Headshots look like mugshots. Help?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by aribabybug, Apr 23, 2010.

  1. aribabybug

    aribabybug TPF Noob!

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    My mother-in-law wants some headshots for her renaissance faire cast to use in their promotional materials. I am a part-time wedding and portrait photographer, mostly for friends and family but with a few paid shoots. I told her that I had never done headshots before, but she insisted that I could do them easily. After we did the first round, she immediately started complaining, saying that they "aren't headshots" and "look like mugshots." Granted, these aren't the best headshots I've ever seen (and the eyes are not as sharp as I'd like), and even though I've done a bit of research I'll admit that I'm not in any way an expert about headshots. She wants me to come back out tomorrow and redo them all, but I'm not sure how to do it differently. I'm planning on being above, rather than on a level with, the models, and to try and angle them in some way, but I'm worried the pictures will turn out the same. Any suggestions? I'm including what I think is the best and the worst of the batch.

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  2. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    You may want to ask your m-i-l what she means by headshot because real headshot are basically mugshot with better lighting.

    Headshots are very boring and simple shots meant to show a person as they really are. Period. Your background in the two samples is actually a bit too creative for a a headshot :lmao:
     
  3. Gallifrey

    Gallifrey TPF Noob!

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    I understand your problem, I've had it myself, and am still working on it. From reading (and looking at) many portrait photography books, I've gathered some interesting ideas. One, don't always have your subjects facing towards you. Try having the subject look over his shoulder at you, or as a profile, with his eyes slanted towards you. Also try to direct his eyes down, or above you, or just to the left or right of the camera, for added interest. For another, don't just stick with smiles: get him talking, and snap away as he show true expression. You will get a lot of eyes-half-closed-mouth-half-open pictures, but you will also get some real candor.

    I hope this helps: it's a tough assignment but, especially with your background, has the potential to be magnificent! Good luck!

    -Gallifrey
     
  4. Vinny

    Vinny TPF Noob!

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    Not trying to be funny or sarcastic but I would use whatever technique that you shoot portraits (I actually thought that portraits were head shots). I'm not into this type of photography other than a quick snapshot so I can only give whatever I've read ... Use about 105mm focal length, keep the flash at an angle preferably with 2 strobes (sounds like portrait), higher f stop (less depth of field) and possibly a better backdrop (solid color). I've witnessed a dozen or so kid sports photography shoots and they all have 2 umbrellas for the close ups.
     
  5. aribabybug

    aribabybug TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, I don't care for this background, and wanted to use a solid backdrop, but MIL insisted that this background was perfect and that the backdrop would be too boring.
     
  6. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Exactly why you need to ask her to tell you exactly what it is she wants. Most photogs don't even understand headshots. I do only because I worked in a town where theater and movies were big and there were plenty enough customers to make it worth learning.

    I used to have a link to a great write up on headshots from someone on MM but he pulled it and unfortunately, not thinking this would ever happen, I had not copied it.

    In your case, it would not have helped anyway because I don't think your m-i-l actually wants headshots. Just ask her.
     
  7. aribabybug

    aribabybug TPF Noob!

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    I think that's a good point. Rather than stressing out by looking at hundreds of headshots, I need to try and figure out what she wants. Showing her a bunch of headshots and asking which she liked didn't help much, so I'm thinking that I'll have her sit with me and take some practice shots and immediately put them on the computer. Then she can make the changes she wants, regardless of whether it's a headshot.
     
  8. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    You could there for days doing this. Sorry. Just ask her to define a headshot and write it down.

    Then, move on to your idea. Man, I hate working for friends and family :lmao:
     
  9. aribabybug

    aribabybug TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, I've decided that I think I hate it too. Oh well, I'll know better next time.
     
  10. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Just hand MIL the camera, she's obviously an expert. ;)

    This is why when my family asks me to shoot for them they pay full price just like everyone else.

    If I initiate the shoot, it's free including any prints and framing.
     
  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I'd definitely try and avoid the severely downward-sloping shoulder look that the subject in the first shot has--that is a very bad 'look' for a man. Same with the cut-off gold chain...either ditch the chain, or show it in its entirety; he's a ren-fair actor...maybe there's a gold medallion at the bottom of the chain? Cropping the chain creates a mental question, and also creates a V-shaped line that directs the viewer's eyes right away from his face.

    The background is barely 'okay'; it's stone work, which is sort of old timey and Renaissance Faire-like at some level, but the dark black mortar lines are competing for attention with the faces. A much longer lens focal length, or a longer distance behind the subjects to the backdrop, would sublimate the background and make it less competitive for the viewer's eyes.

    To get rid of that slope-shouldered look, all you need to do is have the guy put one hand on a hip, and the other in his front pocket....presto...shoulders more squared and "manly", and a slight variation in shoulder height. A little bit of foot rotation away from the camera-lens axis will angle the shoulders to the camera, which is the opposite of a mug shot. Same with arms folded across the chest, and the guy angled slightly away from the camera, and his head turned back to the lens, and allowing him to emote--a much more dynamic positioning of the body, unlike a mugshot. You want the chest to go across the entire width of the bottom on the frame on a head-and-shoulder shot like these--do not turn the body so far that there is a empty space at the bottom left or right of the camera where there is no torso and only the background shows--that's a sort of unwritten rule that many people are unfamiliar with.

    The lighting in these is awfully flat and soft for men...you did a good job keeping eyeglass glare at bay, but the lighting on both is too soft and diffused for my taste. I would be tempted to move the fill light umbrella back another 3 or 4 feet to give a bit more dimension to their faces.
     
  12. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    :thumbup:

    Sometimes that is all there is to do. :lmao: Very good way of putting it.
     

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