If you work in any professional capacity or have an online presence in general, having a good headshot is no longer optional. And it’s not that hard to avoid some of the more common mistakes you see with headshot photos.. as long as you know a couple of tips that will help you look your best in front of the camera.
1. Select classic, flattering clothing
Every year we have trends, seasonal colors, and cuts that are specific to clothing that season. It’s actually a lot harder to find clothing that is classic, simple, and well-fitting that doesn’t exemplify whatever the style is at the moment.. but it’s worth the effort! In fact, truly professional clothing has hardly changed over the years. So stay away from drop shoulder, puffy sleeves, boxy cuts, and exaggerated waist rises. You’ll want to wear clothing that fits well, flatters your body shape, and makes you feel confident. Go for that work shirt you always wear for important presentations. The one that makes you feel like you can take on the world. Bring your favorite blazer, the go-to one you’ve had for 5 years. And those pants that hug all the right curves. It is always more important to look like yourself than like someone who follows the latest fashion styles.. because those styles will look dated a year from now, along with your headshot.
2. Stick to neutral colors & simple jewelry
The most important part of your headshot should be YOU, not your clothing. Unless you have a signature color (that is, a color that you often wear that really defines your professional look), you should stick to neutrals that will complement almost all skin tones and won’t overpower the image. Colors like navy, gray, and cream look good on everyone, present a professional presence, and never go out of style.
And a note about jewelry. Statement necklaces are all the rage nowadays. And don’t get me wrong, they’re super fun and great to wear on a daily basis.. but leave them at home when getting your headshot done. Once again, you want your face to be the focus on the portrait, not jewelry (this, of course, doesn’t apply if you’re in a creative field, which means you have a lot more leeway in your presentation).
3. Opt for professional hair & makeup
Taking some extra care for hair and makeup makes a big difference in portraits. That doesn’t mean you should look like someone you’re not. And it certainly doesn’t mean you should opt for contouring makeup, either. An even base color with blush on the apples of your cheeks, mascara to elongate your lashes, and color or gloss on your lips adds a healthy glow and dimension to your images.
And when you’re not well-practiced with doing your own makeup, or struggle with getting your hair just right, hiring a professional to handle that part is a smart move. One thing to make sure if that they know how to do makeup specifically for photographs, because colors photograph very differently than how they look in real life.. and sometimes a color that looks right in person will actually look washed out in photos.
4. Know your good side
Very few people look good straight-on (because our faces tend to be asymmetrical). Most have a good side, or a side of their face that they prefer in photographs. And it’s the difference between liking your headshot.. and not. But what if you don’t really know which is your “good side”? Where you part your hair can indicate which side of your face you prefer. If hair covers part of your face, that is usually the side you don’t like. Likewise, the side that is more exposed (with the hair parted away) reveals the side that you like showing to the world. Or there might also be a side of your face with more “upturned” features (a friendlier look) that you might prefer. One side of your face might look slimmer.. or one eye might be more open than another, in which case you’d want the smaller eye closer to the camera, so that they look even.
There is no hard rule about which side of your face photographs better, which is why we take a few minutes at the start of your headshot session to determine what your preference is. Aside from left/right, there is up/down movement that we test and explore to make sure you’re happy with your images.
5. Posing is your friend
Posing is absolutely essential when it comes to looking good in your headshot. Not only posing your body for the most flattering angles, but also moving the face to avoid a double chin. Having someone who not only knows a bit about posing, but can also tell you how to move your arms, how to sit, and which way to look, makes the process a lot easier. Sitting or standing straight, having relaxed hands/fingers, and shifting weight to thin and compliment the body are some of the things I’m constantly directing for. And it’s always those little things that will either make or break an image. The photographer should always be doing you the favor of providing direction and making sure you’re looking your best.
And while it might seem, when you’re finally considering hiring someone for your headshot, that having a professional take your photograph wouldn’t be much different from one photographer to the next. But it’s amazing how many terrible “professional headshots” you see out there. Good headshots no longer have harsh Studio lighting and stiff poses.. it’s much more about lighting that doesn’t distract from the person, with a relaxed facial expression that brings across approachability and respect at the same time. It’s about a process that isn’t rushed. A process where you can feel comfortable, get direction from someone who is just as invested in you looking your best as you are, and where you can work together to create a set of images that will propel you forward in your career.
In short, hiring the right photographer for your headshots is kind of important.
But as with anything, it’s hard to know who that person will be.. which is why I feel so strongly about having a money-back Satisfaction Guarantee. Because to me, serving the needs of my clients and making sure you’re 100% happy with your portraits is always the most important!
And if you’re interested in updating your headshot and giving this whole thing a try, I would love to work with you! Take a look at the Business Headshots page (for business professionals) and the Personal Branding section (for small business owners and solopreneurs) to learn more and be sure to reach out either via email (email@example.com) or phone (203-490-6673) to book your session!