Tips to capture the best professional headshots

Professional headshots are a must in today’s world of social media and online profiles. They’ve always been important for company websites, business cards, and print marketing collateral. Now, however, professional headshots are necessary for a LinkedIn profile, professional personal website, blog, online article submissions, Facebook business pages, and more.

What’s the goal of professional headshots?

Professional headshots offer a glimpse of who you are in the business world while showcasing your professionalism. If you have a warm smile in your headshot, it can exude friendliness. For example, a tall posture can show confidence, hands on your hips can show openness and confidence, and so on.

Ladders has its own professional advice for members for their public profile page, too.

Your professional headshot could be the first introduction people have to what you look like. Therefore, it offers a first impression to your clients, coworkers, prospective clients, prospective coworkers, and so on. As such, you want to ensure it grabs the attention of others and invokes the type of attention you want.

How can you use professional headshots?

Any time a professional picture is required to represent you as a professional, a professional headshot is appropriate. By incorporating a professional headshot, you will get more out of any of the following mediums.

  • Job networking sites
  • Social media profiles, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn
  • Resumes
  • Email account signatures
  • Business cards
  • “About Us” company website pages
  • Personal business/professional website

How to take a professional headshot

Headshot photographers can charge anywhere from $100 to $500 per shoot. The price can vary greatly, however, with some going as low as $25 to others going as high as $2,500 or more. Some photographers charge extra for additional services, like prints and touch-ups. You can even have your headshot taken virtually!

If you’re on a budget or time crunch, you might opt to take a professional headshot yourself, which is totally doable with the right preparation and the following steps.

Prepare in advance

Prepare for your headshot shoot ahead of time. Plan out your outfits and research how to use your camera effectively. You also want to take care of your skin, eat well, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of rest leading up to your shoot so you can look your best on camera.

Ask for help or use a tripod

Ideally, you’ll have someone who can help you during your shoot. The other person can watch the framing, hold the camera, and so on. Maybe you can swap and help them get their own professional headshot at the same time, too.

If you don’t have someone to help, you’ll need a camera tripod to hold your camera. You can use the timer setting to give you time to get in front of the camera, pose, and capture the photo.

Position the camera between a natural light source and yourself

A natural light source is ideal for providing nice, clean, 360-degree lighting. Artificial lighting can cause you to look shadowy and harsh. Avoid direct sunlight, as well. After selecting your light source and background, you need to position the camera between you and your source of light.

If you’re using your smartphone, use your front-facing camera for the best quality.

Use a neutral background

A neutral-colored brick wall, neutral outdoor setting, or solid wall are ideal for your headshot background. Avoid busy backgrounds with clutter and other elements that are distracting.

Avoid filters

Your headshot should show the real you, so avoid using filters that make you look too perfect or different than how you usually look. Those who see your photo are likely to meet you in person at some point, and you don’t want them to be surprised because you look so different compared to your headshot.

Take several photos

Take several images in one sitting. Try out several outfits, so you have options with different looks. It’s easier to get the perfect headshot when you have a lot to choose from.

Use a photo editing software or program

There are a lot of easy-to-use photo editing software and apps that are low-cost or free. Editing allows you to tweak and make minor changes to your photo, like the contrast and brightness. You can also straighten and crop as necessary.

During the editing process, you’ll also create the photo sizes needed for the various mediums. An image that is 150dpi is ideal. Size requirements for the different social platforms are as follows:

  • Instagram Photo: Square and 1080 pixels wide
  • LinkedIn Profile Photo Suggested Size: 400 x 400 pixels.
  • Facebook Profile Picture Size Recommendation: 170 x 170 minimum
  • Twitter Profile Photo: 400 x 400 pixels
  • Website Photos (e.g., company websites, professional blogs): 400 x 400 to 600 x 600 pixels

What to wear for headshots

Your wardrobe choice for a professional headshot highlights your personality and can show that you’re a confident expert in your industry. Follow these tips to put the right characteristics forward in your photo.

Select the best color choices

Solid shirts are best for headshots. Neutrals—like black, navy, cream, and white—can work well. If you go for a lighter color shirt, you might want to go with a darker suit jacket or blazer to offer some contrast.

Plan for black and white

Most professional headshots are in color, though you might come across the need for a black and white photo. Contrast is king for black and white. If you wear two lighter colors together, they can match exactly in the photo and show up very light or near white.

Consider the moiré effect

When one or more patterns compete with each other in a photo, it’s referred to as the Moiré effect. A distinct wavy, blurry attribute occurs where the pattern is visible. As such, it’s best to avoid patterns in professional headshot photos.

Dress according to the industry and work environment

Each industry brings its own definition of appropriate work attire, ranging from casual to business formal. Mirror how other professionals in your industry and workplace dress for their headshots to play it safe.

Minimize accessories

Too many or loud accessories can distract from photos. If wearing earrings, choose simple, non-distracting ones, for example. It’s also important that your hair and makeup look professional. The goal is for people to notice you in the photo, not your accessories or lack of grooming.

You want to feel good about your headshot

Maybe most important, you want to feel good about your professional headshots. Using the tips above, wear clothing you feel good about and comfortable in, as it will show on camera if you’re uncomfortable. And, if you’re having difficulty deciding which to select, ask others for input. Finally, if you’re working with a professional photographer, they’ll be able to provide you with tips and options to ensure you capture the best professional you possible in your photos.