Less Beaten by Headshots

Sample Headshot

Whatever is a Headshot?

If you’re a gamer, a headshot is a one shot kill, direct to the head. In our case though, we’re talking photography. A headshot is a simple photograph, a profile picture if you will, often used in newspaper or other articles or about me pages. They’re simple and to the point. but the quality of the photography really matters. A lot of people think all that matters in photography is a clear picture and a high megapixel count. These people couldn’t be further from the truth. In reading LOTS of Strobist, I learned a ton about photography. There were people that figured out how to take decent photographs in the latter days of film and then that they could charge an arm and a leg for prints. The rise of digital cameras and cheap prints at Costco changed this. These commodity photographers were easily displaced by the lower cost of entry into digital photography. For my own wedding I paid a husband and wife duo a little over $1,000 for full rights to our photos and full resolution JPGs on a CD. This is foul play according to a lot of the lazy commodity photographers.

So What?

The deal is, as you see in this post on Strobist, with a tad of knowledge and a little gear, you can take a headshot that will blow away someone with no knowledge. However, you aren’t doing much more than following a recipe. Anyone can cook mac n cheese if they follow the recipe. It’s not impressive, though it may fill your stomach. If you want something more than that, that’s what you’re paying your photographer. A good photographer has a firm grasp on all the technical side of photography and lighting, but also has an artistic vision and is a bit of a psychologist. Again, the Strobist blog writes about this a lot.  It’s also covered in some books I got pointed to from the same blog. These are great books and give amazing insight into lighting and photography many different subjects in different environments.

The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally
The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally
Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally
Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally








How’d I Get Into This Anyway?

For me it all started when my first son was born. When my wife was pregnant, I knew we’d want baby pictures. I knew it was something I could learn to do. So I bought my first camera, a Canon Digital Rebel XT and I bought a second-hand book. If you like taking pictures of your kid(s) but have no formal training, I highly recommend this book. You can get it used on Amazon for a couple bucks. You get some simple techniques that are easy to use, with any camera. 

That was my start, then I wanted to go further. I found Strobist and ran through his entire 101 series. Even though I didn’t have all the equipment I did, I learned a ton about manual settings (which you still want to understand, even in today’s wold of automated cameras) and balancing light. I really can’t recommend that blog enough. I got a ton of theory and inspiration from this book, the two above and the Strobist blog. So, I keep working on my family photography and keep branching out. Last year I even photographed the total eclipse (I’ll have to write about that later).

But We Were Talking Headshots, Right?

Yes, back on topic. So I’ve mentioned before that I take a parkour class at Dynasty Fitness. Well, Adam, the owner of the gym, is working on expanding. He’s freshening his website, expanding his class offering, and bringing on new instructors. I’ve pointed him to the Side Hustle School Podcast. I’m not sure if that inspired him or this was already in the works. I’d mentioned before that I’m an amateur photographer and I have a little equipment and would love to doe some gym photos for publicity for him. He finally approached me and said he’d like to get some headshots of his coaches. So that’s what we did. You can see the results here on his About Us page for his gym. I took headshots of Adam, Brian, Camerin and Gabriel. I used the studio lights I got last Christmas, my Canon T3i (might as well go T5 at today’s prices) and knowledge from Strobist to do a simple lighting with my softboxes at 45 degree angles on either side and had all four headshots banged out in about 20 minutes. They aren’t amazing, but you can see the difference between mine and the photo he grabbed later of Ike using the available light to see how a lighting setup can totally change the shot. Don’t have the money or gear, strong shop lights and white sheets stretch flat can give a similar look.

Image Credits: See-ming Lee