Even if you prefer making your magic behind the camera — the digital age of social media means networking, job applications, and anything-everything means your face is … everywhere. Regardless of industry or how comfortable you feel with a flashing light, headshots are the logo of our personal brands and can communicate many things about us in a single image, according to photographer and graphic designer Jorge Rocha.
“Everything from a perceived intelligence level to social status can be conveyed through a headshot. It’s paramount to be aware of these aspects and give considerable thought to the image you want to convey to the world, and also recognize what is most appropriate,” he explains.
Though the sort of headshot that you’ll see for a model or an actor isn’t the type you’ll end with, having a clear, attractive and professional image you can use for your various profiles puts your — ahem — best face forward. Here, tips from photographers on how to smile pretty — and smartly:
Hire a photographer
Sure, it’s easy enough to give your friend or the office intern a camera and hope for the best, but for stellar results that tell your story and won’t’ make you cringe, portrait and travel photographer Sean Marier says it is worth the investment to hire a professional.
His tip is to cater your selection to what mood or goal you’re going for—whether that’s something super traditional and buttoned up or something more casual and lifestyle-oriented.
“I’m amazed daily by the number of people on LinkedIn, personal websites and elsewhere who use unprofessional smartphone photos to represent themselves to prospective employers, cropping out friends or cocktails from a poorly lit photo that was never meant to serve as a headshot,” he says. “If you don’t care, why should that hiring manager?”
Choose the right outfit
No matter the profession, what you wear is at the centerpiece of your image — and most likely what they’ll notice as soon as they glimpse. Rocha recommends avoiding thin patterns, graphic logo t-shirts or any brand names that can be distracting.
“Solid, neutral tones are typically best as they can work with a myriad of backgrounds, depending on the type of shoot,” he suggests.
Bright colors, as long as they aren’t too neon can add dimension and character, as well.
Have your hair and makeup done professionally
And hey — this doesn’t just go for women, but for men too.
“Even if you know what you’re doing when it comes to the glam in your daily life, hair and makeup for photography is a different beast — especially, though not exclusively, if you’re shooting your headshots in a studio with bright and hot lights,” Marier explains.
He notes it is worth the extra investment to hire a team to come to the shoot, making fixes on the fly an option.
“You should choose a hair and makeup person who specializes in the type of photos you’re shooting, and splurge a few extra bucks to have them with you during the shoot for touch-ups and the like,” he says. “It is one less thing to stress out about — since stress shows itself in a multitude of ways, and can’t be Photoshopped.”
Rotate your body
It might not seem like a big deal, but Rocha says a simple positioning of your body can turn heads. Instead of looking directly at the camera, turning a fourth away takes you from mugshot snapshot to portrait mode instantly. When you work with a photographer, they can demonstrate the best ways to maneuver to make sure you look polished, healthy and of course, like the best person for your dream gig.
Turn on your favorite playlist
Your kid sister or best friend might ham it up in front of the camera, with endless selfies and seemingly-perfect images splashed over Instagram — but you’re not quite as comfortable with the flash on. Rocha says great photographers will ensure you feel your absolute best under the lights and even make suggestions on how to loosen up.
“If you’re really nervous about being in front of the camera, queue up your favorite playlist on your phone to have some music playing and that can be a great way to ease nerves,” he suggests.
Or, perhaps you need to jog in place for a minute, dance it out or a combo of it all. Whatever gets you feeling your most glam, that’s your golden ticket.
Know your audience
While a travel journalist can get away with a photograph standing atop a mountain and call it professional, if you’re applying to be a CPA … you might want to rethink it. As Marier explains, research is important.
“Check out a handful of websites representing the types of companies you’d like to work for and see how they spotlight their employees. Those will generally be a pretty good guide,” he recommends.
If you find yourself unsure of what direction to take, err on the slightly conservative side, while also showing your personality with a big smile or an accessory that pops. Your photographer can always guide the direction if styling isn’t your strong suit.