I am often approached by clients with questions, requests, comments, and concerns regarding the elements of photography that make up their headshots.
For example, once I had a client try to explain that they liked outdoor headshots because of the “background having those bright light, bulby looking things…” How ideal would it have been if they could have said, “I like outdoor headshots because of the beautiful bokeh.”
So let’s dive in, let’s go over some common elements found in photography and their corresponding terms. I’ll make these really easy to understand. That way, you can have an educated conversation with your photographer about what you are seeing in your headshots!
Do you ever notice those white glowing things in the subjects’ eyes and wonder what they are? Those are CATCH LIGHTS. They are a reflection of the light provided, bounced into the iris of the subjects’ eyes.
Digital Photography School’s website describes them as “…simply the highlight of a light source reflected off the surface of the eye. This highlight adds depth and dimension to the eye, and gives the eyes life in a portrait or snapshot.”
Without catch lights, the iris and pupil would appear unnaturally lifeless, and can detract from the image. So, in a nutshell, stop asking your photographer’s to “remove those bright white things in my eyes.”
Here’s a link to read more: http://digital-photography-school.com/an-introduction-to-catchlights/
When describing what’s happening behind a subjects’ head and the blurriness of the background, we call this a BOKEH.
Bokeh is defined as “the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens.”
The bokeh on an image could be either soft and buttery, or radial and busy. The bokeh of an image is set by the photographer based on a few things, including the lens that they have chosen to use.
Each lens is different and each photographers’ preference is different. It could actually come across as rude if the client is to ask the photographer to ‘blur out the background more’ on their returned images. Potentially the bokeh they achieved was because they wanted it the particular way they shot it, or, their equipment won’t allow them to get the background any more blurry. The bokeh is also controlled by how far the background is from their subject, the natural light being cast that day (sunny or cloudy), and the aperture of their lens.
Sometimes you might want to talk to your photographer about the brightness of your photos. Maybe you might like them brighter or darker. Alternatively, you may want to tell them about how your last headshots feel ‘washed out’, and you’d like your skin texture to have more depth. You are describing the EXPOSURE of your images.
Exposure is the amount of light that is let into your image. If it is very dark in the space you are shooting, you may find that, without additional light, your images are under exposed. If you are outside or in a brightly lit studio, you may find that your images can be over exposed. Some photographers style is to over expose your skin, so less detail is seen. Some photographers choose to under expose you, so that the images are moodier or more skin texture is seen.
These are three of the most common terms I feel you will encounter and need to use when speaking with your photographers. If you have any other elements of an image you wish to know the terms for, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!