Of course you want the perfect headshot. And you know what? You deserve it. Take control of your photography experience by learning the tricks of the trade before you step in front of the next camera.
Getting your headshot taken is no small thing. So much goes into a single photo that, if you’re anything like the average person, you probably spend a good deal of time worrying about all the tiny details for days leading up to the big event.
“What should I wear?”
“How should I do my hair?”
“What’s it going to be like?”
“Will the photographer tell me how to pose?”
“My [insert body part] is going to look big/small/old/flabby.”
“Can they Photoshop my [insert biggest insecurity]?”
If you notice the common thread in almost all those questions, they come from a sense of uncertainty. My guess is jumping in front a camera is not something you do every day. You don’t know much about how the experience is supposed to go, and on top of that, you may have had a less-than-ideal experience in the past.
How To Get The Perfect Headshot
To help break past that uncertainty, we created this comprehensive tip guide. It contains all our best suggestions for getting the perfect headshot, so you can feel informed and certain that you’re setting yourself up for a fantastic experience — no matter who’s pointing the camera at you.
Let’s dive in.
Type Of Photography Session
When choosing the type of session for your headshot, you’ll want to consider location and composition.
Are you looking for a traditional in-studio headshot? You know the ones we’re talking about: indoor studio, controlled lighting, shot against a photography background. You usually see these traditional headshots on business cards, book jackets, websites or other professional uses. For this type of headshot, you want an indoor studio location that uses the kind of lighting you like best, most likely a Professional Portrait Session.
If you’re looking for more of a modern, lifestyle headshot then you may want to consider an outdoor location, such as what we do with our Cityscape Professional Portrait Session. A recognizable outdoor location can associate your brand with a place, positioning you as the local expert, and as someone who’s in touch with the pulse of the community.
Now this doesn’t need to be overly complicated, but some basic knowledge of composition will help you decide what you need most from your headshot session. The best way to start is by answering the question: What will I use my headshot(s) for?
If you will be primarily using them for a business card or website, then the traditional shoulders-up shot will likely work best because anything wider will make your face too small for people to see clearly.
If you have more versatile plans for your headshots, then you may want to consider adding a full-length image to your arsenal. Full-length images are excellent for printed and digital marketing: home pages, ads, blogs, postcards, flyers — anything you can think of! In this digital age, we suggest having a few options for full-length images, to keep your marketing interesting and fresh.
Wardrobe & Grooming
Now, there’s a lot that goes into wardrobe and grooming for a flawless shoot. Of course, there’s always retouching for fixes — so don’t fret if something goes wrong — but you want to try to take care of as much as you can before you step in front of the camera. Plus, these choices should be intentional, so they complement your brand.
Here are a few simple rules to help you narrow down your wardrobe choices: Fitted is always better than baggy. Solid colors are always better than patterns. And colors should be intentionally chosen to complement — not match — your brand. From there, pick something that feels like you. Choose an outfit that brings you joy to wear.
When it comes to grooming, the most important rule is: Don’t do anything new or different right before a shoot! This is not the time to play around with your look or make drastic changes. No matter how it turns out, it’s bound to make you self-conscious on your big day. Aside from that cardinal rule, make sure you do all your basic grooming, from head to toe:
- Clean and/or polished nails, for hands and feet
- A fresh trim and/or fresh color (Note: Stick to your basic look.)
- Hair removal (i.e. a fresh shave, eyebrow waxing)
- Makeup that’s slightly heavier than your everyday look
- Jewelry and shoes that finish your look
When it comes to choosing the background for an in-studio headshot session, you want to pick colors that are complementary to your brand and wardrobe. Neutrals work well, and we believe a large range of choices is necessary to create variety.
At SchlickArt, we don’t want to constrain you by offering only one marble blue background. That’s why we have a large selection of gorgeous, solid neutrals: navy blue, gray, green-gray, black, cream, white and more. In fact, our white background is perfect for your graphic designer to use an image for cut-outs, so you can create social media images and graphics with ease. Whatever you need, we’ll have something that makes your vision a reality. Why? We know all the tiny details that go into your brand, and we want to support that effort by having what you need.
Here is where your personality and message really start to shine through. Posing can say so much, and there’s a lot to play with here. This is where you create your vibe. So the first thing you want to consider is: How do I want people to feel when they look at me?
Sitting poses are generally more approachable, low-key and friendly. (Not to say that you can’t also achieve a friendly look while standing.) But they typically draw the viewer in, making them feel like they’re in the middle of a good conversation with you. Sitting poses are great when you want to communicate a sense of understanding, relatability and a willingness to serve.
Standing poses are typically more assertive, strong and confident. They demonstrate to the viewer that you can stand on your own two feet, that you’re firm and confident in your job, and that you know what you’re doing.
Depending on how you serve your clients, you may want to communicate one feeling over the other. If you pivot between those two roles, then you may want a variety of both, so you can convey different messages in different marketing strategies/campaigns.
When a headshot is done right, the viewer’s eye should be immediately drawn to your expression. It’s the first thing people look at, and it’s one of the best ways to infuse a headshot with all those good feels. Essentially, your expression sets the mood for the rest of the body — and the rest of your headshot’s story. So consider what emotions you want to elicit. Here are a few examples:
- A big smile with a slight head tilt says, “I’m relatable and trustworthy.”
- A straight-on gaze with a slight smirk says, “I’m excellent at my job.”
- A sideways glance with a laughing smile says, “I’m fun and approachable.”
- A serious face with a slight tilt to the side says, “I hear you, I see you, and I understand.”
- A relaxed smile with a straight-on gaze says, “I’m here to serve.”
Once you’ve decided what you want your headshot to say to people, say it with your eyes. If you’re not sure exactly how to convey your message through expression, ask your photographer for some tips or ideas. At SchlickArt, getting the perfect, natural expression from you happens to be Lindsay’s specialty — and she’s even got a few tricks up her sleeve to get it! (Check out #5 here.)
Getting The Perfect Headshot: The Bottom Line
If you’re putting off your headshots because you’re just not sure how the whole thing works — or because uncertainty has got you panicked — then it’s time to put your business and your brand first. Tuck those fears away and summon the courage to have a conversation with your photographer about what your shoot might look like. Get all your burning questions answered, so you can move forward with confidence.
So much goes into a headshot because your headshot says so much to people who haven’t met you yet. That’s why you can’t wait another minute to refresh the version of you that meets your clients before you do.
About Lindsay’s Photography for Women
With the mind of a businesswoman and the heart of an adventurer, Lindsay began to conceive of a different kind of Santa Clarita photography business. In her vision, stepping in front of the camera could be an empowering experience that gave her clients more than just a photograph — it would give people a new way of seeing themselves. With an eye for seeing the beauty in life and in others, Lindsay could use the camera to spread beauty.
About SchlickArt Photography and Video
SchlickArt, a boutique photo and video studio in Santa Clarita, started in March 2012 with the simple idea that empowerment creates a kind of beauty and authenticity that shines through every camera lens. Built on a philosophy — rather than a product, service or person — SchlickArt has rapidly evolved, meeting professional portraiture, business photo and business video needs as diverse as the community we capture. It’s the desire to take care of you, the client, that drives us at SchlickArt.