Three Important Things That Make A Killer Headshot!
My name is Matthew Hamilton and I am a headshot specialist located in Philadelphia. I have spent years thinking and dissecting what makes a great headshot and directing my clients into creating these amazing photos. Here are my thoughts on the three things that make up a killer headshot. Keep in mind these three things are assuming the lighting, crop, and background are all on point. Anyway, onto the three things!
As humans, most of our communication is through subtle body language, all non verbal. So when that expression is frozen in a photograph, you HAVE to make sure that it is sending exactly the message you want it to. This is most crucial for your acting headshot.
Considering that, there are three qualities that I think every headshot should convey in order to do its job. It should show you looking confident, approachable, and interesting. Confidence in your headshot shows that you are credible. That you know what you are doing, that you can get the job done. So if you look scared or uncertain, I’m not going to believe that you have what it takes to take on the role you desire.
Being approachable in your headshot conveys that you are likable. The people looking over your headshot need to feel like they will enjoy working with you. The last is that you want to look interesting. This is where your personality comes out, and makes you stand out from everyone else with a generic headshot.
How do you achieve all of these in your headshot? It just so happens that all of them are controlled by your expression. It is also interesting that there are only three things on your face that you can move to change your expression! Those are your mouth, eyes, and eyebrows. Moving these three facial features at the same time completely changes the personality you convey in your headshot, and what you want to communicate through it. So get your faces moving!
Confidence comes from your eyes. Opening your eyes really wide, while it does show off the color inside, actually is not a good look for photos. In fact, this is commonly referred to as the “deer in the headlights” look. Instinctively you open your eyes really wide when you are scared in order to take in as much of your surroundings as possible so you can see any predators! This is why I like to try to keep the eyes relaxed in my headshots and sometimes eyes can use a little squint to increase the confidence look a little more. This is a similar look to the one Tyra Banks calls smizing.
Approachability comes from the mouth. The bigger and more genuine the smile you have, the more approachable you are perceived. If you have no mouth movement you can easily be viewed as mean and no one really wants to work with a mean person. At the very least you must always have a slight smirk to convey that you aren’t going to kick someone’s butt.
So depending on the personality or role you want to convey, this will help you decide how much smile you should have. Now if you are looking to have a big smile in your headshot make sure to go for a genuine one (usually comes out through laughter), no one likes to see forced smiles.
Lastly, you have your eyebrows which help convey emotion and your personality. Eyebrows can easily be the biggest factor for changing your expression, and it is commonly the most overlooked thing in headshots. By engaging your brows, you will automatically stand out more than everyone else since most people don’t really think about them at all.
Downward brow pressure towards the eyes can convey concern or create a more intense look while raising one eyebrow and lowering the other can look slightly amusing. Raising both can come off as being surprised and could also increase your approachability a touch. You get the point, there is a lot to think about when it comes to moving your face in your headshot. The eyebrow movement combined with various eye and mouth movements, can increase the power of your headshot exponentially.
Photogenic may mean something different for you but to me, someone is photogenic when their self confidence equals more than their insecurities. So basically think: when you are being yourself, and not worried about what you look like is when you are most attractive. Add a photographer who understands your best angles, and you see what I mean by a killer headshot. Anyone can look incredible in pictures. It just takes some prep work and an expert photographer who can get you to relax, laugh enough to capture real expressions, and coach you into engaging angles.
If you have any questions about what any of this means for your headshot or anything else, let me know! I would love to help you out!