Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Head Shots That Don't Suck (Part One)

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Although most of my work has been shooting pretty models in various stages of dress and undress for the past couple of decades or so, I'm no one trick pony, photography wise. No siree. I have a range of skills. A range that goes beyond pretty girl shooting. A range that also includes shooting head shots and, uhh, head shots and...  Okay, most of my photography boils down to two genres: 1) glam, tease & nudes, what I like to call pretty girl shooting, and 2) head shots.

Head shots -- IF. YOU. MUST. KNOW. -- were how I got started shooting pictures for pay. That was way back in the day, like 35 years or so back in the day. Thirty-five years ago wasn't when I first started my life-long love affair with photography, that began when I was 12 or 13, but it was when that love affair started turning some profits. Cash profits.

You see, my ex was an aspiring actress and actors (I'll use the word, "actor," as if it's gender neutral) are always needing new head shots for their acting careers. Regularly needing new head shots meant regularly spending money (we didn't have) on them. Worse, it seemed to me that every time she got some photographer to shoot new head shots for her, those head shots sucked. Leastwise, I thought they sucked.  So, I decided to start shooting her head shots myself. After all, I had a live-in guinea pig to learn with. And that's what I did.

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As a result of that decision, I've been shooting head shots for actors and others to this day. I don't pursue it the way I did back in the day, but I still shoot them from time to time. Mostly, for aspiring actors and, for the most part, as a result of word-of-mouth marketing.  (I love word-of-mouth marketing because it means I don't have to do much, practically nothing in fact.) Also, lest you might think otherwise, I don't limit my head shot shooting to female victims subjects. I shoot guys too. On the right is a head shot I snapped for an actor of the male persuasion just recently.

So, why am I writing about shooting head shots on this 9-year-old, 1,000+ updates, glamour photography blog?  Because it's something to write about; about photography, that is. In fact, I'm already thinking this might be a multi-part post because, even though I wrote an 111-page ebook on the subject about three years ago, GUERRILLA HEADSHOTS,  I want to post some info about shooting head shots here, on the blog... cuz I'm a sharing caring guy that way.

Okay. So how do you shoot head shots that don't suck?

First off, you need to do a bit of pre-shoot planning: in concert with your client but also a lot of it in your head. What does that planning begin with?  Questions. Questions regarding where you will  shoot the client's head shots? How will you light the client's head shots? What kinds of production or post-production trickery you might throw at a client's head shots?


Before asking yourself those other questions, important though they may be, you first need to ask (and answer or get answered) one simple-yet-wildly-important question. Once you do, once you answer it, all of the rest of your questions will fall into line. In fact, often enough they'll practically answer themselves.

The question is -- drum roll please --  WHAT IS THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE HEAD SHOT? (i.e., what, SPECIFICALLY, is the PRIMARY purpose of the head shot?)

Most people don't want or need head shots just for the sake of having some head shots. They have SPECIFIC REASONS why they want or need head shots. They have SPECIFIC NEEDS for those head shots and for what, they hope, their head shots will achieve... FOR THEM!

I know that sounds awfully simple. I know it sounds rather no-brainer. But I've seen more than a few head shots that were technically good, even great, but they sure didn't seem to match the purpose the subject was using them for.

I also understand that the purpose of a head shot doesn't sound like it has much to do with the art,  craft, and science of photography but, believe it or not, many things you might do when shooting photos for pay have less to do with the art, craft, and science of photography than they do many other things. For instance, when you're getting ready to scehdule a client's head shot session, there are some things you need to know about said client's needs for those head shots; things that transcend (or predetermine) how cool, artsy, crafy, technically-superior, or stylized your skills at shooting head shots, or anything else, might be.   Once you know the answer to that question, other questions about shooting a client's head shots, e.g., what the client should wear, where you should shoot the images, how you might light them, all become so much easier to figure out and a successful head shot session becomes so much easier to take place.

The pretty girl at the top is Tera Patrick. I've snapped many, sexy, glamorous, nude and non-nude pics of Tera but, for that shoot, she needed some head shots. She had some very specific reasons for needing  head shots, business and marketing reasons, and those reasons did not include featuring her, in the pics, as the sensuously-beautiful, knock-out glamour model that she happens to be.


Ed Araquel said...

Jimmy, were you the mystery headshot photographer here? :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uipMusPIJxk

jimmyd said...

Ed: LOL!!! I've never had an apartment in West Hollywood and I've never been to the post office in West Hollywood. That's my story and I'm sticking with it. 8-)

Ed Araquel said...

Sure Jimmy, sure. ;)