Here’s a little secret, it doesn’t matter what your hair is doing and what clothes you’re wearing for your headshots if your face is a big blank abyss, gormless like a dear trapped in headlights.
My shoots tend to be part photography and part coaching, trying to teach you where your best angles are, then through direction improving how you engage with your audience with your body language and expression. Every photographer works differently, but you will be amazed at some of the simplest tricks that can transform your headshot.
And it really is simpler than you think.
No matter how scary that camera may seem, you need to engage with it. And it’s all in a look. You may not realise it, but with the simplist change of thought, your face will adapt and change without you realising, and your eyes reflect your thoughts and mood incredibly accurately.
Below is some things to try before your headshot session to get you in the right place before your shoot...
1. STAY CONNECTED WITH THE CAMERA
Use real emotions, don't just pretend.
When you're on the spot and have to deliver to the camera with limited time, this can be your 'go to' for quick delivery on camera.
Try this: Look in the mirror and think of something you love (your partner, your nan, your cat, magical unicorns) and watch how the shape of your face and eyes sit.
They're relaxed, there may be a vulnerability that creeps in. It softens.
Now think of a tough time in your life (someone you’ve lost, someone who’s rubbed you up the wrong way or bullied you, Donald Trumps general influence on the world) do you instantly feel a retraction?
Theres a drop in your sense of pride, a feeling of negativity, a change in your body language.
Make no mistake, this is definitely 'painting by numbers' when it comes to acting for camera, but the reality is, it’s a mental monologue for the camera that you can pull out when don’t have much time.
2. EYE MUSCLE MEMORY
Flex those muscles
There are 43 muscles in the human face alone. That's a lot. Like with all muscles in the body we need to train them and learn to control them, its a useful acting tool.
Wide staring eyes don’t make people attracted to look at your eyes, they generally make people think you may be vulnerable, neurotic, mentally unstable or scared.
Relaxed eyes (or eyelids) can create a look of confidence or maturity, take a look at the headshots below, you can clearly how (from left to right) the images get stronger and with a better sense of purpose.
Above is a good example of how eye shape can transform a headshot
Try this: Look in the mirror and try conveying some different emotions using only your eyes, you don't have to push it, just think of adjectives and see what happens.
Heres a few ones to get you started:
How did that change? Anything? If you are struggling, try looking away and take a moment in between each one to see if that helps. The key sometimes is not to over think it, but keep practising and lock in those muscle memories!
3. LEAN IN
Use body language to draw people in
Your body language plays such a huge part in how humans interact and read each other, this goes for general life, not just photos.
Try this: One of the things I always try and coach my clients on is generally the effect of staying on the balls of your feet during your shoot. This slight 'lean in' is how we tend to interact with each other in life, we rarely engage with each other on our heels, unless we are being defensive, so can make a HUGE difference to how the viewer reads your image.
This can convey confidence to the audience, so if you are nervous, use this as a tool to hide it!
Scroll through the examples below and the difference a slight lean can make to how you come across in a photo.
4. USE YOUR WHOLE BODY
Headshots aren't just the head
Leaning isn't the only thing that will send a message in a photo, if you look at the selection of headshots below, there is a distinct change in the energy with different angles of your body and also the status of person that is captured.
Try this: Think about you're body shape and whether you have broad shoulders or a long neck and how that comes across on different angles, look in a mirror from different angles and start to think about how those angles effect how people will portray you and your casting.
Even if you don't consciously use any of these techniques in your shoot, the fact that you have analysed and studied your own habits should feed into your shoot.
At the end of the day, your headshot needs to look like you, but we are just showing the most engaging and eye catching version we can!