What makes Amazing Headshots?

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What makes Amazing headshots by Headshots LA owner/photographer Joshua Michael Shelton

In all my years of doing headshots I commonly find that people have misconceptions when it comes to what makes an amazing headshot. I’m going to go deep and give a complete explanation to what makes a great headshot. So no matter if you are an actor, model, agent or just an average Joe or if you’re using a professional camera or a camera under  $200 which you can read full post about it here, still you will be able to know an amazing headshots when you see them.

What is the purpose of a headshot? A headshot is to show an agent or casting director what you look like, bottom line. I see this get messed up all the time. The 4 basics to remember is color, exposure, framing and capture. The color of a great headshot should be as true to real life as possible. Also the make-up for headshots should not alter the natural skin color or lip color. Skin color, lip color, eye color, and hair color all need to be consistent with how the person in the headshot looks. Headshots are not rocket science. Just keep it clean and simple.

It’s also just as important to look at the exposure and framing of a headshot in order to judge quality. Exposure is a delicate balance of highlights, midtones and darks. Every photo is different and requires exposure to be properly balanced in shooting and post production. There are 2 types of framing for headshots; standard headshot framing and three quarter framing. Standard headshot framing is from the nipples to 6 inches above the head. There still needs to be enough room for future cropping if needed. Three quarter framing for a headshot is from the bottom of your pants pocket to six inches above the head. This framing is to show agents an actor’s overall body type and is to accompany a standard headshot whether it be a commercial headshot or theatrical.

The final part of the 4 basics is the capture. This is when the camera freezes a millisecond of a person’s time for eternity. Sounds scary but don’t be afraid. The capture is the point in time when the subject and the photographer are working together with awareness to all the details and creating a fun and relaxed environment where an actor can feel genuine. A great capture can happen on accident but great photographers do it all the time. When you look at a headshot ask yourself is this a great capture? This is what takes an average headshot to an amazing headshot.

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