What does Obama's headshot say about him? Well, whether you loved him or hated him, his presidency is now over, so I'd love to analyze his primary headshot and use it to draw some connections to his accomplishments in office.
Let's first discuss the aesthetics of the photo itself, and then dive into the connections to his presidency. Also, if you're interested, I recently analyzed Donald Trump's headshot and made some predictions about his presidency as well.
Background: The environment of the photo is natural, light, and very presidential. It looks accomplished and scholarly. The flag in the background is typical for presidential and senatorial portraits, and helps to add to the patriotic feeling of the photo.
Lighting: The lighting on Obama is fairly soft, but there is a deep shadow across the camera-right side of his face. In my opinion, this shadow is not meant to convey any specific feeling or emotion, but rather, to shape the face and add dimension to the image (and potentially even out his eyes a bit - did you know 95% of people have different sized eyes?).
Off-Center: Because Obama is positioned to the right of the frame, we can infer two things: One, the photographer needed room for the flag in the background (which is most likely). Two, and a bit more subconsciously, it feels as though he is not dominating the frame, which gives off a sense that he is someone who is willing to work with others and try to find common ground if possible.
Crop: The image is cropped chest up, which is fairly standard for a portrait. Compare this to Donald Trump's headshot, and you'll see that the photographer purposely did not want to have a domineering feeling coming from the image.
Skin & Retouching: The retouching is very natural, just to fix a few possible blemishes and lighten up under the eyes a bit. The photographer deliberately did not want the image to appear unnatural, probably to give off the message that Obama is human too. The retouching job is effective because it looks similar to the way we retouch our headshots at City Headshots. Natural while still removing the distracting elements.
Expression: His chin is down a bit and he has a very subtle closed-mouth smile. His eyes are squinted in a confident but natural way. The expression shows confidence and approachability, the exact look we aim to pull out of our clients at City Headshots.
It's always hardest to find the true self because you have to look very hard for it. In most cases, it comes through the left eye (the one on camera right). The reason that genuine emotion comes through this eye is because it's directly connected to the right side of the brain, which is responsible for emotions and unconscious feelings. In most cases, unless the photographer is really good, they will miss that eye and something unconscious will show through in the photo.
In this case, if we look extremely closely, we can see that his left eye (the one on the right side of the photo) is slightly less squinted (and therefore bigger) than the other. The photographer did a good job of hiding this by adding extra shadow to that side of the face. But even with the shadow, we can see a directness in this eye. something that shows us that Obama has true intent and aims to achieve something great very soon.
Well, that was quite a long analysis, so thanks for taking the time to read it. Of course it's almost cheating to go back and write an article analyzing someone's headshot after they finished their presidency, which is why I did Donald Trump's headshot before he took office.
However, I think the unconscious emotion coming through Obama's left eye in this photo shows his directness; namely, how adamant he is to accomplish something big during his first term. It's almost as if he wants to be remembered for something great.
Whether you agree with his policies or not, I think we can all agree that he did accomplish something big during his first term: the passage of The Affordable Care Act. This was a significant accomplishment because it drastically changed the United States healthcare system.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Obamacare will stand the test of time or will be repealed by the new administration. But I can confidently say that this headshot showed he intended to do something big during his presidency, and shortly thereafter, he did.