Michael Coen's picture

Hannah N. Headshot #2

Hey everyone. I'm looking for some constructive criticism for this image. This is my first shot at ditching the strobes for natural light using the translucent portion of a 5-in-1, forty-something inch reflector for my key light, and the silver side of a small reflector for kicker. At first glance I really liked this image, but there are a few things that I do not:

1. Catch-light in her eyes is almost non-existent.
2. The squaring of her shoulders makes her look imposing.
3. Hair-light way too hot.

Where else do I need to improve? Just give it to me straight, I really need some good quality feedback. Thanks in advance!

- Michael

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David Apeji's picture

I agree with your observations. I am assuming you know how to address them. Given that you used a silver reflector as a kicker, I am surprised it is not more evident in her eyes. My personal taste would be to have her hair behind her, either that or have in on both sides in front.

Michael Coen's picture

Thanks for your feedback, David. I appreciate it. Hair always seems to be one of those things I tend to forget. I used "kicker" and "hair" light interchangeably here. You wouldn't see it in her eyes since the reflector is behind her.

Matthew Coulliette's picture

The title says that this is a headshot, however the picture is a portrait of someone. This is a personal hang-up of mine; I don't like it when photographers don't know what is and isn't a headshot. I recommend studying the work of top headshot photographers like Peter Hurley or Dylan Patrick.

Michael Coen's picture

Hi Matthew,

I am familiar with both Peter and Dylan's work. I appreciate your comment, but I really am seeking constructive ways to improve my photography. Your comment is that this is not a headshot, but it doesn't really give me anything I can use to improve my work. Are you able to provide me with an explanation as to why this isn't a headshot? Thanks.

Matthew Coulliette's picture

A shot from the waist up is a portrait. A headshot is just the head and the tops of the shoulders. If you cropped off the bottom half of this photo you would be left with the top half and that top half would be a headshot. I don't use the vertical orientation for headshots, because if you zoom in enough for the picture to be called a headshot you have to crop off the outer parts of the shoulders. Horizontal headshots look much better. Next time you watch a movie pay attention to the composition of the close-ups. Close-ups to a videographer is the same thing as a headshot to a photographer.

Michael Coen's picture

Hi Matthew,

I'm sorry, but I disagree with you. You've offered me your opinion on what you think a headshot ought to be. That's your style, there are many photographers who shoot that style, and I respect that. Other headshot photographers, like David Muller, would disagree that headshots are only from the top of the shoulders up.


Even Dylan, at least in some cases, might disagree with you.


Thank you again for your input.

Matthew Coulliette's picture

I apologize, and thank you. I studied Peter Hurley exclusively for 3 years and then logged on to fStoppers and saw your photo; a waist up picture of someone, and it just did not look like the head/face was the subject of your photo. You have helped me have a broader view of what a headshot is.

I agree with Michael. I always thought a headshot was a type of Portrait. Why does it matter that he called it a headshot instead of a portrait? Can she not use this pic as her headshot?

This is in fact a headshot. It's just not a CLOSE headshot. It's not like these terms have an ISO standard definition - what is and isn't a headshot is defined by what casting agents and sites will take as one.

A shot at this range ***which shows the face clearly*** is in the range you can see accepted if you check the casting sites. The more so if you need to take the extra room to show hair style, which was the case here.

I'm really impressed by your self criticism!

4. Cheeks appear rounded - get her to open her mouth slightly or at least unclench her teeth, maybe lower the camera, google "its all about the jaw"

5. Her left eye is open more than the right. Can be fixed in post. Google for how.

Michael Coen's picture

Thanks for the suggestions David. Never would have thought about slackening the jaw a bit. :)

Yogendra Singh's picture

I would have asked her to stand at an angle to the camera.

Hi Michael, sorry for being late the party. In my opinion, you are spot on with your criticism. The only suggestion I can offer is to have her relax her shoulders a little, remove the blue bra strap on her right side and maybe apply the rule of thirds to make it more interesting, (although that's just a matter of taste.) Other than that, nice job.

Michael Coen's picture

See, I don't think I'd have noticed the bra strap. Thanks for that John :)

Roger Knopf's picture

A subject square to the camera will look heavier, more bulky, and it's not just the shoulders. Try some different body angles. If you are going to shoot straight on, check out Hurley's "hold the sub" technique.

Another idea to make look less stiff is to shoot her in motion, get her to dance or walk in place, seems weird but she will look more relaxed.

Try hair back and front, there isn't any one way, just what looks good with the subject.