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How to Prepare for a Headshot or Portrait Photo Session

If you’re like most people, you probably dislike the idea of closeup photos of yourself. But as a business owner, having a professional headshot is important. Remember that you are representing your business, so you want to make sure to make a great impression.

There is more to capturing great photos than just showing up at the studio and smiling in front of the camera. There are a few things you need to do to help optimize your photo shoot and capture great photos. Here are a few to get you thinking.

Hair

Your hairstyle plays an important role in the way you look. Use hair products like gel or hairspray to tame frizz and enhance shine. Make sure, though, that you wear your hair as you would every day. Natural-looking may be better than over-done, over-sprayed and over-teased, but the best look is well-groomed and professional. If you are planning to cut your hair, do so a week before the shoot.

Makeup

Headshots are not supposed to be glamour shots. You want to look the same way as you do in real life. Your makeup should be simple, but well done. Don’t go overboard. If you wear a lot of makeup, it will not look natural. Apply makeup to enhance your facial features.

If you can afford it, hire a makeup artist to ensure that you look your best throughout your photo session.  Be cautious about having your hair and/or makeup done in a salon before a shoot.  It is better to work with the photographer’s hair and makeup artist who is experienced at preparing clients for photo sessions, which can be very different than every-day, street, or evening makeup.  Also, having a hair and makeup present during the shoot allows for changes during the photo session.

Wardrobe

Your primary goal is to capture photos that best represent you. When choosing your outfit, opt for clothing that reflects your personality. Colors look great in photos. Choose colors that will complement your skin tone and will make certain features like your eyes pop. Since you want viewers to focus on your face, avoid tops with big prints and busy patterns.  Avoid anything that adds bulk, like shoulder pads, or big scarves.

If you’re having a hard time deciding what to wear, we suggest that you bring different outfits on the day of the shoot – from shirts to sweaters to formal blouses and light jackets. Then, your photographer can help you decide which works well on camera and to see what looks good on you. What’s important is that you’re comfortable with what you’re wearing and that you feel great in it. If you feel uncomfortable, it will show in your photos.

Be yourself

While all other elements such as clothing, hair and makeup will have a huge impact on the outcome of the photos, your attitude during the shoot is actually a lot more important than your hairstyle, your lipstick shade or what you wear.

Show the camera how awesome you are! The best photos are those that reflect who you are as an individual. Bring your personality to the shoot and be your own unique self.

At G. Thomas Ward Photography in Chicago, we let our professional clients bring their headshots to the next level by including the more playful option of having their shots with Sirius Black (our studio mascot). A long time client, local commercial real estate company Telos, for example,  takes their “official” portrait, as well as these ones to show their true personalities!

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Feeling My Way In The Dark

I grew up in Oak Lawn, Illinois which, in second half of the 70s and early 80s was a cultural desert.  If there was any culture to be had, I wasn’t aware of it.  My parents were good parents, but family, work, and making a home were their main pursuits.  My mother had a few LPs, Errol Garner, Johnny Cash, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, and some Christmas records.  There couldn’t have been more than 20 total.  We had 1 TV which was shared between my parents and my 4 older brothers.  Suffice to say, my viewing options were limited and I was bottom of the totem pole when it came to selecting what to watch.  We didn’t go to the movies, let alone theater, concerts or art museums.

Once I reached junior high, things started to change for me.  I started to take music lessons. A friend’s parents took me with them to see Abel Gance’s silent film masterpiece Napoleon at the Chicago Theater with a live orchestra.  I saw my older brother perform in his high school’s version of Fiddler on the Roof.  Once I got a taste of the arts, I couldn’t get enough.    Eventually, I became the entertainment editor on my high school newspaper, and was regularly winning local music performance competitions.  I was an honors student and my parents expected me to go to college to become an engineer or scientist.  With no one to really understand or nurture my interest in the arts, and limited means to pursue it on my own, my aesthetic education was slow.

I think it’s kind of funny that I ended up as a photographer.  I don’t think anyone who knew me in my high school days would have ever predicted it.  I went off to the University of Illinois enrolled in Liberal Arts, secretly wanting to become a film director, but afraid to tell my parents lest they say, “You’re going to be a dentist, and that’s FINAL!”  I thought perhaps I could sort of ease them into it.  How was I to know that I should have found a way to attend the University of Southern California if I wanted to go into film?  I was a plumber’s son from Oak Lawn, Illinois for god’s sake and all the smart kids went to the U of I.

I took my first photography class pretty much by accident.  Once I was out of the house, I was exposed to all kinds of new and interesting people, and was encouraged by my teachers and the creative environment.  I did have a lot of catching up to do in terms of my aesthetic education. Here are a few samples from my earliest attempts at photography, mostly from Photo I and Photo II classes.  These images span approximately from 1983-1985.

As part of an ongoing project, I’m reviewing some of my photography work from my first photography class to the present.  Here is my first post.