Headshot Portrait – Do’s and Don’ts

I have been collecting advice to share with clients that are considering professional headshot portraits. If you aren’t coming to me for your headshots, at least review this list and discuss some of these items with your professional photographer to make sure you get a great image!

So, what makes a great professional portrait?

A professional headshot is intended to create a close-up image of your upper body/face so that others can easily recognize you when you are going to meet for the first time. The old phrase “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” was never more so true in today’s world of social media and business websites where you are using your business portrait to connect with customers.

Headshot Portrait Do’s

  1. Update your business portrait at least annually or when you make significant changes to your appearance (glasses, hair styles, etc.)
  2. Wear what clients will see you in on your first appointment.  Business attire for corporate environments, branded logo casual wear for retail or home services.  Make sure the clothing fits right.
  3. Guys, if you are planning to wear a tie for your portrait, please take a moment and learn to tie a Windsor knot or at least let your photographer tie your tie for you.  No amount of Photoshoping can correct an off-center tie that leaves a gap at the neck.  Look on YouTube for “Tie a Windsor knot” or use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXJx8j7JpKY
  4. Build your brand image! Use the same professional business portrait for website, social media, business cards, etc., so you reinforce that image with customers.
  5. Make sure your image is cropped so that most of the photo space is your face.  Given how small some social media headshot photos are, anything that shows more than just the face is going to be difficult for people to see and recognize.
  6. Establish a style guide for your company headshots so there is consistency in how the background looks, the relative size of the face in the photo, color versus black and white, and whether the subject is looking to the left or the right.  These simple guidelines can really boost a company’s image, especially if customers will see more than one person’s headshot at the same time.
  7. Smile with your eyes!  The first thing we all see in photographs of people is the eyes. Your professional photographer can help you find a warm, inviting expression without the fake cheesy smile grandma used to make us do.
  8. Have your images professionally retouched to soften shadows, brighten eyes, and “polish” the final image.
  9. Pick your favorite pose(s) before you leave the portrait session.  A competent professional will have ways the two of you to view and select your best images together.  If you don’t see a pose you like, share what you don’t care for in the first set of images and ask to shoot a few more images.
  10. Have your portrait delivered in color.  You can always convert a color portrait to black and white, but you can’t go backwards.
  11. Trust your professional photographer.  A professional has photographed hundreds of people and will take the time to pose you in the most complementary way and ensure your clothing and hair are in place.  A subtle shift of the body, tilt of the head, or twist of the shoulders can make the difference between a snapshot and a portrait that instills and image of confidence in your clients.

Headshot Portrait Don’ts

  1. Avoid using photos that aren’t current headshots of you.  When you see other headshots on social media of cartoon characters, high school graduation photos, or pictures of pets, does that say “professional” to you?  Save the cute photos for your personal Facebook page and use professional-looking portraits on your business sites.
  2. Edgy art portraits of you with unusual filters may have a “wow” factor with your friends, but it may create the wrong impression with clients that don’t know you well enough yet.
  3. Never stand facing directly at the camera.  This is the widest our bodies look and is rarely flattering.  By turning slightly into or away from the main light (plus a few other helpful moves), a professional photographer help you look your best.
  4. Avoid busy backgrounds.  Backgrounds that draw attention away from your face are doing you a disservice.  The best backgrounds are ones where the background is out of focus or a simple, uniform color like white, gray or black.
  5. Don’t use your iPhone or other smartphone camera to create your headshot!  While these cameras are invaluable for snapshots on vacations or to photograph something to remember to buy at the store, the wide-angle lenses these photos have distort the face.   Noses and foreheads become more pronounced and the ears appear further back (and therefore smaller).  Competent professionals actually use telephoto lenses for headshots to create the correct facial perspective.
  6. Go easy on makeup.  If you don’t use make-up, consider using a professional photographer that can arrange for a hair and makeup-artist for professionally applied make-up and the right kind of hold on hair to reduce retouching fees for work beyond the normal touch-up.
  7. Don’t rely on “Photoshopping” your portrait to correct everything.  A master digital retouching artist can do a lot of wonderful corrections such as removing a pimple that popped up overnight or reducing wrinkles and dark areas under the eyes.  “Fixing” other things outside of the normal retouching service can get expensive and may not look natural.  Men should have a recent hair cut that they like and a fresh shave that morning or, if they have facial hair, trim neck lines, and around the mouth for a clean look.  Women will want a little hairspray on humid days.  Everyone should get a good night’s sleep before photo day to avoid bloodshot eyes and a “tired” look.
  8. Did I mention not to use your smartphone for your professional headshot?

Don’t like your current headshot? We can fix that!

Fairfield Photography is one of the leading headshot photographers in Central Ohio. Not only do we create great images, but we are the ones teaching other professionals how to do headshots right. Whether it is updating your own personal headshot or executive portrait, photographing your company so everyone’s portrait is consistent, or offering headshots at conferences and conventions as a sponsor “gift”, we can make your headshot process easy. Let us share what makes us your next business portrait photographer!