Most organizations will want their staff to all get their headshots around the same time for consistency and cost savings. For a professional photographer, that means that establishing a good rhythm and workflow for the day is key to running a good photoshoot.
Be ready to be flexible on the day of the shoot. A corporate headshot photographer will often need to shoot photos of dozens of people in just a few days. Schedule and plan accordingly. Timing for individual headshots can vary, with some subjects nailing a look in a minute or so, and others taking much longer to get it right.
“I’d say the sweet spot for me is probably 30 minutes at most,” says Abrahams. That’s enough time to be flexible in case anything comes up.
Keep in mind that you’re working with professionals during a workday, and you could very well get interrupted by meetings, emergencies, or unplanned events. “Most times the schedule you’ll put together never happens,” says Abrahams. Nevertheless, you still need a schedule to try and keep a busy day of shooting on track.
Technical specifications for headshot sessions can vary a good deal, depending on the photographer’s preference. One thing that’s constant is that everything has to be tailored to a fairly close environment.
“The focal length you want to use is somewhere between 80 to 120 millimeters,” says Lucy. “It’s mostly about your physical distance to the subject. You want to be close enough to the person so that you can easily communicate and make eye contact, but not so close that it’s intimidating for them.”
For lighting, Abrahams recommends highlighting subjects in the front, but with just a little light in the back. “You typically work off what’s called a key light,” he says, “which is the main light of the triangle. It’s focused on the good side of the person’s head. The kicker light is opposite the key light so that it gives a little bit more definition to the backside of the head.” While a dark, moody portrait might be good for personal use, business portraits typically need lighting that clearly introduces a person to their prospective employers or clients.
One of the most important tools for a headshot or portrait photographer is a simple wooden box for people to stand on. “You never know the size of people coming in,” says Abrahams. “Someone could come in who’s 5’2” or 6’4”. You don’t want to be moving lights all around.”