9 Tips for Capturing Headshots Outside
May 29, 2019 / by Becca Siegel
It's the best time of year to be outside, and your next headshot client is likely considering being photographed in a park, a cool neighborhood or a garden. That's the headshot dream, right?
Taking headshots outside is both rewarding and challenging. It's rewarding when you get an awesome shot with the perfect bokeh and smiling client. It's challenging when it gets hot out, you're getting fatigued, your client is starting to get sweaty and you're both getting stressed.
Let's look at some of the best tips that help with capturing headshots outside this year.
Shoot in early morning or before dusk.
If you can shoot outside, do it. If your and your client's schedules permit, shoot before the sun gets high or right before it sets, for dramatic and beautiful touches to your scene. My favorite shoots have been golden hour on the High Line in Manhattan, the hour before sunset on an Upper East Side rooftop and early morning before the work rush in SoHo.
During warmer months, these times of day will also give you slightly cooler temperatures, which means a slimmer chance of becoming overheated and perspiring less-- for you, and for your subject.
Prioritize seeking out shade.
You likely won't be shooting in direct sunlight, as it can be blinding and harsh. Instead, look for shade from trees and light shadows from buildings or houses. You’ll also have to have an eye for a shady spot where you and your client can have a water or iced coffee break, in between locations. You can seek out shade for your shoot, and for cooling off afterward.
Be prepared to take breaks, or have a break plan.
When temperatures rise and you're walking from location to location during your outdoor shoot, there is the factor of how different people handle heat. Some people handle hot weather and sun just fine, while others get tense, get cranky or suffer from exhaustion.
Assure your client that there will be time within your shoot for getting a cold drink, or having a moment in some A/C if you are both feeling too warm.
Have a rain plan for sudden changes in weather.
Summer (in much of the country) is known for sporadic changes in weather. You've likely hammered out a date and time with your client weeks before your photo session, and even if you have a rain date, weather can change within hours.
If a rainstorm rolls in while your client is smiling for a shot, you probably have two options: wait it out and hope that some sunshine follows the quick storm, or reschedule for a later date (with no charge to your client).
For these reasons, it pays to remain flexible and not sandwich your bookings too closely together during summer months.
Capture your client's personality with advance planning.
Some of my clients are creatives who run their own businesses with distinct personalities, whether their brands are 'themselves' or a product of which they are the ‘face.’
If your client is in a creative sphere or even if he or she works in a certain industry, feel free to play up that aspect by adding a prop or two.
For example, if your client works in music, having headphones, or some recording equipment, adds flavor. If your client likes to stand out in costume, advise that he or she bring elements of unique dress.
Seek out interesting locations, or several.
One of the most memorable headshot sessions I did was against brightly-colored walls near Chinatown in Manhattan. My client and I went at 7:30 am to find the streets mostly deserted, and we even got the surprise of the metal storefront gates being still down before opening hours, which gave us additional colorful painted backdrops that are otherwise not available.
Having had this unique idea, we both felt like we had the area to ourselves and were able to feel at ease, rather than in a hurry about getting a shot and moving on. My advice is to list some location ideas you’ve developed in order to show your client that you're prepared and have suggestions of what will work.
Consider if you'll be near high-traffic areas.
Some people dream of having headshots photographed in a famous spot, like a scenic overlook, a famous attraction or a busy street.
Keep in mind that the busier the location is, the more distractions, crowds, people bumping into each other and frustrations there may be. What can you do to avoid bringing your client to a busy place?
Suggest your favorite locations off the bat, such as quieter side streets, lesser-known areas for cool wall art or parks where you can get a spot to yourselves. Your client will appreciate it when you lay out the alternatives.
Advise your client on what to wear.
If a client is having headshots done for the first time, he or she may need some advising. It's okay to send a brief reminder email the day before your shoot about what to wear, especially if you'll be outside during your session.
Keep in mind that clothing with layers may blow in the wind, and that light colors or grays may show sweat marks. You can also suggest that your client brings a change of clothes for the shoot, if you sense that the weather will be warm. Hopefully, you can step into a cafe and find a restroom in which the client can change attire.
Have a trick up your sleeve for getting those smiles.
I once worked with a client who was a referral, and we had never met in person before. I was new to working with clients who were several degrees of separation away from myself, and I had to figure out a way to get comfortable... fast.
We were in one of Manhattan's beautiful shaded parks and I started making jokes in order to get her to crack a smile and laugh. It worked, and I proceeded to use the same tactic through our headshot session until it got old. The result: authentic and genuine smiles in all of my client's headshots.
Even if you're not a joke-cracker, figure out a continual way to keep your client's face lit up, so that smiles look real.
You can use any or all of these tips for shooting headshots outside this year during the warmer months. In summary, it’s best to plan around temperature and weather, have backup plans, prepare your client and offer expert suggestions for taking breaks and choosing locations.
I’d love to see what you’re shooting, so please reach out to me on [Instagram (@halfhalftravel)](https://instagram.com/halfhalftravel) to share.
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Becca Siegel is half of blogger-photographer couple @halfhalftravel (www.halfhalftravel.com) with her boyfriend Dan, and has traveled extensively in her 20s-30s documenting cultures, food and people via photography and writing. She has spent time living abroad, mainly in Hong Kong and in Shanghai, China, with various trips to Central and South America in the recent past. While she loves her Canon and experimenting with lenses, she's also a pro at phone photography and enjoys learning about new modes, tricks and tips.