I got a call the other day and the prospective client asked me whether or not I had photographed dark skin tones before.
While this might sound like a weird question, it’s not. Professional headshot photography is all about creating and capturing personality through proper posing, lighting, and expression. I’ve seen some great photographers that know how to pose and get great expressions out of their clients, but because they couldn’t properly light or photograph brown skin, they ruined that client’s headshot. Am I being a bit dramatic when I say they ruined it? Personally, I don’t think so. If you or anyone else look at your headshot and thinks “yikes, I can barely see their face because it’s not lit” or “gosh, their complexion looks a bit rough” then that’s a problem.
Your headshot photographer is supposed to help you look like you but on your very very best day. If that’s currently NOT happening then you need to find yourself a new headshot photographer. There are SO many shades of brown and color in the skin and no one wants a headshot that is a color that is not actually THEIR shade or tone, just because they weren’t lit properly.
If you have brown skin tones, Here are three things I want you to ask your prospective photographer before you hire them.
1). Have you photographed brown/dark skin tones previously? If they say “Yes”, ask to please send over a few images or to look at their portfolio and make sure the skin tones look natural and the client’s skin color isn’t blown out or discolored.
2). Do you know how to use strobe lighting (when a photographer calls themselves a natural light photographer it usually means they have no idea how to manipulate light and as long as it’s a beautiful day they can create beautiful pics, if not, they are unable to create beautiful light)?
3). Do you offer professional retouching on the headshots? If so, please show me a sample. This is important because darker skin tones usually mean there are many different shades and sometimes skin tones need to be evened out in post-processing. Once again, ask to see samples. Because most photographers do not know how to professionally retouch, they will over blur the skin hoping it’ll hide the blemishes and skin tone differences versus professionally correcting it.
Your headshots are important to your personal brand and important to the future opportunities coming your way. Show up as your best version and make sure you don’t get looked over for that speaking gig, the client interview, or the LinkedIn connection because either you don’t have an existing headshot that invites the viewer to want to talk with you more or because the image you are putting out into the world doesn’t give the right message or present you in the best light possible.