Photographers have a habit of walking a creative line. Too far one way, the concept is met with ridicule and laughter. Too far the opposite way and they are accused of playing it safe. Playing it safe can be just as bad — do you really want to blend in with your competition and not be noticed? Here’s how to balance the right amount of creativity at the same time playing it safe.

Start with the safe shot

I like to start my portrait sessions with safe shots — shots I know will always turn out good. This guarantees I will have deliverables to give to my client plus it puts the subject at ease. Once they see these images they relax knowing they are in good hands.

It’s at this point I start to experiment and blend a little creativity in my shots. I don’t go too far, but just enough to be different. It doesn’t have to be too crazy. It can be as simple as feathering the light to introduce a dramatic shadow.

Get creative with a new concept

Now that the safe shots are out of the way, you can change it up and get creative. For this Tilt series, I wanted to break a lot of traditional rules. Normally, I don’t photograph a subject straight on — it causes loss of depth and dimension. Though since this will be a square crop, you don’t notice it as much.

A Dutch Tilt is usually reserved to convey a sense of uneasy or unrest. Think Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” or the old 1960s “Batman and Robin.” Here it worked because we have our subject smiling and laughing.

Finally, flat lighting was used to hide imperfections in the skin by exhibiting very low contrast between highlights and shadows. This also helps smooth the surface of the skin, helping soften blemishes.

Keeping your options open

At this point, your options are open. You can play it safe and use headshots everyone else is using or you can try out the new headshot and see how it’s received. If people like it, you may have potential clients. Either way, you will get people talking.