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Professional headshots – a guide

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We often get asked questions about headshots, or personal profile images as they are sometimes called. More and more businesses are recognising the importance of these as part of their customer communications strategy. Here we answer some of the most common questions that we are asked:

Why do people have professional headshots or personal profile images as they are sometimes called?

People come to us for professional headshots for a number of reasons. Often it is because their employer wants to show its staff on its web site. They need high quality images that have consistent styling, lighting, background, colour balance and size. Businesses often ask us to take headshots of all staff members, or maybe the sales team or the management in one session. This is common when upgrading or creating a new web site. For their convenience we normally do this at their own premises.

Individuals also come to us for professional images for their own business website or on LinkedIn – quite often to build their personal profile when looking for a new job. Sometimes people need an up to date, high quality image for business presentations, corporate documents such as brochures, annual reports or magazine articles.

The quality of personal profile images makes a strong statement about an individual and the business they represent, that is why clients use us.

How long does a headshot session take?

Having a photograph taken can be a daunting prospect for a lot of people. We fully understand that and do our best to make you and your staff feel relaxed and comfortable throughout the shoot. And to get the whole thing done as quickly and efficiently as possible for you. Most people actually enjoy it in the end!

It normally takes around 30 minutes to set up the background, lights and test the lighting etc. Once this is done, the actual shooting only takes around 10 -20 minutes per person. We spend time with you testing which angle and lighting suits you best – some people are better taken from their left and some from their right for example. Sometimes people need images with different clothing and looks – formal and informal perhaps. The number of looks will or course add to the time and we can discuss that with you if you are looking for this approach.

During the shooting process we work with you to get a set of images that you are happy with. After the shoot we will prepare an on-line gallery with a selection of proof images for you to choose from. Once we have your selection we complete the retouching process and deliver the final images to you.

Do we need to come to your studio for a headshot?

In order to keep our fees to a minimum, we recommend that individuals come to us for the shoot. However, if there is a number of people from the same organisation that need them at the same time, we are very happy to come to your place of work. This means less disruption for your business and no wasted time or cost for your team travelling. 

Sometimes we are asked to attend a conference venue where larger teams gather for a meeting. This can be a very cost effective way of getting many people photographed at the same time.

What background style do you recommend for headshots?

The most common background for business headshots is plain white. Actually getting a pure white background is however harder to achieve than most people think; often you will see greyish or yellowish tints. This is because the lighting that has been used was not correct. Such images can look unprofessional when displayed as part of a web site that has a pure white background. To get a perfectly exposed pure white background, we light it separately from the main subject.

For a more creative look, black works very well.This is often used for people working in marketing, design, advertising and in the performing arts.

A recent trend has been to use dark blue, which works very nicely too.

Sometimes businesses want their employees to be seen in the environment in which they work. This adds more interest and gives a direct relationship between the employee and the business itself. This could be outdoors, in their office or a production area.

We always talk this through with our clients to find out which style best suits their needs.

Should headshots always be retouched?

Yes. No matter how good the lighting is or how perfect the subject’s skin is, headshots always need some level of retouching. But – the end result must look natural and not be obvious that any retouching has been done.

We retouch all of our clients´ images in house; we do not send them to a bureau on the other side of the world! This means we have full control over how the final images look.

As an example, under studio lights, skin can sometimes appear shiny, we will retouch this. Sometimes shadows are a little heavy, we soften them to make them more appealing. Small spots or discolouration of the skin are removed, but only if they are temporary (not moles etc). We do not use skin smoothing filters seen for example on Instagram selfies; this looks highly unprofessional and unnatural in our opinion.

Often clothes need more retouching than the person. Creases and wrinkles on a shirt or blouse can be distracting and make the individual look a little scruffy; we will iron these out in Photoshop. Hairs and skin flakes on dark clothing can also bring down the quality of the image, we retouch those out. Sometimes a collar on a shirt is not perfect or the sleeves billow out around the shoulders; we will retouch these too.

We believe that this attention to detail is so important in order to create professional images for our clients.

What advice can you give on dress code and make up?

For corporate headshots it is often a requirement of the company that the employees should follow a similar dress code. This ensures continuity of style on their website. Maybe the business has shirts with logos on for example, it does look very professional if all the staff are wearing them. But be careful, if just one staff member does not have the shirt on, they will stand out! There are some basic guidelines that we offer:

  1. Be comfortable in what you wear and let it be normal for you.
  2. Avoid shirts or blouses with stripes or bold patterns as these can be distracting and can accentuate creases and wrinkles.
  3. Avoid bold colours. The image should be about the person, not the clothing.
  4. Bring options with you and we can work it out together what will look best for you.
  5. Jewellery can be a distraction. We suggest you keep it subtle and to a minimum.

Hair and make up:

  1. Less is more! Make up that is used under professional lighting is different to normal make up. Normal make up can create unwanted gloss on the most beautiful natural skin.
  2. Heavy base layers can look good in everyday life when you are moving around and the light is changing across your face. However, on a still image, when people have time to study how you look, such make up can become very obvious and appear unnatural.
  3. Generally the less make up applied the better, is the general advice that we give.
  4. In terms of hair, be yourself. A quick look in the mirror before you get in front of the camera should be all you need to make sure that it is a – good hair day!

How do you deliver the images?

We create an on-line gallery of images for you to review. These will be un-retouched and in draft form only. 

You select which ones you want by marking them in the gallery. Normally this will be 2-3 images as a standard; more if alternative looks are required.

We complete the retouching of the selected images and prepare them as high quality resolution JPEG files. These files are transferred to you electronically.

If you require the images in a specific format or size, for example according to the specifications of a web site or social media platform, we take care of this for you. 

It is very important to get the right size and dimensions for images when uploading to sites like LinkedIn or Facebook; the wrong size will lead to compression and a dramatic reduction in image quality. It is the same for websites; files that are too large can take a long time to load when viewed. And Google does not like large files either.

Here are the latest size recommendations (the figures given are the number of pixels wide and high):

Social media image size
Social media image size

Can we book a headshot for all of our staff?

Certainly, we work for many companies where we visit their premises to photograph all of their staff in one session. This is often when they are upgrading or producing a new web site and need images that have a professional, consistent look. As new members of staff are taken on, we photograph them individually so the web site is kept up to date and consistent in style.

We are occasionally asked to attend a conference venue where larger teams gather for a meeting; this can be a very efficient way of getting many people photographed at the same time.

If you would like to see some of work just click the link below.

Check out examples of some or our work – click here

If you want to find out more about how we may be able to help you or your business, click the Kontakt button below for our details.

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