Most of us can agree that, for the most part, no one likes getting their picture taken. Including our favorite destination, or some of our favorite people can help us take the focus off ourselves. But what if you need a professional headshot?
As an entrepreneur, you’ve most likely had the need for a professional headshot. If you don’t have the resources to invest in a studio or a professional photographer, you can take your own.
There are a few things you can do to ensure great results from your DIY approach to your headshots.
Why Would You Need a Professional Headshot
If you are an entrepreneur, own a business or are even thinking of starting a business, you need one. A headshot is one of the most important things we need to set ourselves up correctly.
It’s a first impression that will allow others to gauge how seriously you take your online presence. It’s also one of the best and most telling ways to present yourself to the world.
Your headshot should accurately reflect the image you’re trying to portray.
How to Set the Stage for a Professional Headshot
This includes things like location, lighting, background, or backdrops. As photographers we know that location and lighting can make or break an image.
Check the weather ahead of time and plan for day that has optimal lighting conditions. Also remember that lighting varies based on time of day and where you are located.
Depending on the season and how much time you have, natural light may be optimal. The colors outside look more vibrant and you may feel more relaxed.
This in turn creates a more natural appearance. But be warned that photo shoots in the great outdoors are subject to the whims of Mother Nature.
If you are comfortable with taking photos outdoors, plan your shoot during the golden hour or early morning. Golden hour is the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. Early morning is just after sunrise while the sun is still low on the horizon.
These times certainly vary by season. But for the most part, they typically offer soft, diffused light that is far more flattering than what you’ll encounter at high noon. High noon tends to cast harsh prominent shadows.
If your brand uses dramatic light and is edge, then mid-day sun might be perfect for you to showcase your work. In general, avoid strong backlight and any use of haze.
Instead look for open shade because this makes the light even and a little flat, which is perfect for headshots. Avoid spots under a tree because that light tends to be dappled and uneven.
Another thing that is equally important when it comes to headshots or any photo for that matter are backgrounds.
Choose a background with few distracting elements and make sure it is not brighter than the foreground. This will shift the viewer’s focus away from your face.
Finding a good location that isn’t filled with people to shoot around will also be helpful. And remember, always take a few steps away from the background. This creates depth in the image and it will help you pop in the image especially if the background is not clear.
You can also use elements like arches, trees or even gates in the background to help frame yourself. If you are photographing outside, you might need to enlist the help of a friend or use your tripod.
Tripods outdoors for personal headshots does tend to attract attention. But instead of feeling shy, use that to your advantage. Carry your business cards with you and you might even get a client if someone asks what you are doing!
If you prefer indoors, go for soft, diffused lighting. Turn off your camera’s flash, avoid direct harsh sunlight and any exposed light bulbs. This will minimize blemishes, shadows, and squinting.
One of the best locations for indoor photos is near a window. You can either face the window and have the camera directly in front of you or go for more of a directional light approach by standing perpendicular to the window a.k.a the light source.
Remember that the closer you are to the light source, the stronger the light falling on the subject. You can also experiment with blinds to find that sweet spot. When working with window light, turn off all room lights. They do not provide light in matched color.
Mixing lights of different colors results in an uneven, unprofessional look. These different light tones are difficult to even out in post-production.
To minimize distractions, consider taking the photo in front of a solid-colored wall. If you don’t have a solid covered wall or a white wall, you can also use a backdrop. Backdrops can be of seamless paper, fabric or even canvas.
If you don’t have a backdrop, you can hang up an ironed sheet or piece of fabric to stimulate a studio like backdrop. Keep in mind the color of the backdrop and the colors of the outfit you choose. There should be some separation between you and the backdrop.
If you want a more lifestyle approach to your headshots and want to include your office or workspace to give your audience a glimpse of what you do, make sure it is clean and well-organized.
A cluttered backdrop or a distracting backdrop takes focus away from the subject – you!
What to Wear for Your Headshot Photoshoot
We all know that for small business owners and solopreneurs, the company brand is often the same as your personal brand. Headshots have become about both your image and your brand. That’s why it’s worth your time and effort to dress appropriately.
Remember that clients and potential clients will want to hire people that they can see themselves relating most to. Often times, your headshot does more than just create an impression. It helps you attract the right kind of clients and repel the clients who are not the best fit for your work style.
When deciding what to wear, opt for classic, timeless and work-appropriate clothing. Also keep your brand colors and brand aesthetics in mind.
