Breaking Down a Simple Headshot Portrait Composite

Breaking Down a Simple Portrait Composite

As a Dallas Portrait Photographer, or any artist for that matter, there is frequently a discrepancy between what I love to create, and what I get paid to create.

Today, I’m going to break down a Simple Portrait Composite I just completed for a client.

Several years ago, before digital, when I was a portrait photographer, what I saw through my lens was what the final portrait looked like, aside from some minor burning and dodging, that is.

Today, in the world of digital photography, the possibilities are endless, and I take full advantage of this opportunity.

Giving the Client What they Want

Regardless of whether I’m creating a Headshot Portrait to add to my portfolio, a charity event where I’m not receiving payment, or a paying client commissioning me to create their portrait, I approach each with the same level of detail.

I want my clients to LOVE, not like, their Photillustrator Portraits.

Before I jump too far into what I’m talking about here, lets take a look at the Before and After of Susan.

comparing the before and after of a headshot portrait of susan nelson-brown

Susan is an awesome lady who had been nominated for an award in the tax and accounting industry, so I wanted to create a Headshot Portrait that represented how awesome she was.

Before I ever press a shutter release, I consult with my clients on their Headshot.

To me, a portrait is more than a visual likeness, and should portray what my client wants it to say.

For that reason, I ask questions aimed at finding out how my client will use the image, what they want it to say about them, and how they see themselves.

Here are 2 questions I ask that make all the difference.

  1. What do you consider to be your best facial feature?
  2. What do you consider to be your least favorite facial feature?

With these two simple questions, I know what to highlight in their Headshot Portrait and what I need to fix or tone down, which gives me a better understanding on how my client sees themselves.

Creating What they See

I believe we all see ourselves a certain way, which 99.9% of the time is likely to be different than reality.

It’s like my son jumping his bike off the curb.

In his mind, he’s catching some serious air, doing a double back flip, and landing the bike to perfection, but in reality, he only got the front wheel a couple of inches off the ground. (True Story)

When I’m editing a Headshot Portrait for a client, I take the information they gave me in the Creative Session, and imagine two things.

  1. How does this person see themselves when they look in the mirror.
  2. How would this person like to ideally see themselves.

These two questions lead me through the editing process when it comes to retouching things like wrinkles and moles, and it plays a big role in whether or not I trim them down, and where.

If you’re interested in what questions I ask my clients, shoot me an email at jason @

Breaking Down this Headshot Portrait

Everything I create from the simple Headshot Portrait, to the complex Photillustrations, are Photo Composites.

This Headshot Portrait of Susan was created using only 2 images, and took me about 3 hours of Photoshop time.

breakdown of a headshot portrait composite by numbers

#1 Portrait of Susan: The portrait of Susan was take with only one light and two bounce cards.

#2 Background: The background is a stock image of texture I frequently use to bring texture to my backgrounds.

While this is an extremely simple Compositing process, it does require some Photoshop skills for the hair, which I can show you if you’re interested.

Photillustrator Headshots

Like all my photography work, my Photillustrator Headshots live within the spectrum between a traditional photo and an illustration.

That’s why I call my work, Photillustrations.

If you’d like to commission me to create a Headshot Portrait, or give you more background on how I create Headshot Portraits, CONTACT ME and I can help you.

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