Why I Have People Stand For Their Headshots.
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
When I began my career back in the 1980s, I was trained to have people sit down for their photos. This creates more problems than it solves. It’s easier for the photographer if the subject is sitting down, but it is not my goal to make it easy on myself. My job is to make people look great, and having them stand up is one way I do that.
Being photographed is right up there with public speaking on the stress meter. Most people feel more comfortable and confident if they’re standing up when they’re under stress.
When we stand, we hold ourselves naturally erect because we’re supporting our weight on our muscles rather than our frame. When we sit down, we rest our weight on our spine and naturally slump. Sitting up is an unnatural posture that is forced and uncomfortable, and it looks like it.
I learned the trick of having people take an active stance on the camera when photographing sales professionals. I put them “in their element” by having them step towards the camera, reaching out to shake my hand. This made me realize how important it is to position people’s feet properly for their headshot.
By keeping my people on their feet, I can look up at my subjects very slightly. This is a subtle trick I use to communicate strength and confidence in their photographs. If a person is sitting with the camera looking down at them, the message we’re sending is one of submission, and that’s not what we’re after in professional headshots.
These are just a few of the reasons why I photograph everyone standing. The effect is subtle, but combined with all the other subtle tricks I use in posing and expression coaching, the results are outstanding.
Above, you can see the difference standing makes. The woman is seated for the photo on the right. Her shoulders have a slight hunch, and she tends to bend her spine as she leans forward. She is standing for a photo on the left. Her posture is perfect, back shoulders straight back, and her expression speaks of her confidence while addressing the camera.
Dean Birinyi is an award-winning photographer, founder, and owner of Silicon Valley Headshots and Professional Headshots Palo Alto. He specializes in expression coaching to guide his customers on presenting themselves as confident, approachable professionals ready for the next opportunity.