Headshot Preparation: At first this sounds like nonsense. But think about it. What in life have you been able to get better at without practice? Begs the question, "How does one practice for a headshot session?" I'm glad you asked.
Stand in front of a mirror and practice your expression. Remember the video "Resting Bitchy Face"? If you need to laugh take the link, but come back and finish reading. The video has fun with the fact that most of the time we are unaware of our expression. So it's simple: Stand in front of the mirror and practice your expression. Not just once for 10 seconds. Do it every day for a full minute starting a week out. For most of us it's hard to look at yourself, this can be a good thing. Oh sure, we look at our hair, if our shirt is straight, do we need to shave etc... But I want you to stand in front of the mirror & have a staring contest. See if you can make yourself laugh. Get comfortable looking at yourself. Goal number one is to quit hating the way you look. If you like the way you look that's ok.
Headshot Preparation - 4 Expressions
I want you to have four expressions. Mona Lisa, warm smile, medium smile, and tooth smile. Some of the actors I shoot can transition seamlessly from RBF to full laughter. Interestingly most can't. It's hard to do. To get good at hard things: we practice. No different for headshot preparation.
This is harder for some than others. Once mastered you'll want to use this all the time as your default face. No one ever accused the Mona Lisa of having RBF. Yet that perfect glance takes you in and makes you curious. It doesn't distort your face and make your wrinkles wrink. It begs a second glance of the viewer and has them say, "I wonder what she's thinking?" If you saw Ms Lisa across a crowded room at a party you'd think she was smiling at you. It's a great expression and easy to master. All you have to do is think of your cat or dog or child and think of something cute they've done lately.
The warm smile can be thought of as how you look 15 seconds after hearing a great joke. It has this self ruminating, reminiscent quality to it. If you can squint ever so slightly... so much the better. It's like the afterglow of a full smile. It's not a polite smile. If you are pushing the corners of your mouth back you are not smiling. A smile is more like your ears are tugging at the corners of your mouth. This is a CEO of a fortune 500 company. I printed this out and hang it in my studio. When men come to me for headshots they point to it and say "I want a shot like this". I did this shot in the lunchroom off the lobby of a high rise in Atlanta. It's two lights. It's warm and engaging and it's confident. There isn't a hint of hesitation of self consciousness in it.I use those words during a session a lot: warm, engaging, and confident. I so much admire the work of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. His done some controversial things so careful if you take the link. But his shots are iconic. The reason is he coaches his subjects to this expression. BUT! You need at least another expression.
Now this is harder for some people for different reasons. Teeth are a problem for many of us. We have them, they're stained, crooked, too big etc... A medium smile doesn't have to have teeth, it can just be an open mouth with no or little teeth showing. The difficulty with the medium smile is that it can look really fake. It can look like the "polite" smile. The smile one reflexes uses after hearing a bad joke.
So how full is full? It's up to you. It is the most often criticized look a woman has of herself. "Oh look at my wrinkles" is the reflexive comment. So that's why you need to practice the other looks. But we need to shoot some full smiles too. You should really have at least two headshots of yourself ready to go. You never know when the company will do a press release, internal memo, annual report, business card with face etc... So you should have a variety.
Practice! I know it will seem weird. Especially if you're not of the "selfie" generation. But you need to practice. Because the more you practice anything the better you'll get. There aren't many simple things in life that will get you far. In fact, start taking selfies! Email me your selfies. I most often ask for them. Headshot preparation is more than clothing. Clothing is easy. You can't go wrong with a nice white collared shirt. It works for just about everything and everybody. So here's a test: Quick, without looking what is the Mona Lisa wearing? The correct answer? Who cares! Look at that face!
A nice warm smile will get you far and it's free and if you practice it and become self aware, you'll nail our session.