Shooting Clean Headshots

Don't overcomplicate it.

Let’s talk about shooting headshots. Many of you love to overcomplicate shit, and you’ve got to stop doing that. You don’t need to overcomplicate it. Clean is the word Sal would use for headshots. Why? Because business professionals in general want a clean look and feel for their sites. You’re talking about a doctor, a lawyer, an insurance agent. Are you going to book an insurance agent that’s wearing a hoodie and they’ve got one dramatic hard light off to the right – a high contrast looking image? Does that match up? What is that, a spooky insurance agent? Their headshot is them. It’s their brand. They want to put it in grocery stores, they want to put it in movie theaters. They don’t want to have this overly creative image. Keep it clean.

What is a “clean” headshot?

Clean means well lit, a nice pose, and a good smile. That is what 90% of clients are going to want. Yeah, you’re going to get that one client every once in a while, who is like, “Well, I want to do something different.” Great. Go do different for them. But your website, your branding, your marketing should focus on clean. Backgrounds, same, clean. Sal just launched his new background line through Intuition Backgrounds. Those backgrounds are not for headshots. They’re great for seniors, fashion and any other studio work. Sal does not personally see them as a fit for headshots. And the reason is it’s just a little too busy. They’re too gritty. It’s just not what he would personally recommend. You can introduce colors, but keep it clean. You can get beautiful backdrops from Intuition Backgrounds that are clean. You can get paper from Savage that are just solid colors. Maybe you go with some primary colors. In the past, Sal has shot on white, or even a green screen for them, and converted it to the background color that is part of their corporate colors. No matter how you look at it, it’s always a clean shot.


You’re absolutely going to want to overshoot for headshots. Give them too many options. Sal highly recommends shooting tethered, if you can, so that you can at least show them what you’re doing. They can look at their expression and you can see if you’re nailing the shot or not. Sal would recommend two outfits. The more options the better because the more that they have to choose from, the more they will buy. For example – one with a tie, with no tie, with a lab coat, without a lab coat. Sal did a headshot for a doctor. He did some in his lab coat, some not in his lab coat. Of course, he ends up buying both of them. What Sal usually shows them is about 50 to 100 frames.

You might be thinking yourself like, “How are you doing this so quickly?” Guys, you’ve just got to move fast. Think tight, middle, and wide. Think about marketing. Sal is getting them dead center frame, off to one side in the frame, off to another side in the frame, looking at camera, smiling at camera, smiling, looking off to their left, smiling, looking off to their right. He is adjusting what third they’re in when they are posing like that. This way it’s very easy for you to shoot through that process and give them a bunch of different options. You’ve got to think, “Why am I giving them all these options?” It’s so there’s negative space so they can add some marketing language, so that if they want to use it on a direct mail piece, they can use it for a direct mail piece. If they want to use it for a Facebook ad where there’s text on one side, it’s not going over their face. These are the kinds of things that you can do to get them to spend a little bit more money when they’re with you.

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