How to Prepare for Your Headshot

Most people fall into to two different camps when it comes to preparing themselves for a photo session. Either they look forward to it with anticipation or for a smaller percentage, they dread it. I had one client  years ago,  who compared getting his photograph taken with going to the dentist.  No matter what your anxiety level is when you are getting your portrait created, if you are prepared, it should be a fun experience.

A Few Days Before Your Session

  • Make a point to get plenty of rest starting a few days before your session.
Rest is the most important preparation that a person can do to prepare for their session. Fatigue is mostly seen in and around the eyes with redness and dark circles underneath the eyes. Get extra sleep, certainly the day before your session but starting at least two days before, for best results.
  • Drink extra water a couple of days in advance.

Proper hydration for the human body is extremely important in all aspects of life.  When preparing to have your portrait created, take in some extra water, more than normal, to replenish your skin and help keep it from drying out.

  • Get your hair cut or trimmed.
Don't do this the day before or the morning of your shoot. Always give your hair a few days to settle back in after a cut.
  • Schedule your teeth cleaning at your dentist a week or so before your shoot.
This can remove tarter build up that will show up in the photograph.  While it's not always practical, if you have a cleaning coming up - that's a good time to schedule a portrait in the following weeks.
  • Have a manicure.
If you normally have your nails done, then plan on having this service a few days in advance of your session. While many shots you create will not have your hands in the photograph, there may be a few images that will, so get those nails in top shape. Guys, if have never had a manicure, this would be the time try it.  If nothing else, make sure your nails are clean.  Well trimmed, smooth nails can make a big difference in a shot that has hands in the image.
  • Prepare your clothing.
Some blouses and dress shirts require dry cleaning, so get this taken care of in advance. Choose clothing that is flattering to your face, not just comfortable. Women - wear collars! Many women will wear scoop necklines that can make their shoulders look rounded and heavy. Collars will make the neck appear longer and more slender.  Remember to bring your jacket when posing for business  portraits.  Choose colors that are solids.  When doing a head shot, there is almost never a need for a pattern on the clothing. Men, make sure your suit jacket or sport coat does not live in a closet where the pets have access. Be careful on the transportation of your clothes if you are going to a location or a studio.  Lots of pet hair can be picked up in the car.
  • Avoid the sun.
Some people think that they will get a little sun to help their color a few days before a shoot.  Try to take care of this many weeks before your scheduled shoot.  If you should go into the sun a few days before your shoot, you could end up drying out your skin or worse, burning it.  The red blotchiness of of sunburn or wind burn is very difficult to hide with makeup or retouching.  It's best to avoid it and stay covered up just before your shoot.
I once photographed a women in her 40s and her skin was remarkable.  I commented on it, since I had never seen such flawless skin.  She told me that she never goes into the sun, or outside for that matter, without being covered somehow, hat, scarf, something.  While this may be an extreme lifestyle, I can tell you it worked to keep her skin in fabulous condition.
Day of your Portrait Session
Allow plenty of time, don't rush.  The stress of getting lost, or showing up late can take a toll on your eyes and add lines to your face.
Men, remember to shave.  Use a new blade to cut hair, not your face.
  • Makeup
If you wear makeup and want to do your makeup yourself, put your makeup on as if you are going to work.  Don't get too heavy like you might if you were going to the club at night.  Use the "less is more" adage when it comes to make up.  If you hire a professional makeup artist, use someone who does makeup for photography. Look for samples of their work to make sure their style fits your look.
Do a last minute check in the mirror.  Is the session after lunch? Do a quick teeth brushing to make sure there isn't any food caught in your teeth. Check your hair.  Bring a blow dryer set on cool to give your hair a little added body just before the shoot.  Check your face for shine. Blot perspiration with a tissue, do not rub as it may brighten your skin in that area.
Take the time during your photo session to turn off your phone for a few minutes.  Make this time, YOUR time. Treat is as if you are going to the spa for some pampering.
Copyright 2015, Terry VanderHeiden