We've all read magazine articles about artists, business people, politicians and other individuals of importance. Those articles are often peppered with various photos of the subjects, some action shots, some candid behind-the-scenes style photos and some portrait style headshots. Those headshots, at least the good ones, generally have a few things in common.
First of all, the subject is looking at the camera, ideally right down the lens. Second, there is a least a hint of a smile. Third, the face is slightly off centre, the body facing the opposite side of the frame. Fourth, the light source is not straight from an on-camera flash, but rather angular in some way, ideally with a strong back light to create a rim around the subject and pull him out from the background. Finally, and importantly, the subject's closest eye has to be the point of sharpest focus and the background has to be at least a little out of focus.
These things are easy to accomplish with a bit of practice. The bad news is that to get the best results, you need to invest in the right equipment. Unlike in landscape photography in which even the most basic camera - in the right hands - can take breathtakingly awesome shots, to get good headshots, at a minimum you need the right kind of sensor and the right kind of lenses. The right kind of camera is one that has a large enough sensor to allow you to 1) get creative with your depth of field and 2) capture a reasonable dynamic range. The right lenses produce sharp images and allow you to shoot at very low f-stops like f/1.8 or f/2.
The following photo was shot at Katsuren Castle in Okinawa with a Canon cropped sensor camera using an f/1.8 50mm prime lens. Lighting was provided by the sun and my assistant holding a silver reflector. Note that this photo obeys all the rules stated above. In particular, look at the sharpness of the eyes and compare this to the softness of the background. This photo worked out perfectly. It's not the sort of result you could get on a point-and-shoot or even with the standard 18-55mm kit lens that comes with the camera.
The combination of a quality DSLR, a 50mm prime lens and a photographer who knows how to use them produced results that made this client very happy.
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Thanks for reading.
My simple blog about the art and science of photography.