Everyone jokes about Romney’s ‘Binders full of women’ comment. But creepily, I really DO have binders full of women… and men.
Whenever I hire a model, I always make it a point before they leave to shoot a 360˚ view of their head. Having these shots is really useful for lots of reasons. Firstly, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to observe the inherent differences in proportions from one gender to the other, and even one person to another. Sometimes it’s shocking just how much variance there is between faces.
Another reason I do this is for sketching. I usually don’t use any reference when sketching concepts, but it’s always nice to have something to fall back onto if I’m struggling. Since I do this with most of my models, I can actually refer to the exact model that I use for a particular job, and have a relatively good idea of what they are going to look like in my composition.
Last but not least, it’s wonderful reference for background figures in paintings. Often times I overlook background characters, and don’t shoot as much reference as I should have. If I’m in a jam, I can always course through my files, and find a head that fits decently well.
Of course the lighting will likely be a bit inconsistent, so I tend to shoot under a soft neutral light, or the common ‘3/4 portrait’ light. This helps make the photos as versatile as possible.
To do these shots, all I do is sit my model in a swiveling chair. I start with a straight on portrait, and then slowly spin them 360˚ (It’s much easier to spin your model than to spin the lights!). I then have them raise their chin, and do the process again. They then lower their chin, and do it yet again. This gives me virtually every useful angle possible.
The whole process only takes 5 minutes, and is money well spent. I’ve used the images more times than I can count. I highly recommend you try it yourself. After a few years, you will have a wonderful library of faces available to you.