In photography, taking good headshots is often a very hard thing to do, even though the process seems so simple. Anyone who has ever gotten their photo taken for their driver's license, or who has seen a police mug shot, knows headshots can be some of the most unflattering of all photos. Therefore, the key is for the photographer to understand what makes a good headshot and implement that in his or her work.
Headshots are difficult for one reason. There is no room for error. With a wider shot, there is always the possibility of cropping and always the possibility that a viewer's eyes will focus on other elements. With headshots, there is only one focus and every little imperfection will stand out.
Fortunately, digital photography has made taking headshots much easier. The instant feedback those cameras provide can show a photographer immediately whether or not she has a usable shot. Thus, even for those with marginal skills, the digital camera can help make them look like experts. Even so, there are a few things everyone should consider which will help make the process of obtaining usable headshots easier.
The first thing to consider for a headshot is the background. This may seem somewhat counterintuitive. Why should the background matter? It does for a couple of reasons. First, the light may be quickly distributed throughout the room in an unpredictable way. Also, what little of the background that does show may clash with the subject of the portrait. For headshots, it is good to choose a solid background with a soft color. Whites and blacks could be used, but may require some adjustments to the lighting in order to truly make a good shot.
Also, consider taking headshots with the body of the person at an angle and his head turned back toward the camera. This will go a long way toward avoiding that driver's license and police mug shot look. Further, it can also be used to help eliminate double chins and other unflattering features.
Whenever possible, using an indirect flash is also a good idea. This will help eliminate some of the hard lighting features of the direct flash. However, for a truly good indirect flash exposure, a studio setting set up specifically for portrait work is likely needed. Very few photographers will have such access.
As with any type of picture, setting the white balance for the specific conditions is also important. For headshots, this will help produce more natural skin tones in the photograph. Most cameras have a way to manually set the white balance. Some have automatic features that will provide a close approximation based on the type of lighting in the room.