back to top

Try These 10 Techniques for Taking Awesome DIY Headshots

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 9 min read
ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little money. Need more info? See how it all works here.
Subscribe Below to Download the Article Immediately

You can also select your interests for free access to our premium training:

Your privacy is safe! We will never share your information.

Professional headshots might sound intimidating, but they’re easy to create.
You can use a few lighting and posing tricks to take friendly and professional DIY headshots.

DIY Headshots: Wear Neutral-Colored Clothes to Put the Focus on Your Face

If you look for headshots online, you’ll notice that the best ones bring out the models’ faces. If the face is what you immediately pay attention to, then it’s likely that the headshot is a success.
For this to work in your headshots, you need to wear the right outfit. Many people wear suits. Others wear something simple, like a dark grey t-shirt.
Many headshot photographers avoid bright colors. They can look overexposed and unnatural in a portrait. Try to avoid white clothes or any neon colors.
Are there any neutral colors that complement the color of your eyes or your skin tone? Bring different outfits to your photoshoot to increase your chances of taking the perfect headshot. Make sure your clothes don’t have too many patterns and aren’t wrinkled.
Also, don’t wear sunglasses or too many accessories. If you choose to wear makeup, keep it natural.a professional headshot photo of a young woman

Use These Tools to Make Your Headshot Photoshoot Easier

Headshot photoshoots are like self-portrait photoshoots. You have to be in charge of lighting, equipment, and settings.
If this sounds like a daunting task, don’t worry. You can make the process easier by investing in a few simple tools:

  • Tripod: Great for smartphones and professional cameras alike. A tripod will keep your equipment safe and help you avoid shaky photos. The taller it is, the easier it will be to take pictures at eye level.
  • Remote: This will let you take photos from a distance. No self-timer is necessary! Remotes are very common in both DSLR and smartphone photography.
  • Reflector: This is a tool that creates more light. You can ask someone to hold a reflector for you to add more light to your face. Reflectors are also great for creating catchlights. (Catchlights are light sparkles in your eyes. They tend to add youthfulness and beauty to a person’s face.)
  • Extra Batteries + Memory Cards: If you’re using professional camera equipment, make sure you have a few spare batteries and memory cards. This preparation will prevent you from rushing during your photoshoot or running out of space.a professional headshot photo of a smiling young woman

Use the Right Camera Settings to Make Your Headshots Look Flattering

In addition to investing in proper equipment, you need to be aware of basic camera settings. Some photographers shoot in Auto mode.
This means that the camera automatically comes up with its own settings based on what you shoot. This mode is convenient, but it’s not always the best option for professional headshots.
Shoot in Manual mode to have more control of the lighting in your portraits. If you’re using a smartphone camera, download a manual camera app. This will give you lots of extra settings and tools to work with.
If you’re using a professional camera, keep these settings in mind:

  • Aperture: Your face has to stand out the most in your business headshots. For this to work, your background needs to be blurred. You can use a large aperture to achieve this. A large aperture is a small f-stop. For example, f/1.8 and f/2.5. The smaller the number, the blurrier the background will be. An aperture like f/2.5 will capture every detail on your face and create a pleasant blur at the same time.
  • Shutter speed: This determines how fast your camera takes a picture. Since you want your headshots to be sharp, make sure your shutter speed is fast.
  • ISO: If you’re shooting in the right lighting conditions, your ISO number doesn’t have to be high. The lower it is, the less grain there will be in your final results.
  • Color temperature: This depends on the kind of light you’re working with. Headshots should be neutral in color. Avoid making your color temperature too cold or too warm.a professional headshot photo of a stylish young woman

Use a Simple Location with Good Light to Make Your Face Stand Out

You don’t need to take photos in a professional studio unless you want to. It’s possible to take stunning headshots in simple locations, including your own home!
Your goal is to have as much natural light as possible. Take photos when it’s sunny or cloudy outdoors. If you want to take pictures indoors, make sure the room has lots of space and light. A simple white wall is perfect for a photo shoot.
If you’re shooting outdoors, pick a shaded area. This shade will create an even amount of light on your entire face. Avoid harsh direct sunlight. For backgrounds, you can use a brick wall or a white wall. The less colorful it is, the better.
If there isn’t enough light, you can use a reflector or take photos on another day.a professional headshot photo of a young man

