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PROFESSIONAL HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHY THAT PAYS FOR ITSELF

Sunshine Coast Headshot Photography


Look confident but not cocky. Assertive yet approachable. Smart instead of sexy, unless you can pull off both—and only if it’s subtle sexy.


Nailing your professional headshot seems harder than ever at a time of social media overload and on-screen first impressions. The super corporate and overly made-up looks that once dominated professional business profiles now seem out of place in the 2022 work-from-anywhere world.


Selfies are free (and abundant), but for people trying to stand out from the crowd, or who are chasing the perfect image for their LinkedIn or business profile photo, a professional headshot or portrait still represents great value for money as it often leads to more business enquiries, a job promotion or making the difference between winning a contract or not.


Many business people are happily paying thousands of $$ for headshot sessions in the quest to nail that perfect image and give themselves a slight advantage over their competition. Most of these clients are business types tired of their bland corporate profile pics and willing to shell out to stand out while showing off more of their personality.


Below - Michael Klim, Olympic Swim Champion


In certain ways, the importance of a good headshot is measurable. LinkedIn, which enjoys more traffic when profiles are more engaging, reports that bios with great headshots get 21 times more views than those without, and users receive nine times more connection requests when they include pictures of themselves.


Men and women who have spent many dollars and hours on a striking headshot say it’s worth it. The effort can involve wardrobe, hair and makeup consultations spread over several days, plus informal coffee chats to build rapport with the photographer—all before the camera even clicks for the first time. However when it’s over, there are (hopefully) a few frames that depict the best version of the person in them, and the $$ they have invested in themselves is all worthwhile.


Headshot enthusiasts insist the goal is now authenticity, not vanity. That can mean an unconventional outfit or backdrop, natural hair, exposed tattoos and unretouched wrinkles. These are all aspects of an image that make the subject more approachable, and frankly, more interesting.


Peter (below), a health and fitness enthusiast recently had me shoot him at the SportsHub gym on the Sunshine Coast. His goal from the shoot was to showcase his great 'rig', built on years of hard work ethic, but also to show a little of his personality. The images were to be used for his online profile (personal and business) and he figured that the joy he feels in his happy place (the gym) would come through in a picture, and he was overjoyed at the final results.


Michael Ford, the CEO of Freedom Furniture, recently commissioned a portrait session for an editorial piece that was running in The Australian Newspaper. His previous corporate images were very 'serious CEO / senior board member' style, however for this shoot we brought more of an approachable style and photographed him on location inside the store to suit the nature of the editorial piece (image below).

Many portrait photography clients have amazing experience, skills and resumes, however ”their headshot is the first impression" so it needs to be something that grabs attention and leaves the viewer wanting to know more about the person in front of the camera. Of course, a great portrait or headshot photo cannot happen without an equally amazing photographer behind the lens


Every professional photographer has a different style and technique and employs some or all of the below techniques to ensure that their images stand out from the 'iphone selfie'.



Making the subject comfortable

Taking time for the photographer and client to connect before the photoshoot and making the subject comfortable is an essential factor for a successful portrait photography session. It is best to get to know each other and let the subject know more about your style of photography and what exactly you will be looking for in the shoot before the session begins. Discussing ideas about the shoot with your subject helps to create a clear plan about what it is that both of you need to do to achieve your goals.

Even if the photographer and subject are familiar with each other, many people can still get uncomfortable when they get in front of the camera so it is always a good idea to keep communicating before and during the shoot. Having a photographer that keeps things fun, light and casual also helps!


Find the right location / backdrop to help tell your story

The location you choose for the portrait shoot is going to be a significant influence on the final results. Shooting outdoors in natural light gives a more natural result however poses many challenges for the photographer due to weather, wind and changing lighting, shadows and environment conditions as the day progresses.

Shooting indoors offers much more control over light and weather however can feel a bit staged if not done correctly. You need to plan your portrait lighting arrangements properly to complement the mood of the shoot, model's clothes, and backdrops.


And if your portrait/headshot session needs to 'tell a story' in one single image, incorporating props or a relevant backdrop is an easy way to do that (see above image)


Posing...

Figuring out the right portrait photography poses for your subject that portrays them in the most flattering way is always a challenge. Getting the subject to pose in a way that complements them while keeping in mind the lighting, camera angle, and background is always an exciting puzzle. Most photographers will try out various combinations of poses and angles to find the best options for the best results.


Lets get candid

Asking subjects to 'pose' can sometimes give less than optimal results. Some people are just not comfortable posing and they can appear stiff and awkward. As an alternative approach, getting your subjects comfortable and shooting them doing their usual, natural activities can yield fantastic portrait shots.


Many of my best athlete and editorial portrait images have occured as a result of candid photography techniques, so this is something worth considering for your next session





Lighting

Lighting is critical to a photographer and can make or break a great portrait photo. In my opinion, great lighting is always the most important factor of the photography process so it's vital that you get this right! Directional lighting is the reason why standing in front of a light source will make a subject dark and hardly visible. Similarly, having a light source to the side will make half the subject light up and the half in shadows.


Using a light source that highlights the aspects of the face in a flattering way is vital. The creative use of the sun as a light source in outdoor portrait photography can produce stunning results and a good photographer should be able to use the available lighting to his advantage. Many photographers (including myself) will also use strobe lighting, softboxes and reflectors on our outdoor portrait shoots for the best results and to make the subject 'pop' from the background.


Below -Shane Stanley for Noosa Farmers Markets


Emotions and expressions

Artistic portrait photography is all about finding emotions and expressions in portrait pictures however getting the subject to emote is easier said than done. Try to avoid fake smiles and blank looks, whereas a genuine sparkle in the eye, a faint smile, a confident expression and that elusive 'subtle sexy' look are the recipes for creating great portrait shots that will shine. Work with your photographer and give yourself time to get into the zone. Forcing or hurrying this process will not work.


Editing and post-processing

While great lighting, and quality photography is essential, proper editing and retouching in professional portrait photography can also make the difference between a 'good' and a 'great' image. However my suggestion is don't over-do it! As mentioned earlier, 'natural and authentic' images are now the goal, rather than anything overly edited and 'fake'. So if you have a few wrinkles, celebrate them - every wrinkle shows your experience!


Naturally any blemishes or stray hairs can be removed in post production (if the client requires this to be done) so my tip is to work with your photographer to find a good balance, enjoy your shoot and use those fresh images to help achieve your work or personal goals!!


Dave Gleeson at Sunny Coast Photos is an accomplished portrait and headshot photographer based in Noosa, Queensland, with over 150 magazine and newspaper cover portrait images published. You can discover more about Dave's portrait photography sessions and book your own shoot here



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