In professional photography, there’s nothing simpler than capturing headshots, right? Wrong! Headshots actually involve a lot more artistry and skill than meets the eye. Unlike photos on driver’s licenses, passports, and other IDs that only show what someone looks like, headshots are supposed to highlight personalities, demeanor, and character.


To get a headshot of someone, many factors must be considered. What is the headshot for? Is the subject an actor, an executive, a model? Knowing the person a little bit contributes to an excellent headshot, and it also takes a warm personality of your own to draw the real character of the subject.


Before figuring out how to become a skilled Chicago headshot photographer, let’s learn more about what headshot photography really is.


What is a Headshot?


In photography, a headshot is a photograph of someone’s face, cropped from the shoulder up, with the subject typically looking at the camera. It is an introduction of sorts that tells others, “This is me.” In the case of professional profiles such as LinkedIn, it is complemented by a paragraph of text that tells more about the person. In short, it should help narrate a story where you are the main character and should somehow elicit a feeling or a reaction. Otherwise, it’s just a picture.


5 Tips for the Perfect Headshot


1.)   Talk to the Subject


Some might call this a consultation, but talking to the subject before the shoot serves another purpose. Aside from the input coming from the subject, talking face-to-face helps the person relax in your presence. When they are relaxed, they are more likely to look comfortable and real in their picture. If you want to break into taking professional headshots, Chicago or elsewhere, that’s the way you want it to be.


2.)   Break the Ice


No matter how much you try to make them relax, first-time subjects will almost always be nervous. You have two options here: Either you take your time and do the frames over and over again, or break the ice immediately by asking them to pose for a wacky pic. The sillier, the better. Depending on the funny face they make, this will also give you an insight into the type of person the subject is, and you can adjust accordingly.


3.)   Go Natural


Depending on the circumstances, a headshot photoshoot may need a studio, but if you’re just learning the ropes, it’s better to go natural with your background. Take advantage of outdoor lighting or take the subject somewhere that means a lot to them. That could be anywhere from a cafe that they frequent, the local library, or even their home. Being in a familiar setting will also have the added benefit of making them feel more relaxed and comfortable.


4.)   Go for Simple Poses


Most of your subjects won’t be professional models, so unless you have the luxury of time, it's no use trying to make them do complex poses. A headshot can be taken standing up or sitting down, but ensure that the shoulders are straight and the neck is elongated. The subject may also have a preferred angle, so also make sure that you get their input.


5.)   Remember the Goal


To become an excellent Chicago headshot photographer, you must not lose sight of the goal. With headshots, the goal is to accentuate the subject's face and not showcase your creative abilities, although taking great professional headshots, Chicago and beyond, is a skill to begin with. You can highlight the subject's face by having them stand away from the background or blurring the background altogether. In headshot photography, brightly colored clothing can become a distraction, so it's better to choose a wardrobe with solid, neutral colors.


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