Professional Headshot Tutorial & Tips: How To Prepare, What To Wear, How To Dress, Pose, Squint & Smile For A Headshot LinkedIn Profiles, Websites, Examples & Ideas
Professional Headshot Tips: Business Portraits, Linkedin Photos & More
Headshots are more widely used than ever before. From LinkedIn profiles, press releases, articles, websites, social media, avatars, business cards, sales collateral to speaking engagements, headshots are something you should have handy and updated at all times.
Often times requests for headshots by an employer, conference, newspaper, magazine etc. can have short turnaround times. Taking a headshot takes time to plan in terms of attire, location, looks, processing. If you don’t plan ahead, you can easily wind up with something rushed, unflattering, forced or inappropriate for the outlets the photo will be used.
Professional Headshot Tips: How To Take Flattering Headshots
As a professional headshot photographer in San Francisco, I have worked with a variety of industries, companies and identities over the years. Here are some tips and general tutorial guide to prepare for and things to be aware about when booking a professional headshot or trying to take a headshot yourself. Below are my tips for taking professional headshots.
Professional Headshot Examples: https://eddie-hernandez.com/professional-headshots/
Tips For A Professional Headshot: How Often Should You Update Your Headshot
A headshot should be updated roughly every 3-5 years (give or take), sometimes more often than if there is a significant change of appearance, change in job/industry or if you find a great photographer who can capture exactly what you are looking for.
Your headshot should reflect what you would like if someone met you in person. It should also be something you are proud of and would use publicly if asked to provide for a speaking engagement, press release or other time sensitive purpose. It should also be used so people can more easily recognize you out and about which can be good for networking, sales, partnerships or more.
How To Take Professional Headshots: What Kind Of Headshot Do I Need
Quite often, I get requests from clients seeking a specific type of headshot they saw from a friend, from a colleague or from Pinterest. It’s great to have some inspiration for your headshot but it’s also important to make sure the headshot you seek is appropriate for your industry and profession.
The blurring of social media profiles, dating profiles and professional profiles has led some folks to use photos interchangeably. Even in the context of professional headshots, knowing what is generally accepted for your industry is important to know.
A headshot for a yoga instructor is different from a fashion stylist is different from an investment banker is different from a start-up founder is different from an interior designer.
Some photos rely on a close crop just below the shoulders and wide enough to fit the torso sans shoulders and arms. Other professions that entail a visit to an office or a outcome should possibly be more environmental in nature (fully body, half-body or traditional close-up) but with some detail of outcome of a design, place of business, feeling or sense of accomplishment.
A great photographer will be able to guide you around all the nuances of the various headshot types but when in doubt, research headshots from those in your industry who are accomplished for inspiration.
A quick Google search can help out as well – attorney headshot, environmental office headshot, modeling half-body shot, clarinet headshot, blurred city background, San Francisco outdoor headshots, pixie haircut, female start-up headshot.
What Should I Wear In My Headshot: Best Thing To Wear For A Headshot
Wardrobe is key in a headshot even though most headshots only feature a sliver of the outfit, attire. The main thing to look out for is not to clash clothing colors with your skin tone nor background. Stay away from loud patterns. White shirts should be avoided unless coupled with a tie or jacket, scarf or cardigan.
Turtlenecks and shiny clothing is generally a no-no. When in doubt, send a snapshot of the outfits you are considering to your photographer if he/she offers specific recommendations. Most photographers do not consult on specifics of your wardrobe but if they do, take advantage of it. Some general inspiration can be found on these Pinterest boards for men and for women.
Clothing Style, Wardrobe, Accessories, Fit For Headshots
Make sure your wardrobe is fitted to your body-type and not too bulky nor too tight. Your clothing should be free of wrinkles and stains. For the most part, shoulders should be covered, low/plunging necklines avoided, bulky necklaces avoided, makeup should be kept at a minimum (what you would wear to the office, not what you would wear for a night out).
Being professional is always key but you can add some flair and individuality with your haircut, necklace, eyeglasses, piercings (studs or small earrings are best), facial hair, background, color of clothing etc. Wardrobes should exemplify what you are trying to sell – creativity, professionalism, approachability, power or knowledge.
WOMEN– Read this guide on what to wear for your headshot photos.
Headshot Photo Dimensions: Landscape vs. Portrait vs. Square
Often times people take headshots that are formatted for one use i.e. portrait or square crop for LinkedIn. It’s hard to predict how you will need to use your photos for down the road or what kind or requirements are needed by others.
Having options is key to avoid re-taking shots unnecessarily. I usually provide several options for clients but this is more the exception than the norm for most photographers. I personally like more landscape oriented photos for more creative types and the extra space on the sides is great for websites.
How to Crop A Headshot Photo, How To Frame A Headshot. Empty Space
When taking a headshot you and your photographer should keep in mind the cropping needed for the outlet or usage of photos. The amount of space a subject should take up in a traditional headshot should be around 60-70% of the frame without 10-15% of the vertical space freed up above the head.
The reason for this is so that when the photo is cropped for a profile on LinkedIn the circular crop won’t be too close to the hair and top of your head. You might see some headshots cropped at the top of the head or some of the head cropped off slightly but these are generally reserved for modeling, acting or creative headshots – not for business, LinkedIn purposes.
LinkedIn Headshots, Professional Headshot Background, Cover Photos
A LinkedIn headshot photo has a circular crop for photos and the minimum size is 400px by 400px. I usually recommend clients stay at or slightly above unless they want a giant blown up photo viewable by the public (600px by 600px is the max I recommend). More about LinkedIn photo sizes here in their help section. Because of this crop, not all photos can easily be formatted to fit a LinkedIn profile.
Often times users have a portrait oriented headshot that is too narrow and is cropped on the left and right-hand sides leaving users to either crop the photo closer than desired or add some white space to the sides. For this reason I always provide various crops for clients for versatility. If possible try to fill in the empty spaces with a photo editing tool (can easily be done for most neutral backgrounds).
As for LinkedIn cover photos (also known as background photos), logos, check out the LinkedIn guide for minimum and recommended sizes. I often recommend using a photo that is relevant to location (particularly for big cities) such as a city skyline or something related to your industry. I would recommend using a stock image site to get ideas as well as looking at other professionals in your field on LinkedIn to see if something strikes your interest.
Read my other post for additional LinkedIn headshot tips.
How To Pose For A Headshot: Posing For Headshots
Most headshots should be taken at or slightly above eye level for close-ups. They should not be taken at high angles nor take below the chin. Additionally, subjects should be pulled into the frame by placing weight on the balls of their feet and not arching back as if trying to take a selfie.
As for angles, you should not have to turn your torso and shoulders more than 15-25 degrees away from / toward the camera. Poses closer to a 90-degree turn away from the camera leading with the shoulder are more modeling-esque and rarely needed for most professional needs.
-Rotate your body too much and it looks too modeling-esque.
-Pose in any way that feels comfortable or unnatural – would you pose like that at a networking event, among teammates or someone you are interested in?
-Lean back too much, or we can see underneath your chin and see some nose hairs
-Smile too hard or deep if you are concerned with wrinkles
Best Headshot Poses For Men & Women
-Get rest the night before
-Put your weight at the balls of your feet to come into the frame, camera
-Practice rotating your torso and face 5-20 degrees away from the camera to add some dimension
-Turning 75-90 degrees away from the camera is more so for actors and models only
-Headshots should be taken at or slightly above eye level (5-10 degree angle max)
-Lower your shoulders
-Practice lightly squeezing your eyes (don’t squint though)
I love asymmetrical looks (non-DMV, non-mugshot looks). Put a slight bend on one knee, shift your hops slightly to the opposite of the bend.
Headshot Pose: Should You Smile In A Headshot?
The question whether to smile always comes up and there are many answers here but at the heart of it, it depends on what you want to convey. I lean towards confidence and approachability. Smiling too much may not work for your profession but it can for others.
Similarly, looking too professional and stern can appear unapproachable, self-absorbed. A small smirk, a light smile, a slight squint is all it takes to get a get shot. Having your eyes too wide open or too closed seems like you are too eager or too intense. Finding that sweet spot in the middle is recommended.
How Do You Take Good Headshots, Photos Without Smiling.
The key to these types of photos is facial expression and the external items. Relaxing the jaw, pressing the tongue against the roof of your mouth, lighting, wardrobe, open frame pose, color selection and backgrounds all help to present an approachable image when a smile is not present.
People often look better in person than in their photos for many reasons including: lack of photos taken in the session, poor wardrobe selction, being told to pose and smile on command, bad photographer selection, mindset, dehydration, lack of rest, environment and occasion for the photos. A good photographer will address all these issues and variables for you.
Studio vs On Site Locations, Studio vs Natural Light & Outdoor Headshots
Most photographers shoot headshots indoors, in studios, against generic backdrops. This can be great for consistency for company branding but creativity and uniqueness is lost in the process (I can’t shake off the JCP – JCPenney portrait look from Step Brothers).
A great photographer can improvise with surrounding and environments like wind, sun, crowds etc. whereas studio photographers prefer controlled, generic environments.
If you want something generic or want to maintain consistency, studios might be your best bet. If you want individuality or want to have the environment as part of your branding, go with someone who shoots outdoors. Also consider an indoor environment such as an office, atrium, hotel lobby, that offers protection from the elements but without the stiffness from a stdio headshot.
Looking at The Camera vs Looking Away From The Camera
Ideally people should look at the camera. Looking away can signal shyness, insecurity or lack of eye contact and confidence. If you have trouble smiling, a great photographer can put you at ease.
Staring vs. Squinting In Photos: How To Take A Flattering Headshot
Some people have rather large eyes and that can seem a little intense. To relaz, try minimally narrowing your eyes in a rather light focused manner. You don’t want to squint completely as it may cause excess wrinkles.
Professional Business Headshot Tips: Corporate Headshot Day, Professional Headshot Day
Many companies hire a professional photographer to come in and take headshots. Some employers choose their photographer based on location, pricing or backgrounds. These photos are usually rushed and seldom used outside of ID badges.
Many employees I have talked to were rushed, did not have enough noticed, did not have options or were forced to pose a certain way to fit a step and repeat approach by the photographer.
Ideally the photos you take of employees should be good enough so that employees will use them on LinkedIn, conferences add more to help elevate your brand, showcase your employees and foster a sense of professionalism, pride and approachability.
How Much Do Headshots Cost? Why Are Headhots So Expensive?
There are many bad photographers out there. Some show you their best work only, others only know one type of photo, others only show you photos of models. A great headshot photographer can efficiently take your headshots, give advice for your wardrobe, know what the best and most flattering angles are for your body and give advice on how to provide unique headshots to tell your story.
A great photographer will also do all the editing in-house to reduce chances that others can steal or re-sell your photos.
If you are looking for generic, boring headshots, you can definitely find a cheap headshots. With that said, you should consider in the photographer will use the headshots for other purposes other than for you i.e. stock images, licensing, or unwanted examples on their site. Does the photographer outsource their editing thus increasing likelihood the photos will be published without your conscent by agencies, shady photo editing services or sell them to others?
With other photographers, there is no guarantee you will like your headshots or that they will look like the examples on their websites. With a bad photographer, chances are you will need to re-hire a better photographer to re-do your photos and even pay to have your hair and makeup done again for the subsequent shoot.
In times when you need a headshot asap for an important press release or annoucement, can you really afford to not know how your photos will turn out by a photographer with no reviews, no referrals and no experience with the type of photos you need (industry, location, etc.).
Remember, you are not paying your photographer for the amount of time spent on your headshot, you are paying your photographer for the ease at which he/she can take your photo, amount of time saved vs doing it yourself, incorrectly with another photographer and making sure all the aspects above including wardrobe attire, angles, lighting, environment, facial expressions are in-sync. Most people are biased with their appearance and have no clue that they are self-sabotaging their photos.
Turn Photo Into Headshot, How To Crop A Headshot Photo
Every so often one is able to crop a photo and make it a temporary headshot. Most times it will fail due to outfits, backgrounds, lighting, props, facial expressions or people in your photos. If your photo is clear enough and isolated enough, it could pass for a headshot earlier in your career but as you get old and advance in your career, you need something more professional to communicate your reputation and profile.
Photos that are more likely to be used as a headshot are typically individual photos as group photos are taken too close, require excessive cropping and are rather obvious it’s a hack job.
Can I Use A Selfie As A Headshot, Can A Selfie Be A Headshot: Headshot vs Selfie
If you are a professional skydiver, travel guide maybe as those are in the element and capture good locations ideally but most likely not. How do you take a selfie that looks like a headshot?
You might be able to use a timer and a stand/tripod but even then you need to be mindful of lighting, attire, poses, smiles, shadows and making sure not to be too close to the camera as close distances distort photos and make your face wider. Additionally most camera phones has a bad front facing camera (rear-facing are better but still might not produce a high quality enough photo for what you are aiming for).
How can I make my selfies look professional? Do not use the bokeh feature on cell phone, mobile phone cameras. These are often way too overdone and seem unnatural. Best bet is to use the regular camera mode and ask a friend to take it for you. If your options are selfie or no photo, I recommend using no photo at all until you are able to get a good headshot.
How Do You Take A Headshot At Home, DIY Headshots With Iphone, Pixel
Taking your own headshots is difficult but possible if you don’t mind something that is good but not great. Using a good camera from a Google Pixel (2 and above) or iPhone (7 and above) go a long way. Lighting is important (usually 6 feet away from a window with light), ideally rooms with large windows on multiple walls. Look for clear backgrounds and walls, make sure there are no shadows behind. User a timer and tripod (no selfies) and ask a friend to help out with posing.
Taking a headshot with an iphone or professional headshots with a pixel 3 can be tricky. Portrait mode occasionally blurs out the outer edges of the face. Always use the back facing camera as it is a higher quality than front facing cameras. Always use natural light (never use a flash without a diffuser). Studio lights might be needed to add light from multiple angles to avoid harsh shadows. Practice at different times of the day, try with cloud coverage as that adds softer light.
Even if you manage to get a decent shot, you may need to edit the photo for warmth, sharpness, etc. Be prepared to spend several hours or more to get something decent.
Linkedin Headshot Tips, Guide: How To Take A Good Headshot, How To Look Good In A Headshot Photo
Read this post on particulars for headshots for Linkedin.
Conclusion: Professional Business Headshot Tips
There are many types of headshots out there. They are a factor of industry, outlet, and the individual subject (highlighting favorable angles and features). You should be happy with your headshots and should be proud to showcase them. You should also feel confident in your photo that you don’t need photoshopping to materially alter your photo beyond recognition.
If you need help to figure out what is best for you feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I specialize in helping folks taking headshots for the first time, updating their images for style and individuality and also those that are shy or think they are unphotogenic. As a professional photographer here in San Francisco, I shoot outdoors, public spaces and client sites. When people want something creative, unique and customized for them, they come to me.
Additional Reading On Professional Headshot Tips; What To Wear For Headshots
About Eddie Hernandez
Eddie Hernandez is a professional photographer based in San Francisco, servicing clients in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago. His speciality is approachable, professional photos and focuses on outdoor headshots, branding photos, lifestyle images and those seeking something custom rather than a boring, stiff studio headshot.
His locations scouting is second to none. He factors outfits, hairstyles, hair colors, skin tones, industries, inspiration and availability to customize photos for LinkedIn, branding efforts, press releases, company websites, speaking conferences and personal websites.
His clients include VC firms, CEO's, Founders, Attorneys, Tech, Non-Profits, Medical Professionals, Coaches, Engineers, Government Employees and Creative Professionals from companies like Google, Apple, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp & more.
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