Tips for Nailing a Compelling Winter Headshot
By Chris Macke
Every winter, I get the same email: “It’s cold out, it’s snowing out, you can’t possibly shoot outside, can you?” The short answer is yes, of course we can! In fact, shooting in the snow can produce some really compelling images. Some of my favorite headshots were shot in the middle of winter. Generally, you can last for about 45 minutes outside on a cold day. Obviously, you want to avoid days that have blizzard conditions (high wind, bitter cold, freezing rain, etc.). Other than that, you can get some amazing shots in the snow. Sure, I’d rather it be 80 degrees and sunny every single day. Fact is, we’ve decided to live in New York City, so you’ll need to do a little prep work for your winter shoot:
Dress warm. Double layer everything that’s not visible in the photo (pants and tights/thermal underwear, etc), gloves, and a warm coat.Extra credit: heated gloves or disposable hand warmers. Also, find a pair of earmuffs you can wear without messing up your hair. Your fingers and toes are the first thing to go. Keeping those two things warm will make a huge difference.
Keep your coat partially on! I’m amazed by how many people walk outside and, before I’ve even pulled out my camera, announce, “Alright, I’m ready! Here goes my jacket!” You only see from your collarbone on up in headshots. Keep your jacket wrapped around yourself up to your chest.
Take breaks! Pull up your jacket and run in place. It’ll help warm you up and get you to relax a bit.
Stop worrying about your red nose and red ears. It’s gonna happen. Those two things are really simple to get rid of in Photoshop.
Check the rescheduling policy of your photographer very closely. Many will not reschedule over weather. I let you do it once as long as you do it a few days in advance (check the weather report!).
Learn how to read the weather report like a pro. Ideally, you want a day that’s not below 20 degrees, free of rain, and with wind at no more than 10MPH (especially important for women).
Don’t panic if the forecast calls for rain. Try to figure out when it’s going to happen. Many times a rain forecast only leads to a short shower. I have a fail safe outdoor location for occasions when it starts raining. Check with your photographer to see if they have a backup plan.
So why not just shoot indoors in the winter? That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Many photographers will insist on indoor shooting on cold days. There’s nothing wrong with studio shots. I simply think that when someone’s presented with a pile of headshots, a snow shot is far more unique than a typical studio shot. It might just spur a memorable conversation with a casting director or an agent. “Yeah, it was freezing out and I pulled this off. There’s nothing I can’t handle.”
I still recommend having some indoor and outdoor shots. So, if possible, pick a photographer who can do both well. You’ll have more options to choose from after your shoot. That way you can shoot outdoors for as long as you can stand it and then move indoors for the rest of your shoot. Plus, you’ll have earned some serious bragging rights for your friends!
Happy winter shooting! :o)
Chris is known by the performing arts community in New York for his work as a photographer of actors. His clients have appeared in the Broadway productions of: Aladdin, Wicked, Matilda, Motown, Les Miserables, Kinky Boots, Mama Mia, Rock of Ages, Phantom of the Opera, 9 to 5, Heathers, Chicago, Peter and the Starcatcher, Young Frankenstein, Elf, Next to Normal, Hairspray, The Drowsy Chaperone, Sweet Smell of Success, Cry Baby, Shrek, Is He Dead?, 42nd Street, Lion King, Boy From Oz, All Shook Up, Rent, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Wedding Singer, Tarzan, Follies, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Pacific Overtures, Flower Drum Song, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Seusical, Contact, and in the television series Nurse Jackie, Blue Bloods, Glee!, Smash, 30 Rock, Supernatural, The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Castle, Big Love, Sex and the City, The Wire, Lost, Rescue Me, Law and Order, Sopranos, Supernatural, Bones, and Third Watch.