Handle Your Professional Headshot Like a Pro: 15 Tips & Tricks

Your professional headshot is the perfect opportunity to make a lasting first impression. Whether you’re using your headshot while searching for a job, for a speaking engagement, or to do some online networking, it’s important to remember you’re conveying information about your competence and confidence long before you meet face-to-face.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and when it comes to headshots, that couldn’t be more true. Because you want to make a killer first impression, your professional headshot must demonstrate a level of professionalism while exuding enough enthusiasm that encourages people to learn more about you.

When taking professional headshot photos, the goal is to appear personable and give the viewer a feel for your personality. Making the wrong face, wearing the wrong outfit, or not being fully prepared for your photos could cause you to look frightened or unpolished when you want to look intelligent, optimistic, and eager to learn. Be sure to check out the following tips to look your absolute best in your headshot.

Find the Right Photographer

Finding the right photographer is the absolute most important thing in getting a good headshot. Spend some time looking for the right person – it will pay off in the end.

  1. Review the photographer’s previous work. Most photographers have an online portfolio of work. Look for someone who focuses on headshots as it’s an art all its own. Review several in your area to find one who captures the person’s personality and an image you’d like to portray.
  2. Read online reviews. Consider both likes and dislikes about the photographer.
  3. Do a consultation with the photographer. Talk to her about your goals, show them pictures of headshots you found online that you like, get a feel for her style and approach to headshots.
  4. Get super clear on the price. Pricing can get confusing for photos. Make sure you know exactly what you’ll be getting and for how much.

Wear the Right Attire for Your Photos

Knowing what to wear and how to wear it can make all the difference in your professional headshot photos. Use these simple suggestions to ensure the focus is more on your face and less on what you’re wearing.

Professional Suiting Recommended

Consider the message you want to express in your headshot. If you’re in an executive or in a professional job, wear a suit jacket. You’ll not only look put together, but the structure of a suit jacket can communicate leadership and confidence. Since you’ll have to wear a top under the jacket, the layering will add some nice dimension and can allow for a pop of color.

Stick With Solid Colors

Even if you love patterns and designs, it’s best to wear a solid color jacket and top for your headshot, keeping the focus on your face. Choose a color that pairs well with your skin’s undertones. For example, those with warmer skin tones often feel most confident in red and light brown shades, while those with much cooler skin tones tend to look their best in hues of purple and blue. Pick a color that you believe highlights your features.

If you’re unsure which colors look best on you and are having difficulty choosing a solid color to wear, consider using color psychology. Brighter shades of orange and coral are commonly associated with friendliness and optimism, while shades of blue can make someone look more dependable.

Neutrals such as black, grey and tan work as well. Take a few jackets, tops, and dresses to your shoot to see what looks best for you. White tends to look harsh in headshot photos, so most people should avoid it.

Don’t Choose a Low-Cut Shirt

Wearing a low-cut shirt in your headshot will make you look less professional. Be sure to choose a shirt that provides enough coverage and won’t draw extra attention to your cleavage. If most of the shirts you wear are low-cut, you can always wear a cami cover underneath your top for the headshot pictures.

Make Sure You’re Covering Any Straps 

If you opt for a sleveless dress or top, keep bra straps concealed and tucked in before you say cheese! It’s a good idea to try your outfit on before the day of the photoshoot to ensure that it fits comfortably and to ensure no bra straps are showing. Make sure to do a double-check before you’re facing the camera, smiling, and having your photos taken.

Consider Wearing Minimalist Jewelry

Looking professional in your headshot doesn’t mean you can’t wear jewelry. However, it’s best to avoid those bulky, colorful pieces. Rather than wearing something that could easily stick out and take away from your overall image, wear minimalist jewelry that will accentuate your natural beauty and pair well with the shirt you’re wearing. A stylish dainty necklace can add a touch of elegance to your photos.

If Your Daily Look Includes Eyeglasses, Wear Them in Your Professional Headshot

Your headshot should look like you, so wear your glasses! You can always take pictures with and without them and decide which you prefer after the photo shoot. Glasses can make you look smarter, so give it a try and see which photos turn out best.

Professional Heashot with glasses

Get Your Hair & Makeup Headshot Ready

The appearance of your hair and makeup are as important as the clothes you’ll wear for your headshot. There’re a few good ways to look headshot-ready in no time!

