What makes a great headshot? We continually ask ourselves and other photographers this question in one way or another. For me, I would have to say it comes down to a few things. First and foremost it has to tell a story. It has to have an intention. A feeling if you will.
Of course as photographers we love to get hung up on all the technical stuff, lighting, composition, background, etc. But when it comes down to it is the shot telling a story? Does it convey a feeling? If it does then regardless of the technical stuff it can be considered a great headshot. If it doesn't tell a story, it can be technically flawless and yet it still is simply a nice picture, some might even say a nice portrait. Hahaha.
As artists we strive to get all the technical stuff down so that it becomes second nature and that frees us up to really start being artistic and start telling stories with our photographs. If you ask any successful photographer what makes a great shot he will undoubtedly give you one of many reasons but what he will never mention is GEAR! He will never ever say well this camera or this lens or this modifier or this photoshop technique makes a great shot. Those are just tools. Rembrandt wasn't great because he had the best brushes or the best paint. It's how we use the tools we have that matters. What that photographer will tell you is about what the image conveys, what it makes you feel. A great headshot must tell the story - the story of you!!
All artists, painters, scultors, musicians, dancers, poets, or photographers are trying to tell stories. As a headshot photographer my only goal is to tell the STORY OF YOU!!
It is hard to describewhat makes one shot better than the other, it just has that IT factor. It tells the story LOUDER or CLEARER. It delves into your soul and exposes you as an actor for who you really are or at least for who you want to be.
It can be a serious story, it can be a zany comical story, whatever your story it just HAS to be 100% YOU! Sometimes we look at headshots and the person is very serious and it is a great shot becuase it is believable, other times the same expression on someone else is limp, has no feeling. We all have a sstory to tell as photographers our job is just to get it to manifest itself in a photograph. Not as easy as it sounds.
So for me as a photographer it is a dance, one partner is all the technical stuff I learned and my experiences and the other partner is the story I am trying to tell. It is a delicate and sometimes frustrating dance, because let's face it some of you just aren't very good at allowing yourselves to be lead. But when we do sync up and we are in the same rythym and we are hearing the same beat...POW...it's like magic. I look at the back of my camera at that little screen and smile and say "YES, THAT'S THE ONE"!! Usually I go ahead and take a few more anyway just in case but instictively I know, magic just happened. To quote a colleague of mine Christian Webb, DOPENESS happened.
So to get to that point where the Casting Agent looks at the shot and says "Hmmm, I like what I am feeling or I wanna know more of this persons story" that is what I consider my JOB. I take it very serious and I love what I do. I am constantly learning and evolving as an artist, kinda like I am learning new steps or learning new choreography.
So next time your thinking of getting headshots. Make sure you pic a good dance partner so your story can be told and felt.