When you're a photographer who takes headshots for different clients, you'll quickly learn that no two headshots are alike. While the premise of snapping some shots of the person from his or her shoulders up doesn't change, a number of other related details do. Don't ever rush through a headshot photo shoot—you may indeed get some headshots for the client, but he or she might not be thrilled with your cookie-cutter approach. Instead, it's valuable to discuss exactly what the client is looking for before you take your camera out of its bag. Here are some details to confirm.
Even though you'll commonly set your camera so the background is out of focus—which makes the person's face the main attraction—the background in headshots matters. Talk to your client about what he or she wants as a background. Some people will simply want something plain, which means that you can use a neutral-colored wall or set up your own screen to achieve the desired look. Others will want something relevant to their business in the background, and may already have some ideas. If not, you'll need to assess the area and make a smart decision.
Ask your client what energy he or she wants to give off with the headshot. Generally, you'll want the client to come up with a few words that describe how he or she will look. You can then talk about how to achieve this look. For example, if you're shooting headshots for the staff of a daycare, they may indicate that they want to look fun or welcoming. If you're shooting at a law firm, however, the words you hear may be professional and serious. The energy that the client gives off is often dependent on how he or she poses, so keep these words in mind as you shoot.
Some clients will want headshots that are perfectly conventional—a formal-style portrait with a smiling facial expression shot against a neutral background. There's nothing inherently wrong with this idea, but you may also encounter clients who tell you that they don't want a boring headshot and that something original is preferable. This will get your creative juices flowing, and you can discuss some ideas and see if the client is on board with them. You can then set up whatever you agree on, and move forward with taking headshots that satisfy the client's desire to be original.