Which of these people will get the better profile photo:-
- a relaxed, stress-free person, who has set time aside to enjoy a photo shoot
- someone with the phone going every 5 minutes, about to do a speech at an event and has a whole crowd of people waiting for them.
It’s night and day – chalk and cheese – choose your own metaphor! Person 1 will look open, friendly, relaxed, warm… 2 will look pre-occupied, elsewhere, stressed and maybe a bit on edge. Even the most seasoned performer has some kind of adrenaline before they start – and this shows.
Great people-photos don’t “just happen” with a good camera – which is great or I’d be out of business!
It’s my job to get all the technical “lighting and camera stuff” done seamlessly without anyone really noticing, and then take someone from the unusual (and maybe uncomfortable) position of posing in front of the camera to being relaxed and natural.
What should happen
To get the best shots of a client, they ideally want to have set time aside for the shoot – to have nothing too major on their mind (i.e. good diary management for that day), phone switched off and able to just spend an hour actually enjoying the whole photography thing.
Towards the end of the shoot, they’ll probably be a natural – a bit of practice, fun, experimentation and talking through ideas makes all the difference.
The photos will be far more natural, genuine smiles and expressions and hopefully be ones which just stand out where ever they are used.
What really happens…..
I often get asked to shoot an event or conference, and “can you get some headshots of x, y and z before hand”.
So these people are probably organising the thing or public speaking. Both are stressful to do, or if you are super-cool, you’ll still be thinking about what to say or about things which could go wrong.
Both of these show on your face, like it or not. You look distant or tense.
Also, they have no real time to stop – but they give you 2 minutes to get a shot before dashing off again. I can shoot off 100 photos in 2 minutes – cameras are good like that – but they’ll all look like someone who doesn’t want to be there.
On a few occasions, I’ve done photos at the end of a long day – usually events, usually frantic. Everyone looks incredibly tired, ready for a pint or sleep.
I’ve probably been dashing around all day, so not at my chatty best – so it’s all a bit of a walking disaster.
I’ve never seen any of those last shots chosen or used – people can look 10 years older when they’re tired, and after an event, everyone is tired.
So what is piggybacking?
It’s adding one job on to another.
It often probably makes business sense to do this, and I’ve got no problem attempting it most of the time. But from a professional portrait photography perspective, is a real challenge.
These “event headshot photos” are good for press releases, social media and blogs.
For profile shots you really want them to work FOR you – so if possible, don’t piggyback your head shot session on the back of an event, but take the time to do the job right.