There are a lot of tips – 7 in this post – that can be offered for getting good headshots. There are also so many proven reasons why everyone in business – whether corporate business or show business – must have a professional headshot.
I’ve put together a 5-minute video you can watch instead of reading this, or read on.
Headshot Tip #1
The first and probably most important tip should go without saying. Any professional-grade headshot must be done with a commercial-grade DSLR or mirrorless camera, not with a smartphone. Not ever with a smartphone. No, portrait-mode isn’t good enough. Not even close. Don’t buy into the fancy ads trying to lay claim to paid-and-staged smartphone shoots for commercial photography scenes. Even smartphone makers will not use their own camera only when it comes to promoting themselves.
Look, smartphones are awesome devices. They have a ton of apps. They’re gaming platforms. You can make calls with them or send texts. You can do video calls or record video. And you can take photos with them. They are good general-purpose devices which makes them very poor at doing any one thing great. With so much at stake in a headshot – it literally could be your career or a job opportunity – it’s just not a smart choice to use any type of point-and-shoot camera.
Headshot Tip #2
Tip number two is closely related to point number one. Make sure you use a professional photographer. They’ll have a commercial-grade DSLR or mirrorless camera, appropriate quality lenses, and know how to use them. They should also have professional studio lighting and know how to use it too.
Speaking of lighting, a related tip is whether to use studio-quality lighting or natural light? Some argue natural light should be used while others argue for studio-lighting. For actors, almost all movie scenes have some artificial lighting in it. Thus, if you’re trying to mimic in your headshots how you might be lit in a scene – for example, a dramatic scene – more on this later – you should opt for studio lighting.
As for business, most professional headshots are also done with studio lighting. Overall, studio lighting is capable of providing a more flattering look, which is often preferred, whether for actors, executives and definitely for models. It also offers your photographer more control, which is a good thing to be able to more easily create different looks. As an actor, you’ll likely need theatrical dramatic looks alongside clean commercial looks.
A good photographer can also use natural light to create different themes. But since you can’t move the sun where you want, limitations will exist. Still, natural light can also be a very nice look to have. For example, in a natural light setting you’re probably going to be on-location somewhere, which might provide for an advantageous background.
So, if you’re a commercial real estate agent, a lifestyle headshot in an office or with a building in the background can make for good marketing material. Or for a model, perhaps mimicking a lifestyle ad is a good shot to have in your portfolio.
Headshot Tip #3
So, in closing out tip number two, we also covered tip number three. And that is, consider if you can benefit from having lifestyle headshots in your marketing arsenal in addition to traditional headshots. If you can swing a budget for it, you’re likely to find good use for both.
Headshot Tip #4
Remember your headshot is being used to sell you. So, be sure it represents you. That doesn’t mean you should or should not use makeup or style your hair. It means do what you would normally do for your job or the job requirement. Let’s say you’re an actor going to a casting call that your headshot helped you get. You probably want to show up similarly to the headshot that got their interest, whether you used makeup then or not, whether your hair was long, short, etc. If you’re an accountant with a headshot on your website, you probably want to take that headshot looking the same way you will when clients come to visit you.
This way, there’s no surprise changes to a casting director or customer when they meet you. So, as your look changes, you will need new headshots. Also, to stand out from the competition, extra shots can be helpful, especially to capture who you are inside. So, if you’re an actor that is a fun and light-hearted person, that’s likely where you’ll have most success for roles and some headshots should attempt to capture this. Because you’re not trying to be something you’re not. Same thing if you’re an edgy person – you’re probably going to have your most success for edgy roles.
On the corporate side a business executive with a traditional headshot that also uses photos of themselves in their work environment might help them stand apart to would-be customers. It can imply that you’re a hard worker.
So, in summary, a good headshot of how you would normally present yourself face-to-face with someone that might hire you is critical. And, additional headshots to capture your personality or business traits can brand you to further to stand apart.
As for touch-ups to headshots. They are okay so long as you don’t go overboard and misrepresent how you look. In fact, you should use touched-up photos to help you stand apart, particularly for actors and models that are likely to have make-up put on them for a commercial shoot.
Headshot Tip #5
Be sure to look at the camera. Your eyes – and eye contact – are an important gauge for anyone looking at a photo of you. Your gaze can literally convince them to do business with you. It can be the relaxing smile of a doctor. Or, it can be the conviction behind an actor’s glare for a drama series.
Headshot Tip #6
Stick with the tried and true. Use 8×10, in portrait mode, almost always. Don’t cut off your head or neck by getting too close to the camera. What your hair and neck look like are important features, whether for actors or executives.
Headshot Tip #7
And last, but not least, what to wear. Avoid plaids, strong colors, and generally busy clothing. Simple, natural and solid colors are best. Remember, the goal is keep the focus on you, not what you’re wearing. If you’re only getting headshots from the chest up, then your top and hairstyle will be the most important things to consider. If you’re getting lifestyle headshots, then obviously your full outfit will matter.
Be careful not to also wear too much jewelry. But, again, also wear what is you. Wear things that help establish how you want to be perceived. Another popular thought on what to wear is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
So, a bonus tip, get out there and get your headshots done. Your business success can only be improved by it.