Can this problem be fixed? Is there anything you can do about it? Yes, you can practice.
After almost 30 years of shooting thousands of business people and professionals, I realized that many people give their headshots very little thought, before or after the photo session. They show up for the shoot and what happens, happens, as if it’s entirely out of their control.
If, contrary to all the evidence that’s out there, you don’t believe that your business headshot is all that important, then this article is not for you. But maybe you take your headshot seriously. You want to look your best and strengthen your personal and professional brand. You realize that a better headshot is an important point of contact, and sometimes the first one between you and the people in your professional life. You know that it needs to be crafted as carefully as a company logo.
Then here’s a three-step procedure that’s sure to work for you and become an important tool for your success. It came out of my experience as a fashion photographer. I shot thousands of models, most of them beginners. Their careers depended on getting great images for their portfolios and being able to produce great images at will when they’re being paid by their clients.
Working with these models and watching how the great ones learned their craft, I developed a method that works well almost always.
Three Steps to Better Headshots
Step 1: Research. Find successful photos similar to the ones you’ll be doing. Study the faces. Observe the poses and body language. Burn it all into your brain.
Step 2: Emulation. Get in front of a mirror, preferably in private, so you’re not distracted with feelings of looking silly. Then practice the looks in the photos you researched. Better yet, have some of the photos in your hand, maybe on your phone or iPad, so you can compare your emulations with the originals.
With this feedback, both the voluntary and involuntary muscles will adjust to better duplicate the expressions you’re targeting in the reference images. You’ll learn how to control muscles around your mouth to get the smile or look you desire. And you’ll learn how to influence your mood to control the muscles around your eyes that you can’t control directly.
The actions of the muscles near the eyes are what differentiates true smiles from fake smiles. Almost anyone can turn their mouth up in a smile, but most people can’t control their eye muscles to make the smile look real. That’s a big part of what this method addresses.
Consider the way serious dancers from a very young age study in front of a mirror the finest details of their poses and movements, sculpting and adjusting them until they are just right.
Step 3: Photo feedback. Take some pictures to allow you to try out what you’ve been practicing. Get a friend or someone you feel comfortable with and take a lot of pictures, trying a variety of expressions. They don’t have to be serious professional pictures. Just have some fun “playing” at modeling your desired looks.
The goal is to do the looks in front of the camera that you were practicing in front of the mirror. Not too much thinking, just smiling and having fun. Then carefully study the results. Compare your pics with the reference samples. Decide where you hit the target and where you missed.
Now go back to Step 1 and repeat the whole process. For actors and models this is an ongoing activity. For business people, once or twice will probably be enough.
Most people won’t want to go through this much trouble. But in every field, there are those who are willing to go the extra mile to stand out from the rest. This is for them.