Q: I get mixed information about headshots. Some say that for female headshots, the camera should be angled above the subject, but I had a professional photographer suggest eye level. Is there a right answer? — Cheryce L., Colorado
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, though I do appreciate actors who want to understand the technical aspects of headshots! We want to make you look your best: highlight the cheekbones, sharpen the jawline, conceal a double chin. But every photographer has his or her own style and technique to achieve a flattering angle.
Since shooting downward with a slight angle does look good on most people, I typically do some shots where the subject is seated on the floor, a step, or a stool, while I’m at a higher position pointing down. However, the angle should be subtle enough that you barely notice it’s being shot from above.
Another way to get this effect is to have the actor position his or her body to lean forward slightly with one shoulder. Not only does this put the face in that chin-down position, it also adds connection with the camera—it looks like you’re leaning in to tell the viewer a secret, an effective way to establish engagement.
A third method of lighting the face from a higher angle can give the same favorable results as shooting down. It highlights the brow, cheekbones, and jawline while darkening the flesh under the chin. I use this method when the client is wearing glasses and we need to avoid reflection from the lights. However, this can sometimes result in highlighting the scalp while putting the eyes completely in shadow—not something you want in a headshot.
All of these tricks should be gently used to create a subtle, scarcely detected effect. In preparation for a shoot, concentrate on the things you can control, like wardrobe, sleep, and focus. Choose a photographer you trust and let them worry about the angles.
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