5 Tips for Shooting Headshots for Beginners

Learn the light

Example of Cinematic Headshot

My first piece of advice would be that as a visual artist, whether he be a photographer, a painter or a designer, the main objective is to tame the light.

You use light to shape a scene or subject with highlights and shadows, to create something visually appealing.

When you are looking at an image, your brain scans shades and lights to recreate a visual representation, so understanding how light affects our subjects and learning the quality of light, its properties, fall-off etc, is paramount. By broadening my knowledge of light, my photography have increasingly become better.”

Invest in your lenses

Invest in your lenses rather than in your camera. I think one of the most common mistakes is to use up your budget for the body of the camera to the detriment of the lenses. For me, this spells out a big No. It’s better to save a few hundred quid on the body and get a better quality lens as you will get better quality images, at least from a technical point of view.”

Find a lens that compliments your style. For headshots the focal lengths primarily used ranges from 50mm to 85mm to 200mm being the widest one that gives the subject a more edgy modern look by distorting the facial features more and 85 to 200 giving a more natural and realistic look. I personally shoot 90% of my headshots with 85mm (Sony SEL85f14gm) the reason being: I like my clients headshots to look very realistic so when they go for an audition, they don’t look like a different person but also keeping a slight edgy look.

Let the client see what you are doing

I am a firm believer of showing the photos to the client as you are going through the session, which will help them to relax and build their confidence, you can even point out some things that are not working with his posture or expression to get the best results.


fun fact: To help client get in the mood I ask them to suggest 1-2 songs to play on the speakers, songs that are then included into my Spotify studio playlist made up entirely of client suggestions.

Try Shooting in studio and outdoors

See what you like the most. They are completely different environments to shoot in. we recommend hiring a studio to start dabbling with studio light and equipment. One of the best places to hire a studio is MisterLocation, you can check their website here.

Find the character

When shooting a cinematic headshot for actors, you need to find a way to give the client a range of different characters. Think which characters the client could portray and set up your lights accordingly.

The goal is to give them a number of completely different looks and to help them getting the part when auditioning  for roles.

Connect with your client

This is really important, especially for headshots. You might have the best equipment in your studio or outdoors, as well as the best weather conditions for that perfect shot, but if the subject is not highly engaged with every part of their body and soul, the picture won’t transmit any particular vibe nor will it tell a story. I always tell my clients to focus on the reflection of themselves in the camera instead of the very device and I also ask them to gaze out and think through the lens.

There is always something about my subjects. A message trying to get across or a secret that is hidden in an attempt to bridge the gap between the viewer and the subject. It’s all in the eyes.