Usually when people hire me to create a headshot it is because they like my style or my eye or whatever you call it. They have seen my portfolio and decided that they want a headshot similar to what they see. That is one of the reasons I have the portfolio online, so folks can see what I deliver. Occasionally, I am booked by people that want me to do something else. I generally think this is a mistake and try to discourage them from doing so. I am way too expensive to work with unless you really like my stuff. If you don’t like it, that is cool. Ultimately it is a matter of esthetic opinion. I can talk your ear off about what I like about the style, but if you don’t like it, we are likely at an impasse.
If I do something that is not my stuff, it is probably because I REALLY like the client or it is a lucrative job.
Nevertheless, I think that it is a mistake to use me as a laborer with a camera. If you work with me, it should be because you like my work and my eye for expression and want to utilize those for the benefit of your personal brand. That is it. Let me show you an example.
There is an advertising firm that I adore. They do some work for a firm that has people I like. For reasons I do not understand, they required me to photograph their people on a background that only lacks one thing: redeeming qualities. The backgrounds that I use have a purpose. The white for example is still a contemporary look. I love the negative space it creates. It is like an homage to Richard Avedon. It is easy to cut the heads off of so some web design guy can slap them on a city skyline or something horrid like that. Most importantly, it is inconspicuous.
I think of what I do as taking a portrait of your personality. The expression on your face is the main thing I am concerned with. Yes, I want you to look good, but the expression is primary. There are a ton of pictures of attractive people with blank or vacant or miserable looks on their faces. My clients can’t have that. They care about the message their headshot sends, and “I’m feelin’ ennui” is a bad message for most folks to send. Anything that distracts the viewer from the expression worries me. That is one of the reasons why I recommend to women that we use light and natural make up and little to no jewelry. It is why I like plain backgrounds for headshots.
Here is a headshot of an attractive person on a less than ideal background, cropped too loosely:
It isn’t awful. She looks nice. But I feel like I am Olan Mills having a really good day. Judge for yourself. Here she is on the background I want, cropped the way I want:
I think this version has way more impact than the Sears Portrait Studio version, and by that I mean that it blows doors on it in the exact same way that Geddy Lee blows doors on that guy who played bass for Scorpions in the 80’s. Quod erat demonstrandum.
So let me do my stuff, and we will both be better off.
The author would like to thank Keyshawn Johnson whose autobiography Just Give Me the Damn Ball inspired this blog post.