The headshot is the bread and butter of portraiture. It’s what we need for avatar images for Facebook, Passports, Match.com, and so much more. One of my friends on Facebook (and real life) has thousands of friends and followers, and tirelessly changes his profile picture, his cover picture and posts with a vengeance on Denver Botanic Gardens. He recently got more comments than on any other recent post by simply posting a headshot for his avatar (profile picture). Remember, most of these followers are plant lovers, and follow him for the plant lore, but the face still wins. We love to look at people’s faces. Craggy, happy, beautiful, whatever life has brought, the face is the center of emotional expression and the basis of human communication.
I know a bit about this from a scientific point of view, in that I studied for years with Cal Izard, Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University. His book, The Face of Emotion, reviewed the literature at that time and set forth a theory of human emotions that is fundamentally on target. We recognize basic emotions from facial expressions and these expressions are recognized cross culturally. As Stephen Stills once said in a lyric, “everybody everywhere smiles in the same language’. We can tell when the expression is genuine.
A smile is not just turning up the corners of the mouth, but involves those “laughing eyes”. The orbital musculature is also involved. Why do I care about that here? Because photographers who ask someone to “smile” will always get a fake and everyone can tell the difference. The job of the photographer is not pushing the shutter, it is talking to the client to engage them and composing the light to capture the expression created.
The headshot is the perfect vehicle for showing those expressions. It frames the clearest aspect of body language. And frankly, though I suppose young, beautiful naked bodies are artistic and lovely, nothing really is as beautiful as the face, old or young. I’ve never seen character in a pair of breasts. But eyes can do it, even just the eyes as shown at right.
So every portrait sitting should include a focus on the face. It’s often where I begin, though I return when there’s a greater rapport built through the session. I can get both edges that way, a wider range of expression. Though I must say the typical selfie does not satisfy my longing for beautiful expression, it does focus on the key area and that’s the basis for the popularity. I’d be honored to help you capture the headshot that reflects you, one you are happy to use for your avatar. It is the fingerprint of the soul.