How to make creative headshots


I will admit it. I love head shots of children. I enjoy getting close to kids to capture all the sweet details of their faces. My clients love it too, and I aim to capture head shots during all my shoots. In addition, ninety-five percent of the time, clients buy prints of the head shot images I provide.  When you hear the phrase “head shot,” your mind may conjure a boring, stiff image. Well I am here to show you how I approach head shots in children, and how I keep them creative and interesting!

Get intense eye contact.

I love honest images of children. I do not care if they smile, and instead focus on connection. I usually stand in front of them and squat or kneel down at their level. I chat with them about their little lives and allow them to know I am interested and compassionate. I will ask them a question like, “Can you see my eye in the camera?” or, “Do you see a butterfly in there?” This serves to hold their interest, encourages eye contact, and brings more natural expressions.

Show those killer lashes!

Children have incredible lashes, and I love to get photos of them looking down. I often just capture this while we are talking. When kiddos are shy, they often look down. I love the chance to capture this sincere emotion. However, if they are not shy, I ask them to tell me about their cool shoes, or point out something compelling on the ground.

headshot showing on eyelashes by Elena Blair

Photograph from above.

I like to lie children and babies down on the ground and then I stand over them straddling them. They usually think this is funny and/or interesting so it often encourages a natural expression. I may have them sit on the ground as I stand above them.  I will make a noise or say, “hey, look at the monkey on my head!” which gets them to look directly up at me. I love that perspective!

photograph from above for a headshot by Elena Blair

Looking away.

Remember, they do not need to be looking at you. Some of my favorite head shots are of children or babies who are looking away, often at their Mommy or Daddy.

headshot of subject looking away by Elena Blair

Encourage goofy expressions.

Kids love to be goofy. I will say, “okay silly time!” or “scream for me!” which often gets a great natural, yet silly face.  This can provide variety and offer a window into the true nature of an inherently playful subject.

headshot with goofy face by Elena Blair

Tummy head shots.

I often lie babies or toddlers on their bellies and then I also lie on my tummy right in front of them. I joke and laugh to encourage them to interact with me. This is a great way to get head shots of the little ones who are on the move or not quite old enough to sit.

headshot of child laying on tummy by Elena Blair

There you have it! Head shots do not have to be boring. In fact, they are beautiful,fun, and can be an opportunity for some truly creative work!

Elena BlairElena Blair, Washington
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
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With a Canon 5d mark II and a few choice lenses in hand, Seattle photographer and NICU/Labor and Delivery nurse Elena Blair began working with film about ten years ago and then dipped her toes in the digital pool in 2010. Often described as fine art documentary, her photography is natural, organic, and emotive which is an extension of her family and their lifestyle. Elena, her husband, and three children are an active family that enjoys biking, hiking, and skiing. Elena is the instructor of CMU’s workshop Going Beyond the Pose.

Read all photography tutorials by Elena Blair.


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