The Eighteen Inch Headshot

Eighteen inches is the average length from elbow to fingertip.

Eighteen inches is where breathing goes shallow and legs start shaking.

Eighteen inches is tunnel vision, selective deafness, a mouth like sand.

Eighteen inches is pacing side to side, arms splayed, and snarling.

Eighteen inches is time like treacle.

Eighteen inches is cold sweat at 2am.

Eighteen inches is how far this headshot was taken from.


The actor in this headshot, Carey Thring, contacted me because he wanted a range of images tailor-made to securing work in varying acting roles; from approachable, to confident, to sallow and dejected, playful-funny, and intimidating. "Something," he said, "like a character from Peaky Blinders."

I knew exactly what we were after, something a bit different from a typical headshot. A headshot taken from eighteen inches. It's what Gregory Heisler in his beautiful book '50 Portraits' calls the In Your Face portrait.

A telephoto lens is the typical lens of choice for portraits. Telephoto lenses compress the elements in the image, and this tends to be flattering to the subject. Using this kind of lens means you're 4 or more feet away from your subject. It's comfortable and polite conversational range.

A wide-angle lens stretches the elements in the frame, as if looking the wrong way through a telescope. This 'pulling' can distort the features of the face, which is often thought of as 'unflattering.'

What a wide lens allows you to do however is to get close to the subject. This let's the subject get close to the viewer. This puts you in the uncomfortable, confrontational eighteen inches.

This is the arena the character of intimidation makes his bread and butter, and that's what I needed to convey. Not just 'nice' lighting and the correct expression, but the distance, the feel. Making the portrait palpable. Making the character come to life.