First impressions are lasting impressions, so why not put your best face forward with a professional headshot? Let’s face it, holding your camera up at an arm’s length and snapping a self portrait (aka “selfie”) is not the most flattering look for your LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media profile picture. Your best choice is to hire a professional headshot photographer to create your headshots for you. However, if you prefer a more DIY approach, here are 5 professional headshot photography tips for better headshots.
1. Zoom in
Zooming in and using a longer focal length naturally compresses a person’s facial features. This helps faces appear more flattering and less angular. Remember, we are going for professional here, not artsy. Great focal lengths for headshots are in the 85 – 135mm range. You can fill the frame with your face or choose to back off a little bit to include the upper part of your chest and shoulders. Avoid wide angle lenses, especially anything wider than 50mm, because they include too much additional background and distort your facial features. No one wants their nose to look any larger than it is in real life.
2. Choose a clean background without distractions
This is a headshot, not an environmental portrait. Elements in the background only distract viewers from from what should be the hero of the photo – your face. The background can be a solid color or a more expensive muslin backdrop. Most professional/corporate headshots are shot on a white, grey, or black background. If you are really on a budget, a piece of solid-colored poster board can serve as a fantastic, distraction-free backdrop, which is what I used in the example image below. Here’s a look at the headshot backgrounds I use the most.
3. Angle one shoulder away from the camera
You already have a headshot of yourself with your shoulders square to the camera, and you carry it in your wallet or purse every day. It’s called your driver’s license. Does anyone love how they look in their driver’s license photo? I didn’t think so. Rotating one shoulder slightly away from the camera slims your body profile a little and creates a photo with a bit more depth. DMV photos do not make great first impressions. Trust me here – angle your shoulders.
4. Use soft, diffused lighting
If you want suspense and drama in your headshot because you are an actor or musician, by all means, use hard lighting to create hard shadows. If you want to look professional, classic, and timeless, go with soft, diffused lighting. It also helps if your light source is not on the same axis as your camera lens. In the example headshot above I setup my softbox off the subject’s left shoulder (camera right) and slightly filled in his right side shadows with a reflector. Learn more about different flash modifiers and how to create soft light.
5. Dress appropriately
Your headshot photo is not the best place to experiment with fashion. Go with something that will not look dated after a year or two.
Men – wear dark-colored suits and solid-colored shirts with a tie if that is appropriate for your industry. Feel free to try a few shots without the coat and tie, just so you have some more casual options. If you want to wear patterns, stick with smaller prints. Loud, Hawaiian print shirts do not necessarily scream, “I’m the right man to lead your team.”
Women – hairstyles should be controlled and preferably classic. Think timeless, not time machine. Your make-up should be light, and your outfit should be appropriate to your industry. Again, solids and smaller prints look better than loud and flashy. Also keep in mind that jewelry is an accessory, not a co-star. A statement necklace is often too distracting.
Share Your Headshot Photography Tips
Hopefully these tips will help you create better headshot pictures for your online profiles. However, if DIY photography is not your thing, let me help. Book a headshot photoshoot today!
I’d love to know what you think. What are your favorite professional headshot photography tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below.