The Best Approach for a Photographer, Make it a Portfolio Shoot. Often you hear photographers or models make a comment that they need a great head shot for their portfolios and indeed, the ability to showcase your talent as a photographer of models should include a few nice headshots in your portfolio. Models, especially agency models, have a need to showcase their talents to potential clients and the most important image of a modeling industry portfolio is the headshot.

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Often the best approach for a headshot is to treat it as a typical portfolio shoot.

A word of caution, don’t confuse an actor’s headshot with a model’s headshot, usually those are two different types of headshots and for this article the focus is on capturing a model’s headshot — not so much the technical aspects, but the approach.

Normally when a model needs a new headshot, a photographer should take the simple approach of to just set up a normal photo portrait or modeling session and lets the model know when the headshot naturally appears, the photographer will just capture it so there is no “planned headshot.” This approach works because some models, even the more experienced ones, tend to “freeze” when they know the photographer is focusing on a headshot. As a photographer, it’s always best to educate your models with the idea that the best headshot comes when the model doesn’t know the headshot is being taken.photography ideas model photo

Basically, when a photographer and a model agree only on a shoot to capture a headshot, it becomes too planned and everyone expects it to be done in 30-minutes. Based on my decades of photography experience as a photographer, the model becomes a different person and a great headshot is usually hard to capture in this mindset. Not to mention, the photographer becomes too focused on creating a headshot under a short period of time and tends to lose their creative passion.

Don’t make your subject tense and you probably will if you tell your model you’re going to shoot a headshot — if you see one, just capture it, if you don’t, don’t force it. If you warn your model first, chances are they’ll freeze up with a tight face. It’s this passion along with great communication and rapport with the model that normally creates a marriage of the minds to bring out that perfect smile — when the corners of the model’s eyes are in perfect harmony with the corners of her lips. Normally a great photographer won’t achieve this in 30 minutes. The best headshots are usually unplanned.

By simply turning the photo session into one aimed at capturing portfolio shots, the shoot will evolve and when the photographer sees a great headshot, they unobtrusively capture it — usually the model doesn’t even know it’s captured in the camera and assumes it’s an image featuring the total body. One advantage to this approach, if the model is posing in their favorite outfit, the image is usually easier to capture and one of the four S’s of glamour photography, sexy, sultry, seductive, sensual, or a combination of the four will appear in the final image. This leads to a more alluring image, a more provocative but tasteful image with character.

Headshots are like portraits and in most people photography, if you don’t have “the face,” you have nothing. It’s always about the face when it comes to a great image of your model, especially the headshot. So, if you or your model needs a great headshot, the best approach, treat it like a normal photo shoot and capture the headshot when it happens, not when it’s planned.


Rolando Gomez is a professional photographer and author of five photography books that has traveled to 45 countries for assignments. The former soldier and U.S. Army combat photographer has taught hundreds of photography workshops for almost two decades. A 2016 and 2017 Top Writer for Quora, his partial credits include Newsweek, Parade, Playboy, Rangefinder, Maxim, Rangefinder, New York Times, Stars & Stripes, and various other publications. You can find more of his work on AmericanoDream.com.  
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