When in doubt, choose solids or simple patterns. Try to skip bare arms. It tends to look more professional to have sleeves. You can also consider adding a blazer to add a slightly more polished look to the image.
Add accessories for a pop of color and interest. Don’t over do it as it will take focus away from the subject – which is you. When choosing colors, keep skin tones and backdrops in mind.
Don’t stick to an all-black ensemble like all black clothes and a black backdrop. You might just look like a floating head. The clothes and the backdrop will blend together in the final image.
Give yourself an hour or two to do this, and bring a few outfit changes. Try some different poses, switch outfits, repeat. Having many options will help you narrow down a few that you can alternate across your brand.
Don’t expect success at the first click of the shutter. It may take several shots before you capture just the right one. Don’t worry about making a mistake.
Experiment with angles, lighting, and locations to find the most flattering combination that sends the message you want to impart. Another option is to bracket your images.
Similar to bracketing your exposure, this involves taking a series of images with a slight variation in the pose and/or position. This can be a fun way to create a series of images that have the same look and feel but have different expressions.
You can use this for a quick ‘About me’ series on your website or even on social media. But pick one to put on your professional bio.
How to Pose in Headshot Photos
It goes without saying that selfies do not make for great headshots. No matter what the industry or the job profile. If you can’t enlist a willing friend to help you, borrow or rent a tripod from a local camera store or from friends.
Worse case scenario of having no help and no tripod, place your camera on a table or shelf. It can sit at eye-level there and you can set the timer.
I have found that shooting tethered is great for self portraits. This allows you to easily see what your camera is picking up without moving from your spot. Just make sure your screen can be easily seen from where you’re standing.
When you find the right location, you will have to take a few test shots with an approximation of where you would be standing in order to set the right focus. You can use a post-it note or some other element to mark the spot where you will be standing and set the focus.
Once you set the focus, lock it. Set your camera to a timer mode and stand where you marked the focus with the post-it note.
This will take a few tries but make sure to zoom into the image to ensure it is sharp. A good place to set focus is dead center on your face or on the spot right between your eyes.
Getting sharp focus will be the most difficult part of photographing yourself. One quick tip is that instead of shooting at f/2.8 try photographing with a smaller aperture say, at f/9 or f/11.
This will give you a greater plane of focus to work with. You’ll have a greater chance of having sharp focus on you.
In terms of posing for headshots, stand up straight with your shoulders back and chin lifted toward the camera. Then turn your upper body slightly at a diagonal while keeping your head turned toward the camera.
This posture creates a nice angled body image which looks very flattering in photos. You can keep your hands down at your side or take a few with your arms folded across your chest.
If you feel more comfortable, place one hand in your pocket.
Take a couple of test shots and adjust the position and level. Shooting at eye level, or even slightly down is also flattering to the subject – you!
Smile, look into the lens/camera to create a connection, and change up your posing so you have different headshots to choose from.
Consider taking some photos with your head and shoulders in the frame, as well as some from your head down to your waist. To change things up, stand at an angle and even get a square-on shot.
The more you experiment, the better your chances of getting a professional-looking headshot you’re really happy with.
And remember not to slouch. You want to come across as confident and relaxed.
How to Edit Headshot Images
If you treat your own personal headshots just like you would any client work, you know that your photos will need to be edited.
Even if you don’t have clients yet and are just starting your business, editing photos sets a precedence that you are a professional and know all the necessary tools of the trade.
Edit your images to fix basic flaws like lighting, tonality and color correction. This will give your images the professional look and feel.
Chances are you might have a lot of pictures to choose from. Choose the winner carefully and rationally, with your audience in mind.
People usually look at your headshots only for a few seconds before they make their opinion about you. In the few seconds, people read your eyes, lips, posture and facial expression as a whole.
Perceived flaws like wrinkles, dark circles or even blemishes are not super important. Don’t let these things kill a picture that’s otherwise excellent.
These little flaws are what make you critical of yourself, but most other people don’t recognize or care.
Your headshot is the image you use to portray yourself to the world. Make sure it’s true to you and represents you well. Include your hobbies, your favorite location, things that you like or even your brand logo if you want.
Many photographers will include their camera as a way to showcase indirectly what they do. Ideally, headshots should be updated every one to two years, assuming your appearance doesn’t change much.
If your hair drastically changes, your weight fluctuates, or your personal style evolves, this should be reflected in an updated headshot. Try and keep your headshot consistent across the brand – be it on the website or on social media.
That way clients who find you from multiple sources can relate and know you even before they hire you.