One thing I would never have expected to come out of lockdown is the increasing need for a good profile photo. Whether you are a small business moving your services online, looking for a new job post-lockdown, or simply want to look your best for work emails (when in reality you are working the pyjama lewk), a good portrait for your various profile pictures is a step towards making a great first virtual impression.
Usually, I would recommend a headshot or brand photoshoot session as a professional photographer is going to be able to set up the perfect lighting, get the best angle and be able to provide you with a variety of high-quality portraits for you to be able to use. However, this doesn’t seem like this is going to be possible anytime soon, so we are all going to have to improvise!
Just before lockdown hit, I was planning a brand photoshoot with Boudica, an East Midlands based creative brand agency. This shoot obviously had to be postponed but the agency still needed to have some team headshots to be able to use on their website and on social media. Therefore, I challenged the ladies of Boudica to take their own headshots, armed with only their phones and my 5 tips to getting stunning lockdown portraits.
Choosing the best lighting is key for making sure your photo brings out all of your beauty. You want to make sure that your headshot is a true likeness of you, this means looking for nice even lighting. Those deceiving little shadows are what can transform a portrait you love to something you just want to delete from existence. Therefore, make sure you are facing your light source rather than have it to your side or behind you.
Now, you could get technical and purchase something like a ring light from Amazon to ensure that you always achieve that perfect even light (see example below, the ring light was positioned just above my head), but something that everyone has access to (well, it varies if you live in the UK) and is free, is a window and sunlight.
If you have been blessed with a sunny day and have a pretty garden to use as a background you could take your photo outside, but be warned that sometimes too much sun is a bad thing (I think only a photographer will ever utter those words!). Bright, cloudless skies often mean harsh light which can result in unflattering shadows and squinty eyes. If you do want to venture outside and have some nature as your background, then try early in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is lower and produces a softer light. The hour after sunrise and before sunset is known as golden hour and for good reason, the light is warmer, softer and the most flattering for portraits.
If you’re not an early bird or don’t have a spectacular garden for a backdrop then this is where a window comes in to play. Taking a portrait inside your home in front of a window doesn’t rely on the weather being perfect either, even light is still produced if it’s raining outside or you can quite easily use things around the home to diffuse the light if it’s a bit too harsh. You’ll want to make sure that any other lights in the room are switched off, they won’t match the ‘colour’ of sunlight and might throw in some random shadows that we want to avoid. If you are finding that the light is a bit harsh, using semi-opaque blinds or material can diffuse the light whilst keeping the flattering qualities you are looking for.
Phew, you’ve got through that first step. Feels like lighting is so simple, but it can make a WORLD of difference.
Next on the list is figuring out HOW you are going to take these photos. The standard selfie pose is out of the question, having a phone camera so close to your face will distort your features due to the way the camera has been built. Ideally, you want to be able to use the rear camera as it is usually higher quality so having a partner or someone you live with taking the photo will help you get the angles right without too much running back and forth between shots.
However, if you don’t have a willing volunteer, there are other options that you can use. You can improvise and create a ‘tripod’ out of books or ornaments in your home to lean your phone against, however, this won’t give you much control over the ideal angle that we will talk about in just a moment. You can splash out a little and get a gooseneck phone holder for around £15-20 on Amazon, this will give you so much more control over where your camera is and offers much more usage than just these headshots such as IG Lives, videos, or even flat lays.
OK, so now you know how you are going to take the photos, let’s get down to the angle you’re going to take them. The general rule of thumb for what angle to shoot at is JUST above eye level. Don’t go too high otherwise your headshot will be reminiscent of a MySpace profile picture, whereas too low might reveal facial features you want to keep hidden away from social media. However, with both angles and poses, the best thing to do is to practice in a mirror. YOU know what makes you feel good so make sure you know what to do when you get in front of a camera.
As mentioned before, posing takes practice, so check yourself out when you are doing your makeup in the morning or brushing your teeth. Here are a few things to think about when you get in front of the camera:
Your hair, is it going all in front of your shoulders, all behind or just up in a ponytail? Hair-ography is a thing and it applies to photos as well!
Avoid posing straight on to the camera, this will make your shoulders look much broader than they already are. Try turning your shoulders to be at an angle (think back to school photo days!).
Bring your ears forward, it sounds (and will feel weird) but will help to eliminate any sign of a double chin.
Lift your arm a tiny bit so it’s ‘floating’ rather than flat against your body, this will avoid squishing your arm and making it look larger than it actually is.
When taking a headshot your head and shoulders should be taking up around 60% of the image to work best with social media platforms so you needn’t worry about the rest of your body!
When thinking about where you are going to take your photo always make sure you consider what will be behind you. A plain background is great but if you want to be more adventurous you want to make sure that it isn’t distracting but still represents who you are as a brand. Think about your brand values and how that could be represented in a backdrop, if you are all about sustainability then maybe some simple greenery would work, or if you have brand colours then work that into your backdrop. Nevertheless, don’t overthink it as this will often mean that it will take away from what the true purpose of the photo is and that is YOU!
Editing can be a controversial topic in the photography world, especially with headshots. Preferably, you want to make sure the photo is a genuine likeness to you so make sure that all of the ‘beauty modes’ available on your phone are switched off! We are all here to embrace our true selves so feel brave and give the natural look a chance. However, we all know how the world works and if you wake up on the day that you want to take photos with an unwelcome blemish then there are options to erase it. Lightroom Mobile is an app brought to you by Adobe, the creators of Photoshop, which allows you to use the ‘Healing’ or ‘Clone Stamp’ tool to get rid of any unwanted blemishes. It also will allow you to make some simple changes to your photos such as brightness or contrast and has some filters as well which you can edit and change the strength of. My advice with filters is to make sure it doesn’t change the colours in your photo so much that they are completely different.
The ladies at Boudica were challenged to take their best lockdown headshots using these tips. Here are the results, who do you think did the best?
Be sure to check out Boudica and what they are getting up to here:
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