What makes a headshot great? You don’t need a fancy camera to get great shots. Play around with different settings. Experiment. Try forcing your flash even outdoors to get rid of unwanted shadows on the subject’s face. Both of the photographs I’m going to discuss were taken in New York City using natural light. I opted for real backgrounds as opposed to simple white backdrops.
Headshots: Three Tips
I chose the building, located on the Lower East Side, as the backdrop in Nicky's photo because of its unique facade. I am always looking for walls with interesting lines, angles and colors because if you photograph them at a certain angle all the horizontal lines will meet at a vanishing point. The eye is funneled towards the subject and the abstract, geometric backdrop is much more interesting than a white wall. In this particular case, the light was ideal because each brick was shadowed and defined so that the surface looked particularly dynamic.
The model’s face is awash in light that is both soft and defining. See the highlight on her nose? Direct sunlight can cause harsh shadows, a squinting subject and reveal blemishes on the skin. It was close to sunset so the light was glowing gold. I held up a reflector to lighten the shadows of Nicky’s face. But the real trick was: New York is great for bouncing light off of buildings; a 200-foot reflector gives you amazingly soft, dispersed light.
I always wanted to have a photoshoot on a boat. Isn’t life better on a boat? For those of us that are “in-between boats” there’s always the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free and poses some unique traits. In this photo the background is out of focus, making Manhattan look especially soft and distant. The blue tones are cool and quiet. I was hoping for a dramatic red sunset, but didn’t get much. The monochrome background works, though. It’s almost abstract. Krissy is in the front and in focus, set apart from Manhattan in the distance. She is clearly the subject of this photograph, the contrast between her and the background making her skin, hair and eyes pop.
Q&A - Leave your questions in the comment section!
Emma from Brooklyn: Do you have any other ideas for great, free locations for shoots in New York?
Patrick: Do some footwork. Explore your neighborhood on a bike. A bike is perfect because it’s slow enough that you can see everything but fast enough that you can really cover some ground. Photography and exploration go hand in hand, don’t they? Here are some great locations I found while exploring Brooklyn and New York City: