Eight Tips for Getting the Best Headshot Photo

Most people act like they’d rather be shot in the head than have their professional head shot photo taken.

But you need to reframe your thinking: In our image-driven world, mastering posing for photos is an executive skill. Use the opportunity to learn from the photographer how to project your best self on camera, just as you use coaches to perfect your delivery in an interview or in the gym to fix your form.

A headshot photo set up is much less glamorous than something for a magazine story. Your main goal is to get at least one good shoulders-up shot. The photographer may position you in ways that feel a bit weird because they look good on camera – just breathe, and think of how silly this all is (which will give you “smize” – more on that below).

 There’s a good article on preparing for a photo shoot here, and here are eight more tips on getting the most from your professional headshot photo session: 

  1. Don’t get a haircut right before the shoot – it will look too “fresh.” If you can, it’s great to be professionally styled – just don’t lacquer your hair down with hairspray or it will look unnatural.
  2. Translucent powder is your friend – especially for you guys that are follically challenged. The flash can create some serious shine on your dome; powder will help take that down.
  3. If you wear a jacket for your photo, sit on the tail of the jacket and button the top button. This will prevent it bunching up in the back.
  4. Especially for the ladies – V-neck tops are flattering, but check it in the mirror and think about how your photo will look cropped from the shoulders up – sometimes the cut of the V can look more revealing than you intend. Not sure? Bring an alternate top and ask the photographer.
  5. You don’t have to smile in all your photos, but you need to “smile with your eyes” (or as coined by Tyra Banks, “Smize”).
  6. Breathe, breathe, breathe! Sometimes people hold their breath as they get their pictures taken, and that will make you look stiff.
  7. Don’t be surprised if your pictures look different when taken from your left or right side – everyone literally has a “good side,” and once you know what it is, you can use that to your advantage.
  8. And don’t forget about the magic of retouching! Don’t stress the small imperfections.

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2 Responses to “Eight Tips for Getting the Best Headshot Photo”

  1. Daniel Root says:

    As a photographer who has shot lots of corporate headshots I think you hit on all the major points. The linked article was good also except the estimated time for each person. Five minutes per is rushing the process and it doesn’t allow for any fine tuning of the light set up. It can be done and has been done but 10-15 minutes is much preferred.

  2. Cary Oney says:

    Really nice article, I have been looking to read something of this nature and your writing has fit the bill perfectly, thanks very much indeed.