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  • Writer's pictureDrago Dragusin

Approachable and Captivating Portraits / Headshots: Tips from a London Headshot Photographer


Portrait photography is an art that requires more than just technical skills. It demands an understanding of your subject, a knack for capturing their essence, and the ability to make them feel at ease. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of approachable portraiture, drawing insights from a seasoned London headshot photographer. Whether you're a budding photographer or someone looking to improve their portrait-taking abilities, you'll find invaluable tips and tricks to enhance your skills.

1. Understanding the Essence of Approachable and Captivating Portraits / Headshots

Approachable portraits go beyond a mere snapshot. They convey warmth, personality, and a sense of connection. But how can you achieve this elusive quality in your photos?

Approachable portraits often involve:

  • 1.1. Establishing a Connection: Building rapport with your subject is key. It's about making them comfortable and establishing trust. A relaxed subject is more likely to radiate an approachable demeanor in their portrait.

Tip: Engage in light conversation before and during the shoot to put the subject at ease.
  • 1.2. Natural or Studio Lighting: Utilizing natural light can soften the features and create a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Tip: I suggest to use a soft, diffused light that minimizes harsh shadows and creates a flattering, even-toned portrait. Use diffusers and reflectors to achieve this effect. Some softboxes have a double layer of diffusion to achieve a softer look.
  • 1.3. Genuine Expressions: Capturing authentic emotions rather than forced smiles can make your portraits more relatable. When people go in front of a camera they might also open their eyes too wide which doesn't look natural (maybe because they are fearful or uncertain ). We need to avoid the look of a deer in the headlights. The other extreme look of squinting is also not recommended because the eyes are almost closed so they dissapear.

Tip: One suggested method to look more photogenic or captivating is to squint just a little (more on the lower lid). Below is a video that explains the steps to achieve this.
captivating portraits photogenic squinch

2. Choosing the right location

The location of your photoshoot can significantly impact the mood and feel of your portraits or headshots.


  • 2.1. Urban vs. Natural: Decide whether you want an urban backdrop or the serenity of nature. Each setting conveys a different message.

  • 2.2. Lighting Conditions: Evaluate the lighting conditions at your chosen location. Soft, diffused light can create a flattering effect.

  • 2.3. Meaningful Settings: Sometimes, a location that holds personal significance to your subject can bring out genuine emotions.

3. Equipment and Gear

To master the art of approachable portraiture, you need the right tools.

  • 3.1. Camera Selection: Invest in a camera that allows you to control settings like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO or ask a photographer to help you.

  • 3.2. Lens Choice: Select a lens with a wide aperture (e.g., f/1.4 - f/1.8) to achieve a shallow depth of field and beautiful bokeh.

  • 3.3. Tripod and Remote Shutter: These tools can help maintain stability, especially in low light conditions. If you don't have a remote shutter or tripod you could also try to use a timer or a fast shutter speed if the conditions allow it for sharp and clear photos.

4. Posing and Direction

Guiding your subject effectively is crucial to capturing approachable portraits.

  • 4.1. Natural Poses: Encourage your subject to adopt natural, relaxed poses rather than stiff ones.

  • 4.2. Eye Contact: The eyes are the windows to the soul. Instruct your subject to make eye contact with the camera for a deeper connection.

  • 4.3. Emotion Elicitation: Use prompts or anecdotes to evoke genuine emotions and expressions.

5. Composition and Framing

A well-composed photograph can tell a compelling story.


  • 5.1. Rule of Thirds: Place your subject off-center to create a visually interesting composition.

  • 5.2. Framing: Use elements in the environment to frame your subject naturally.

  • 5.3. Depth of Field: Experiment with different depths of field to emphasize your subject.

6. Post-processing magic

Post-processing can elevate your portraits or headshots from good to exceptional.

  • 6.1. Retouching: Use photo editing software to subtly retouch blemishes and enhance skin tones. For example Photoshop is a great tool. Avoid over-processing. Subtlety is the key; it's about enhancing, not transforming (unless you want to do a very creative/fantasy/painting style photos but that is a separate topic vs. headshots )

  • 6.2. Color Grading: Adjust colors to set the desired mood and atmosphere. Adobe Lightroom for example is great for this but Photoshop can also be used.

Tip: Shoot and edit in RAW format to preserve details as much as possible. This gives you more latitude for editing. Retain important details and make precise adjustments to exposure, color, and sharpness.
  • 6.3. Cropping and Composition Tweaks: Fine-tune your composition in post-processing if needed.

Conclusion to making captivating portraits / headshots:

Creating captivating and approachable portraits is an art that combines technical expertise with a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the subject. Our London headshot photographer's insights have shed light on the key elements that go into crafting these compelling images. Remember, it's not just about capturing a face; it's about telling a story—one that engages and invites the viewer to connect with the subject on a deeper level.

Unlock the potential of your photography and embark on a journey to create headshots that leave a lasting impression. Embrace the tips and techniques shared here, and watch as your portraits come to life with authenticity and charm.

F.A.Q. - Common questions

Q: How can I make my subject feel at ease during a headshot session?

A: Engage in conversation, create a relaxed atmosphere, and give clear directions for posing. Making your subject feel comfortable is essential for capturing authentic expressions.

Q: What's the ideal time of day for outdoor headshot sessions?

Q: Should I invest in professional retouching?

Q: Can I use a smartphone for headshot photography?

Q: How do I choose the perfect portrait or headshot location?

Q: What's the role of post-processing or retouching in portrait photography?

About Author

I am a headshot photographer with over 7 years of experience in editing and retouching using tools like Photoshop or Lightroom. Whether you're an actor, a performer, a company, or a professional, please do explore the website to see if you'd like us to work together.

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