Photo Tip Friday: Tips to Help Take Great Head Shots

by Mary Denman @MaryDenman

Brian Bird, Producer
As a photographer, I love interacting with people. Each photo shoot is a little different than any other shoot I've done.

At Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I've been the photographer for both the overall conference and for authors who need head shots to use on their business cards, their blogs and their book jackets.

How can this apply to your photography? Let me share a few tips I use to take head shots and apply this to your everyday photography.

I've got a secret look...

TIP 1: Get to know your subject and engage with them. Make THEM feel comfortable. This only takes a couple of minutes. I always ask writers what their genre is and what THEY want to communicate through the pictures.

This is my friend Lynn Blackburn. She's a fellow author who has a book coming out this June! It's her first and it's romantic suspense. This is the shot I took that she chose for her suspense. Notice the little gleam in her eye and the "I've got a secret" in her smile?

By knowing what she writes about, we worked together to get this shot.

The one earring photo

TIP 2: Simplify the background so the attention stays on your subject. For this picture, I had Lynn sit on a bench which was under a tree. The bench didn't back up to anything, so when I focused in on her, the background faded away. She's clear and the background is soft which sets her off.

Lynn Blackburn by Mary Denman Photography

TIP 3: Try different angles. I had Lynn sit on the grass for this photo. Why? Because the grass was a deep, rich color which made a beautiful background. Also, because having your subject below you is very flattering. 

But notice that her eyes aren't open and she's not even looking at me. Yet, I love this picture. Why? Because she was relaxed, laughing and had a beautiful smile. This is a moment in time where you can almost feel the joy she has. This shot just captures Lynn's love of life.

How would this apply to taking pictures of your kids or family? 

1) Try to capture their unique personality. 
2) Move in closer to focus on their face. 
3) Move around and with your subject. 

Don't think of photography as just a technical pursuit. Yes, you need to know how to work your camera, but the magic with people happens when you interact with your subjects. When you, the photographer, make them feel comfortable. That's when you're going to get some great shots. 

FOR BLOGGERS: I am constantly using my own photography for my blog. While you may say, "But I'm not that good a photographer," I want to challenge you to look around and start getting inspired by your own pictures. Carry your camera and stop walking long enough to snap the pic of a bug on a marigold. Or of a hawk flying overhead. Take pictures of the mundane and teach a life lesson from it. Be inspired to TRY! 

FOR CELL PHONE USERS: These same tips apply. Talk to your subject and zoom in to cut out the clutter in the background. Try different angles. Since you have your cell phone with you most, if not all, of the time, use it! Start collecting interesting shots. Edit them with your awesome apps and post them to your blogs! 

Hope these tips help!

Keep on clicking!


TWEETABLE: Tips to Help Take Great Head Shots (click to tweet)


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  1. Those are wonderful tips! I am always trying to improve my photography for both the blog and my family. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. I'm truly happy to help! Thanks for dropping by Helene!

  2. Great tips Mary, I am working on my photography skill as I type :)

    Thanks for sharing at the weekend blog hop

  3. You're welcome! I'm noticing that you have some really nice shots! Keep up the good work. :) Thanks for hosting like you do!