Behind the scenes on a headshot shoot

What goes on behind the scenes during a headshot shoot? For most of us, getting a new headshot done has the appeal of the dentist. People are dissatisfied with their appearance or don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera. Let’s pull back the curtain and see what’s involved in a photo shoot.
On this particular shoot, I photographed a top notch OB-Gyn in Baltimore. She was joining a new practice and needed a new headshot.  When we spoke about the shoot, I offered her the option of a makeup artist, which she decided to do. If someone is not comfortable with doing their own makeup, or even if you are okay at it, using a makeup artist is the way to go. Makeup artists know exactly how to contour your face, choose your colors, and accentuate good while minimizing the bad. While many issues can be fixed in post, having a makeup artist will take your images to another level and give your images a polish that can’t be accomplished in Photoshop®. Almost all of the makeup artists I work with started out as artists and painters, and Carol Stover is no exception. She is an oil painter and licensed makeup artist with years of experience working with everyone’s skin types to make people look their best. Carol also stuck around to help with styling during the shoot later on.


While Carol was doing makeup, I was working on a lighting set up that would really set off my subject. I chose a warm grey background that I think is very classic.  The color is very warm and soft, which I think is flattering to professional women and men. It strikes a good balance between professional and approachable. On this particular shoot, I tried out two new lighting modifiers I have been looking at for a while now. I used one of Profoto’s new diffused umbrellas.  This umbrella is really well made and creates a beautiful indirect light. I can’t wait to use it on other shoots. I then further softened the light with a scrim.  Chimera products are great and went with one of their diffusion kits.  Chimera makes extremely high quality products right in Boulder, CO. I then boxed in the subject with a large reflector. The end result was gorgeous soft “window” light that just wrapped around the subject. This is how I decided to light this particular subject. The great thing about headshots is that you can really create whatever look you want through lighting.


Rolling the wardrobe in front of the background and photographing it is one way to see which pieces looked best. I find it really helps make the final decisions on wardrobe, since the wardrobe and set will have to work together. It also helps the client visualize what outfits will be best.


Finally, my subject was ready for her headshot. Carol helped nip and tuck hair and clothing into shape, clipping loose fabric and taming stray curls. We discovered that her lab coat showed the pattern of the shirt below it, so we had to work on a solution where we still saw the pretty shirt but not through the jacket. I took a few lighting test shots to check my lighting, then started taking images. When I have the time, I find it’s important to get to know the subject a bit so we can talk during the shoot. This helps bring out the best in one’s headshot. Finally, we went through images to make sure everyone was pleased.  Another shoot in the bag!


I hope this helps show what goes into making a great headshot. Talk to your photographer and makeup artist about what you want, bring a selection of your favorite outfits to wear. We are here to help!