I really dislike the word “headshot.” I think it undersells what I offer and “a shot of your head” doesn’t exactly reflect the value and opportunity that a great headshot should bring you.
Commercial Portraiture, I feel, better reflects what you get when you work with me. It’s the same style and mindset that I approach my commercial and editorial work with, when budgets are big and the stakes are high for the client. Why should your headshot be any different?
With that context in mind, I was recently sitting at a meeting with a transportation sector client that I’m doing multiple shoots for as they simultaneously upgrade their website and launch into broader markets. We’re doing on-location shots of their fleet and people, shooting the new office space and they also wanted some great “headshots” to make them stand out from the rest. In the course of the meeting, someone expressed some love for the idea of having a classic headshot, juxtaposed with something that told a deeper story of the person, that popped-up when you moused-over their headshot; something we dubbed the “personality” shot. The challenge was to convey a sense of a fun and a human approachability, while also maintaining a primary focus on that highly committed and professional person you can trust to move your thousands of employees to the office every day without a hitch.
On the day of the shoot, we got the whole team scheduled into the studio with just 15 minutes per person to nail two shots. I’d just gotten back from a job in Mexico about 15 hours before, but we had both sets built so all we had to do was walk five feet to the left after the headshot, with a second camera waiting. 15 minutes per person.
The headshots were easy, but getting real personality shots (with a focus on fun and relaxed) can be a challenge, esp. from people who are not actors, models or, worse yet, hate the camera! I had a few things up my sleeve, all centered around asking people to do something that was totally out of left field. “Act like a lion.” was one of the more silly ones. Sure, shooting you acting like a lion is kinda funny and you’ll likely end up loving that shot, but the big secret is that I want to capture you cracking up right after you gave me your best lion. In that instant, you forgot the camera was there and I got the most relaxed you that you’ve likely ever seen on camera. THAT, is the true personality shot. People react wildly differently to different prompts though, so it’s a game (science?) to match the right ask to the right person.
After a few attempts with mixed results, I dug into the reserves and said “Jump.”
“What??”, they asked.
“Jump. Can you jump?”
That was all I needed to say.
We ended up having an amazing time, and the jumps might still become the centerpiece of the concept. We got everything from “there’s no way in hell I’m jumping”, which still got us the results we wanted, to a true competition for the best aerials. Jeremy won, with style points for socks.