How to Take a Great Headshot

Advice for entering your artwork into galleries, shows, and competitions and for marketing yourself and your work.

In the realm of art exhibitions and juried shows, the artist's headshot is a critical component of the submission package. (It's also a key component of any websites and marketing materials you wish to distribute.)

This seemingly small yet impactful photograph serves as the initial introduction of the artist to curators, jurors, and the public. It's not just a portrait; it's a glimpse into the artist's personality, creativity, and professionalism. Whether you're a new artist embarking on your journey or a seasoned professional, mastering the art of capturing an effective artist's headshot can significantly enhance your submission. Here are key strategies to create headshots that will make a lasting impression.

Reflect Your Artistic Identity

The artist's headshot should reflect your unique artistic identity. Consider the following elements:

  • Style: Choose a style that aligns with your artistic aesthetic. If your work is vibrant and dynamic, opt for a lively and engaging pose. If your art exudes sophistication, aim for a more composed and refined look.

  • Wardrobe: Select clothing that represents your artistic style and is appropriate for the type of art you create. Keep it professional yet authentic to your personality.

Lighting and Background

Lighting and background play pivotal roles in headshot photography:

  • Natural Light: Whenever possible, utilize natural light for a soft and flattering illumination. Position yourself near a window with diffused light, avoiding direct sunlight that can cast harsh shadows.

  • Background: Opt for a simple, unobtrusive background that doesn't distract from your face. A solid-colored wall, neutral backdrop, or a well-arranged studio space are all suitable options.

Framing and Composition

The composition of the headshot should be engaging and balanced:

  • Rule of Thirds: Position your eyes along the top horizontal line of the rule of thirds grid, keeping the gaze slightly off-center for a dynamic and inviting composition.

  • Facial Expression: Choose a genuine expression that conveys approachability and confidence. A subtle smile can go a long way in creating a warm and inviting demeanor.

Camera and Equipment

While professional equipment can yield superior results, you can achieve impressive headshots even with basic tools:

  • Camera: Use a camera with good resolution. A DSLR or a smartphone with a high-quality camera (set to maximum resolution) can both work well.

  • Tripod: To maintain stability and achieve sharp focus, use a tripod or prop your camera on a stable surface.

Angle and Perspective

Experimenting with different angles and perspectives can produce captivating results:

  • Eye Level: Position the camera at eye level to create a natural and relatable connection with the viewer.

  • Variety: Capture headshots from various angles and distances. Close-ups highlight facial details, while wider shots offer context.

Post-Processing: Enhance, Don't Alter

Post-processing can enhance the headshot's visual appeal:

  • Color Correction: Adjust color balance to ensure accurate representation of your appearance.

  • Light Retouching: Minor retouching for blemishes and lighting adjustments can enhance the final result without altering your natural appearance.

Professionalism and Authenticity

The goal is to strike a balance between professionalism and authenticity:

  • Attire and Grooming: Dress and groom yourself as you would for an important meeting or event, showcasing your professionalism.

  • Natural Beauty: Embrace your natural appearance. Authenticity is key, and overly heavy makeup or excessive retouching can detract from your authenticity.

Keep Your Options Open

Capture a variety of poses, expressions, and angles. Consider switching outfits as well. This will give you a range of choices to select the most compelling headshot--not just for your next project, but for future projects as well.

In Summary: Your Headshot is Your Introduction to the Art World

An artist's headshot is more than just a photograph; it's a window into your artistry, professionalism, and personality. When carefully crafted, it can captivate the attention of curators and jurors, offering them a glimpse of the artist behind the creations.

Remember, your headshot isn't just a part of your submission; it's a representation of your commitment to your craft and your readiness to engage with the art world.