Take a Trip to the Salon

Don’t hesitate to make a trip to the salon to get your hair colored and cut by a professional. Do this at least 3-4 days before your shoot.

On the day of the shoot, have your hair styled by your stylist. When your hair looks good, you feel good, and you’ll end up exuding confidence in your headshots.

Use Styling Products

If you’re not planning to go to the salon before the shoot, be sure to ask your hairstlylist for the best styling products to use in your hair. You don’t want your hair to look out of place or frizzy, so be sure to use a serum that will keep those flyaways at bay!

Wear Your Favorite Hairstyle

The key to looking your best in headshots is to wear your hair in a hairstyle that makes you feel beautiful. It doesn’t matter if you like to wear your hair in a bun, ponytail, or down. Don’t be afraid to hide your beautiful natural curls, either. But, of course, you still need to keep it professional, so avoid anything sloppy or trendy.

Take Personal Grooming Seriously

To avoid irritated skin on your face, be sure to do any waxing, plucking, or shaving two days before your big shoot. If you plan to use a facemask or do any kind of light exfoliating, do that at least one day before.

Keep in mind, your hands could make an appearance in your headshot, so get a manicure!

Keep Makeup Natural

You want you look like you, but on your best day! A makeup professional can ensure you look great, but if you don’t have the time or budget for that, you can do your usual makeup routine with a few minor modifications.

  • Avoid sunscreen of any kind as it will add shine to your photo.
  • Ensure your foundation matches your skin tone, and don’t put it on too heavily on the day of the photo shoot.
  • Avoid dark eye makeup as it could distract from they eyes themselves.
  • Stick to colors you regularly wear and feel good in, especially when it comes to lip color.

Bring your makeup with you, and you can add more as you go if needed.

Practice Your Look in the Mirror

Be sure to spend some time practicing your look and finding your best side in the mirror. First, get an idea of how you’ll look at the camera and what kind of smile you’ll do for the photo. Some people like to keep it simple with a small yet soft smile, while others like to get their headshot done with a huge grin on their face, showing off their pearly whites and pleasant personality. If you practice in the mirror, you can get a feel for the looks you want to make and the faces you’d like to avoid doing in your photos.

Posture

Good posture conveys confidence and strength in a headshot. Pull your shoulders back and down while squeezing your shoulderblades together slightly. At the same time, release the muscles around your shoulders to appear relaxed.

Jaw Line

According to industry leading headshot photographer Peter Hurley, the jawline is everything in a headshot photo. His advice is to ensure you’re standing tall by imagining a hook in the top of the head. Pull on the hook to increase the distance between the ears and the shoulder blades. From there, push your forehead forward and down slightly. This will feel unnatural, but will give you a defined jawline, bringing out your best in the photo.

Eye Squinch

The way most people look at the camera with eyes-wide-open can make them look afraid or uncertain. One sure way to look more confident is to use the eye squinch. This is another trick made famous by Hurley, and makes all the difference in your headshot photo.

To do the eye squinch, think about lessening the distance between your lower eyelid and your pupil. Then bring down the top eyelid very slightly. Ensure you’re not raising your eyebrows when performing this move. Practice this in front of the mirror, or watch a few YouTube videos of people performing the move before your shoot.

How to Master the Art of a Non-Professional Headshot

Even if you’re not hiring a professional to take your headshots, you can still get some incredible shots that will leave a good impression. Follow all the tips mentioned above, such as wearing a solid color with minimalist jewelry and getting your hair done to look suitable for the photo. When you’re ready to take the picture, use good lighting, whether you prefer natural light or the brightness of a ring light. Be sure to stand in front of a solid-colored wall, adjust your phone or camera settings to your liking, set a timer, and then stand in front of the wall while smiling. The best part about taking headshots at home is that you can take as many as you’d like and go through them right away, deciding which ones you want to use.

Get Your Best Headshot

Use these helpful tips to prepare for the most incredible headshots that allow your personality to shine through. Be sure to update your professional headshot at least once every 5 years. As your look, job and age change, you want your headshot to reflect the current version of you.

So while you’re doing the hard work of visualizing your future and developing yourself, be sure to do the practical things, like getting a headshot to elevate your professional game.

Leave a Comment