Headshot Poses and Expressions for Professional Results

Lighting isn’t the only thing you need to pay attention to when taking great headshots. The right pose and facial expression can make a significant difference in your professional life, too.
Treat your photoshoot like a professional session. This isn’t a fashion or beauty photoshoot. You don’t need to act like a supermodel, but you do need to present yourself in the best light possible.
No matter what poses you experiment with, make sure your camera is at eye level. This angle will give your headshots a classical portrait look. If you shoot from very high or very low angles, you might end up looking unflattering.a professional black and white headshot photo of a bearded man

Stand Sideways to Show Your Best Angle

Many people have a favourite angle that makes them look more photogenic in pictures. You can use this to feel more confident during your photoshoot.
Stand sideways to the camera. Make sure you’re not squeezing your arm. If you do, it will look wider than it does in reality. You can hold your arm to the side or stretch it out by putting your hand on your hip.
Don’t glare sideways at the camera. Gently turn your head so that most of your face is visible.a professional headshot photo of a young woman

Create Friendly Headshots by Asking Someone to Make You Laugh

A fake smile or laugh is noticeable. An authentic smile is impossible unless you’re genuinely having a good time. To achieve this, ask a friend or family member to entertain you as you take pictures.
You can also try listening to a funny podcast or watching a humorous video as you take pictures. This sounds strange, but it’s one of the easiest ways to look authentically happy in your headshots.a professional headshot photo of a smiling young woman in red

Think of Something to Make Your Face Look Happier, Even If You’re Not Smiling

You don’t have to smile in your headshots, but you shouldn’t look too stern. Your goal is to take headshots that look approachable and friendly.
A trick that many supermodels use is positive thinking.
As you pose, think of a pleasant memory or someone you love. This will brighten your face and make your eyes look happier. You don’t need to smile at all to achieve this.a professional headshot photo of a young woman

Stand Closer to Your Camera to Take Expressive Headshots

Some types of headshots need to be more serious and expressive. For example, actors need to show their ability to express themselves in a single portrait.
You can intensify an expression by standing closer to your camera. Try not to get too close. Extreme close-ups tend to look cropped or distorted. Take a few steps away. Think of something powerful and pose.
You can slightly tilt your head up or down. A head tilted down tends to make people look powerful. A head tilted upward creates a feeling of superiority, so try not to overdo it when you pose!a professional headshot photo of a young woman

Take Photos of Your Friends to Improve Your Basic Camera Settings

If you rarely take photos, you might get stressed during your photoshoot. Taking self-portraits is hard work if you don’t know a lot about your camera.
One of the best solutions is to get to know your camera before you stand in front of it. Using the tips above, take photos of your friends and family. You might discover tools and techniques that work well with your photography style.
When you feel more comfortable with your camera, you can start to take professional photos of yourself.a professional headshot photo of smiling man

Common Professional Headshot Questions

What Is the Best Way to Take Professional Headshots?

Make sure you wear an outfit with neutral colors. You should find a simple location with great natural lighting. Place your camera on a tripod and set the timer. Practise different facial expressions and poses. You can use other headshots as references.

What Is the Best Color to Wear for a Headshot?

Neutral colors are the best for headshots. Avoid anything that’s too vibrant or bright. White isn’t the best color choice for headshot photography. Choose a color that complements your skin tone and doesn’t blend into the background.

What Qualifies as a Headshot?

A headshot should be a portrait where your face is clearly visible. Many people smile in their headshots to look friendlier and more approachable. The focus should be on you and your expression. Nothing else should catch a viewer’s eye.

How Do I Take Good Headshots with My iPhone?

First, download a manual camera app. This will give you more control over the lighting and focus in your headshots. Invest in a smartphone tripod to avoid making your pictures look shaky. Find a well-lit location with a simple background. All that’s left to do is practise with different angles and expressions!

a professional headshot photo of a stylish young man
Photo by Royal A from Pexels


A high-quality business headshot can liken your chances of getting a job, and let you make an excellent first impression.
You don’t always need a studio or expensive equipment to achieve professional results. All you need is a good knowledge of lighting, basic camera settings, and posing!
Check out our tips on photo editing styles or shooting natural light portraits next!