower the number the warmer the light and the higher the number the cooler the light.
Sunlight is blue, cool light.
The light inside is often tungsten. Orange, warm light.
Indoor lighting is an option if you have a couple of directional lamps around the house that you could use for your shoot. You can pick up some light bulbs that have the right temperature (kelvin) of light. If the bulb has a warm glow it will cast orange, if it’s too blue the resulting image will look like you’re sat in a hospital waiting room. The packaging will tell you where on the scale it is, and a rule of thumb is to aim for the mid-range of 4000K or 5000K. It’s better to use two light sources; one for either side of you. But if you only have the one aim it slightly above and back from you about two feet.
However, a way of countering what could be a confusing search for bulbs is to pick up some cheap modelling lamps on Amazon. Again having these handy might be useful when it comes to getting some extra photos for your blog or social media, so you could look at them as an investment. They can be as little as £30 and often come with a softbox (which is simply a diffuser for more flattering light). If the budget doesn’t stretch for these though place yourself across from a window to maximise indoor light.
Everyone’s home is different, you might have a big, brightly lit open kitchen to take photos in. But you might be in a flat in a rainier part of the world. We’re looking at you Manchester. If you can make the natural light or some lamps inside your home work for you that’s great, but in case you’re struggling head outside. Natural light, although sometimes tricky to work with, is far better than fighting indoor shadows and the orange cast from bulbs. However, the light outside is of course changeable. So search for opportunities to shoot in what’s called open shade. Direct light, as with using flash on your camera is too harsh. Plus you’ll be squinting. Too much shade and the photos will be dark and gloomy. A happy medium is to find some shade, most likely under a tree, and face the direction of the light in the shade.
How to Style it?
The best backdrop for a headshot is plain and uncluttered. Pale, single coloured walls without a pattern is a good start. Preferably in a contrasting colour to what you’re wearing. These images are sometimes shrunk down quite small so to stop them appearing cluttered plain is best. As a rule, remember that darker walls absorb the light where lighter walls reflect it. If you’re struggling for the extra light head to a room with lighter walls.
A plain coloured sheet works fine too. Iron it! I’m one of those “life is too short for ironing” people but in this case, you’ll thank yourself for it later.
You should position the camera to take an image from the chest up, your focus should be directly at the camera and you should always avoid flash. Unless you have a diffuser the light produced from your camera flash is too harsh and not at all flattering. Also always shoot these types of photos in portrait, not landscape. As for your pose don’t sit face on, angle yourself slightly at about 30 degrees. Clasping your hands in front of you or folding them will help you ease into the photos and will also help you relax. Treat your first few photos as tester photos while you get the balance right.
Take your time. It might take two hours out of your day but it will be worth it.
Look presentable. Wear something simple and neutral. Black and white is a good go-to for simplicity, but it can also be a bit boring. Don’t be afraid to add a bit of accent colour just don’t go overboard with overly bright hues or crazy patterns. You can wear those comfy pyjama pants with pandas if you want (they won’t be in frame after all) but make sure your top half is presentable. Try out different looks too. Maybe some more formal ones mixed with some fun ones, have a couple of outfits to choose from. Add a jacket, put on your reading glasses, tie up long hair. Experiment with the style and find which one you feel represents the image you want to portray or ones that best showcase your personality. Even if you don’t use them now you should save them for future use.
My Perfect Photo is a Bit Dark?
Congrats you’ve found the perfect photo! Trouble is it looks a bit dark. Don’t delete it, it might yet be salvageable with the settings on your phone. Try boosting the contrast a little to brighten the image. Be careful not to overexpose or blow out the white parts of the image though. And although it might be tempting don’t go too crazy with the filters. That super smooth skin and green eyes you just gave yourself might look appealing but it’s not a good representation of you.
There’s a whole host of apps out there with extra features and settings to help you adjust and tweak an image. A lot of them are free so have a look on your app store and test some out. One of the more popular ones at the moment is VSCO. There’s no right way to edit an image as every image is different and requires different adjustments. The best way to learn in this instance is by doing. You’ll soon come to grips with how the settings affect your photos. If you’re worried about messing up save an extra copy of your image that you can go back to.
Sometimes getting an image right can be tricky. So don’t be disheartened if you struggle to get it absolutely perfect at first. The most important thing is that it represents you and your brand and that you’re happy with the outcome. Whether you were wearing panda pyjama pants or not.
Lauren Morley – guest blogger from Indigo Orange Studios.