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One of the best markets to tap into with your photography business is the corporate headshot market. There are hundreds of companies in your area and each one is a potential client. Before you start knocking on doors, equip yourself with these 5 tips that will help you get the best headshot possible!

1. Know What To Look For

Before you take your first photo of your subject, you should first know what a good headshot looks like. Starting out I would go to some Fortune 500 companies’ websites and check out their executive’s headshots. Take note at where the images were taken (in studio or outdoors), how the shot is cropped, and the overall feel of the image. Headshots are those bread-and-butter images that have been done a million times before, so looking at the images of some of the top executives in the world will help you develop your eye as to how your images should look.

Photo Courtesy of Miguel Quiles

2. Select The Right Background

Now that you have a general idea of what a headshot should look like you can then focus your attention on the location of the image. If you’re shooting outdoors you’re going to want to make sure you place the subject in a spot that doesn’t have “busy” backgrounds. I tend to look for backgrounds that have a solid color, or one where I can use a shallow depth of field to blur everything to look more pleasing. Having said that the majority of headshots I see are taken in studio. In my own business I tend to use 3 colors of seamless paper for practically all of my headshots. Those colors are White, Fashion Gray, and Black. You can definitely use other colors but these are what I find to be the most popular.

Photo Courtesy of Miguel Quiles

3. Choose The Right Focal Length

If you’re using a kit lens, here’s an excuse to go out and buy something new. Generally speaking, you’re going to want to shoot with longer focal lengths (85mm and up) to get flattering headshots. I started out with a Canon 70-200mm F4L which was fantastic for studio headshot photography. A 70-200mm lens gives you plenty of versatility and lets you get great compression which keeps your subjects face from looking wider than it actually is. If you’re looking for the one-size-fits-all type of lens then that would definitely be a great choice. I tend to like the look that you get from prime lenses so when I’m not using my 70-200mm lens I often use the Canon 135mm F2L which also produces spectacular images. One last thing to note here is to make sure that you focus on the subject’s eye when doing a headshot. If you take an image where the subject’s eye is soft or out of focus you’ll want to keep shooting until you get one that’s tack sharp.

4. Get The Right Emotion Out Of Your Subject

Capturing the right emotion is one of the most important things in getting a stellar headshot. You want to get them engaged and comfortable with the camera. I usually spend a few moments talking to my subjects before photographing them. If they seem to be more outgoing then I’ll crack jokes during the shoot to get them to loosen up. If they are more introverted then I try to give them a lot of reassurance throughout the shoot that they are doing a great job and continually tweak their expressions until I get what I’m looking for. Spend whatever time you can building rapport and reassuring your subject that you’ve got everything under control and you’ll find that getting great expressions will come easy.

Photo Courtesy of Miguel Quiles

5. The Ideal Crop

I usually try to get 2 types of shots so that I can deliver some variety to my clients. The first headshot is a tight crop, starting somewhere in the middle of their hair and ending just above their collar bone. The second is a slightly wider shot which is cropped a pinch above their head and ending right above or below their chest. Start out shooting the tighter shots and then zoom out and take the wider shots. This will help ensure you get the right shot for your client!

Headshot Gallery Samples

All of the images above were taken with a beauty dish overhead and a white fill card below on a Charcoal seamless paper backdrop.

Miguel Quiles

Miguel Quiles is a New Jersey-based commercial wedding and portrait photographer who’s been involved in the industry for over 15 years, starting off first as a salesman at a local camera store. Since then, Miguel has been refining his skills and pushing the limits of his creative abilities. As a self-taught photographer, Miguel hopes to share his experience and knowledge with new and upcoming photographers who wish to take their work to the next level. Miguel is a Sony Associate Artisan of Imagery, blogger and contributor for RangeFinder Magazine & SLR Lounge. You can also find Miguel teaching workshops and seminars at Adorama and Unique Photo in the NY/NJ area. Check out more of his work on his website.
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