DIY Headshots for Attorneys
While we highly recommend hiring a photographer to take headshots, sometimes it doesn't make immediate sense for your firm. A do-it-yourself approach may get you most of the way there until you have the time and budget to bring in a pro. If any of the following seems overwhelming to you, however, it's a good sign to call in a professional photographer!
Great headshots are a function of skill first and equipment second. If you don't know what you're doing, all the equipment in the world won't save you. But if you do know what you're doing, you can often do a lot with a little. We'll help you out with the know-how below, but equipment-wise you're going to need a proper point-and-shoot camera, DSLR, or micro 4/3rds camera. Cell phone cameras are getting better and better – however, they're not quite at the point where they can be relied on for a good headshot.
You won't win any awards with this setup, but it'll do the job in a pinch:
Find a wall in your office, a long bookcase, or a location in front of your building that's not overly distracting. We're looking for something neutral to put the subject in front of. Not in front of a window or glass though: you'll have a lot of trouble with even lighting.
Joe Viola has good examples of an outdoor photo:
Place the camera about 10-15 feet from the wall. If you have a tripod, use it. We're trying to make sure that we have plenty of room to put the subject between the camera and the background so that, when we take the picture, the subject and background look like they're separate from each other. We're not looking for a mugshot!
If you have any lamps in the room that you can move around, take at least one and put it behind the camera and, ideally, place it above the camera too. If you're standing behind the camera imagine a lightbulb about a foot above your head. This will help light the subject's face more evenly.
We recommend turning your camera's flash off. Flash can create harsh shadows behind the subject if you're not careful, better to turn it off. You can rely on the light in the room and the light coming in from the window. If there isn't enough light between those two sources, you should find a different location.
Also, time of day is important! Take your photos either in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is coming in the windows.
Orient your subject (either you, or the other attorneys or staff members) about halfway between the camera and the background (7 or so feet). For the subject: turn your body very slightly toward the brightest light source in the room and then turn your head back toward the camera. This will help reduce shadows and soften the angles of the body. Keep your arms at your sides to avoid clothing bunching up at the shoulders. For more information on posing for the picture, please read Secrets to Great Business Headshots from Chris Amos of A2Photography.
Raise or lower the camera so that the lens is at the same height as the subject's eyes. If the camera is above them, it'll make them look weak; too low, and they'll look menacing.
With regard to framing the photo, we want to capture from the subject's chest to above his or her head. Since your photo is going to be used in a variety of places, we want to make sure you have the flexibility to crop the photo for a variety of circumstances.
If you have the know-how and the ability to do so, adjust the f-stop on your lens to a lower number (2.8 or 3.5, or the lowest number your lens can support). This will help separate the subject from the background even more.
Double check that there's nothing behind the subject that looks like it's sticking out of the top or sides of his or her head (such as lights, objects on a shelf, or fixtures on the wall). If there is, move your setup and subject around until the background is even.
Taking the Headshot
Take at least 5-10 photos of the subject. Have them relax between each picture and smile before the picture is taken. If someone is having trouble with smiling, have them look away from the camera and turn towards it just before the picture is taken. Keep things light and fun by telling each other jokes — if you're tense, it'll show in the pictures. Afterward, pick the best 2-3 photos of each person to send to The Modern Firm. Take some time to rename the files according to the subject (for example "John-Smith-1.jpg"). This helps immensely with organization. After that you can upload the headshots and send them to us using our handy file uploader. We'll help you select which ones to use.