How many of you go to your headshot photographer and say, “I want my photograph to look unposed”?
We hear this a great deal, though less with professional headshots than with other types of headshots and portraits.
Can you guess why?
Those hiring a professional photographer for professional headshots fall into several categories of course.
Three categories of those looking for professional business headshots
- Those who are regularly update their professional headshot every couple or few years
- Those who are getting their first professional headshot for a new job or business
- Those who are having infrequent updates to their professional headshots
Those who are having their headshots done regularly, these veterans, they look at our portfolio of work and from that know we know the business to our art, and most gladly follow our direction and have great professional headshot outcomes.
Our set directions include direction on posing.
The first timers, they are a bit more skittish and express a bit more trepidation overall than the veterans. Again, being relatively new, they tend to listen well to our direction and also have headshot outcomes which usually well exceed their expectations.
The group who have the infrequent updates, this is the group which has the largest by percentage of those who do not like having their portraits taken and who express the largest trepidation regarding posing. Again, they picked us as their headshot photographers, as they too can see our outcomes, and after a bit of a slower start, as a whole, than the first two groups, they are off and running and, following our posing direction, they have great outcomes as well.
Why are people so opposed to posing for headshots?
- They feel it looks or feels unnatural
- They have experience with poor posing direction having resulted in poor headshot outcomes
- They haven’t given true photographic artists enough of a real chance in the past
Well, a great headshot portrait pose does feel unnatural. In fact, many of us professional headshot artists have a saying: “Feels bad, looks great.“
What does feels bad, looks great mean?
Poses which feel awkward or just feel bad or unnatural often look amazing when photographed properly.
It just is mostly that way folks. A professional headshot artist has the chutzpah to direct and push you into these awkward feeling poses and bringing out amazing headshot outcomes for you.
If it doesn’t feel a bit off somewhere, you may just be one of those who looks great from all angles, your photographer is rushing (there is a line with 100 people behind you) or they may just not be getting the most out of your headshot they might otherwise achieve.
Now not everything that feels bad or awkward looks great… though some of the greatest looks do in fact feel fairly awkward.
If your photographer does not have the experience or confidence to direct your pose, your photographic outcomes are largely going to be either mediocre or just okay, for the most part.
Your photographer has to have enough of your confidence, and enough of their own, to take charge and make you their supermodel.
Why do people like unposed portraits and headshots anyway?
Most people go from being what ever normal is for them individually. That is, some are more or less comfortable in their skin.
When you take a candid portrait of them, while they are not looking, the portrait can look quite flattering. Why? Because the portrait caught the subject unawares of the camera while looking and acting natural.
The portrait has an authentic natural honest feel to it. Because the subject is being authentic and natural.
The problem with these shots is, they are difficult to stage or to produce consistently. You’d have to be followed around all day, looking for just the perfect moment, and so on.
Headshot portrait studios have to make you look natural and good right now.
Further, when you sit for a headshot portrait, you know the photographer is right there, pointing the big lens right at you.
The spontaneous moment is largely gone.
Less than 10% of headshot clients can smile anything like genuinely on command. The percentage is higher for sales professionals, models and actors. Lower for business people, especially those who do not deal with the public much.
We put the camera on the camera shy, and bam! Deer in the headlights. Head rocked back, eyes wide open, whites showing big and bright, lips tensely pulled into attempts at a smile.. and so on.
Proper effective posing is critical to high quality effective professional headshot outcomes.
A professional headshot artist can have you posing beautifully, if somewhat awkward feeling, and will cajole an authentic and effective expression from you, within the parameters of time allotted and your headshot session constraints of time, budget, etc.