When my then wife and I started a small town coffee shop 15 years ago, we didn't really know what we were getting into. Well, I knew that there were a lot of factors involved, but the main thing would be the product: The espresso based beverages. This was something completely new in our small town of 20 000 souls. We had to educate the people there on what a good cup of coffee is, and why they should spend more money with us than at the bakery down the street.

A huge part of this journey was nailing down the process of making the best espresso possible - every time. This involves getting control of the factors that impact the result in the cup.

There are a lot of things going in to making a good cup of espresso:

  • The coffee type / blend
  • The roasting process
  • The grind (fine or coarse)
  • The packing of the ground coffee in the portafilter
  • The brewing temperature (water temperature and pressure)
  • The extraction time (how much water and how long to brew)
  • The cups used (size and temperature)

Controlling each of these factors, one at a time, made it possible to create a consistent experience for the customer. All of these factors can be kept pretty consistent. We bought coffee from the same roaster, we used equipment that gave consistent temperature and pressure, we packed and brewed the coffee the same way every time and used heated cups of a perfect size.

The only thing we needed to adjust was the grind. This is because coffee is an organic matter that reacts with the environment. This means that the grind must be changed continuously during the day to adjust for temperature and humidity.

If any of the other factors were not nailed down, we would soon lose control of the whole process. By controlling everything else, and then adjusting the grind along the way, we made a consistent product that people paid more money for.

See where I'm going with this?

As headshot photographers, we are in the business of controlling the process.
Get the factors nailed down:

  • Equipment (camera, lights and computer)
  • Lighting setup
  • White balance
  • Focus and composition
  • Hair and clothing scan
  • Direction
  • Shtick

The equivalent of the grind, the variable in the process, is of course the subject. The person in front of your camera will be different every time. You want to be able to focus on the person.

Having all of the other factors under your control will give you that focus and your client will look at you as the professional you are.

*So, you see that being a headshot photographer is perhaps not so different from being a barista - it just pays better ;)