Two years ago, I started my dream job — stay at home mom! But before that, I had a job that was a close second…high school teacher. Being a parent can be really tiring because it’s a 24/7 thing, but for me, being a teacher was definitely more stressful. Stressful, but incredibly fun! While I was there, I met one of my dearest friends, Sarah, who was the theater teacher. She caught wind that a new teacher (i.e. me) had dance and choreography experience, so she asked if I’d help her with the musical. And that’s where our love began.
Through my experience with musicals, I met some super awesome kids, including Prince (who will soon start his senior year of high school). Prince is talented, confident, and incredibly self-motivated. He recently entered a singing competition here in our city with the chance to win a $10,000 scholarship. 200 area high school students auditioned, and Prince has made it into the top 10! As part of the final program, each finalist needed to submit a headshot. The closest thing Prince had to a headshot were some (albeit adorbs) selfies from his laptop. He asked me if I could help him out and I said yes, with the warning that I’d never done any posed picture taking before. He probably thought, “Whatever lady…I’m not going to pay you anyway. In fact, I’m going to make you buy me ched r’ bites from Sonic that day too.” That sly little weasel.
I read up a bit online, chatted with the experts for some tips, and went on my merry way. Here are some of the tips I found to be most helpful!
(1) Pick good light:
I don’t have a fancy studio or a light set-up, so I used the best light ever – the sun! I told Prince I’d pick him up at 5pm because I knew there’d be a sufficient amount of shade and we wouldn’t get any harsh light interfering with the pictures. We drove over to the high school where the building would provide some great shade!
(2) Focus on the eyes:
I think this is what makes a portrait different from a headshot (though this really turned into a portrait/senior picture type of session). Portraits don’t necessarily have to have eye contact, but in my years and years of experience with casting (hardy har har), I would think looking directly at the camera is a key component of a headshot. One of the easiest ways to make the eyes the focus of your photograph is to shoot your subject from above. This helped get some of the diffused skylight to reflect in Prince’s eyes.
(3) Make your subject comfortable:
Lucky for me, Prince is a total ham and loves being in front of a camera. To ensure I captured his genuine smile, I pulled a couple inappropriate jokes out of my repertoire. Totally worked.
(4) Use continuous shooting mode:
You know that fancy “click click click” sound a professional photographer’s camera makes? Yours can do that too! Just use your camera’s manual to figure out how to turn on continuous shooting. This mode takes multiple pictures as long as you’re holding your finger on the trigger (is that the right name for the “take the picture button”? I don’t know. Don’t judge.). This means you don’t have to awkwardly be like, “Oh, I think you blinked. Let’s try to have a genuine smile again.” I’m sure as you become a better photographer, you don’t need to use continuous shooting quite as often…but as a mom of a 2 year old and 1 year old, this mode is very helpful when shooting pictures with little wiggly people.
(5) Consider different characters [what's the purpose of your picture]:
Okay, I think this might really only be applicable to shooting headshots for a thespian’s portfolio, but that’s what I was doing with Prince. I imagine that depending on the role you’re auditioning for, you’d want to submit a certain headshot that portrays the personality of the character you’re auditioning for. As I was using Prince as my guinea pig, I noticed that shooting him relatively straight on made him look like a grown man. Okay, that’s not totally true…because he’s 17 and thinks fart jokes are funny (which is why he’s my friend), but I think it highlighted the broadness in his shoulders and generally showed his masculinity.
(6) Have a shallow depth of field:
This is personal preference, but I would think if you’re really trying to focus on a person’s face in a picture, you’d really want the background to be soft and blurred. More on how to do that can be found here.
(7) Do a bit of editing:
Okay, so I don’t normally feel like you need to edit your pictures. I certainly don’t take all the pictures of my children and whiten their teeth and brighten their eyes. We do, however, need to make sure Prince can compete with all those other people out there vying for similar roles or positions. I thought some simple editing would bring the professionalism of these headshots up a notch! For the longest time, I used picmonkey.com for editing. I recently got Lightroom installed on my laptop, so I’m starting to play with that. These pictures of Prince, however, I edited a bit using PicMonkey.
I hope this gives you some ideas of things to toy around with! Thanks for being a fantastic model, Prince. Everyone send him good vibes on August 24th as he competes to win KC Superstar!