3 Traits You Might Want to Impart in Your Professional Headshots

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By The Light Committee

What your headshot says about you matters. It really does. People are judging you by your headshot instantly. Moreover, there are other studies that show this first impression carries over to when they meet you in person. So, quite literally, your headshot could stop a recruiter from contacting you about a job, or a client about working with you. A lack of a headshot does the same. As a result, there are three traits you might want to be sure to consider getting across in your headshot.

First, you don’t have to aspire to conquer all three in one headshot. These are confidence, approachability, and intelligence. It’s probably near impossible to look 100 percent confident, 100 percent approachable, and 100 percent intelligent to 100 percent of viewers. Typically, what you’ll find is if you go for one of these three as a main goal, some of the other two might spill in a little bit. For example, if you want to look approachable first and foremost, it’s likely that the photo will also display some confidence and maybe a little bit of intelligence. So, target one as a primary, but don’t try to tackle all three at once.

How to Have a Confident Look in Your Headshot

According to the book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette, there are a variety of things you can do to get across confident vibes in your headshot. Here, we’ll summarize the main ones and you can review more here.

Obviously, posture is everything. Symmetry will also help with this. One thing I like to tell clients is to appear as tall as you can. To help with this, imagine yourself as a puppet laying on a table and someone just picked you up by your strings and now, you’re dangling in the air. Your neck would elongate. Your chest might pop out a bit as a result, and each shoulder would be even, horizontal with the ground.

Another thing to do – and be very careful not to overdo it, because there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness – is to have your chin slightly above horizontal to the ground. Perhaps no more than an inch will do.

A couple of other things to do are to smile and maintain eye contact. Since this is a professional headshot, this means look right into the lens of the camera. How much you smile is up to you and might be dependent on your profession. For example, a real estate agent might want to smile more than a defense attorney because the real estate agent might want to appear confident and happy while the defense attorney might want to convey confidence and seriousness.

How to Appear Approachable in Your Headshot

I mentioned how if you focus on one of these three traits as your main goal, it is likely that you’ll exude some of the other two. Smiling is almost always one certain way to do this. In the case of appearing approachable, your smile will be critical, and it also can help express confidence at the same time.

This article in Inc. goes over several options to help you look approachable. The critical ones are  summarized in this section, below. Consider how often your headshot will be viewed, whether on LinkedIn, your business website, or elsewhere, covering these factors will be helpful.

If you want to look really approachable, an open mouth smile will be important. Show some teeth. Many people are fearful to do so. But remember, when your working with a photographer for headshots Los Angeles, the photographer will likely give you plenty of headshot options to choose from. In the end, if you truly don’t like how your teethy smile looks, you can opt for one with a closed smile. But the advice here is how to appear highly approachable and a smile with teeth is step number one.

Another consideration is to dress down. Often, good advice is to dress as you would when you are meeting an important client. But sometimes this can be too much, particularly if you want to appear approachable. So, instead of wearing the full stuffy suit, consider a more business casual look.

Color is also everything in a photo and colors help create an atmosphere. Definitely add a pop of color but be careful that they don’t unintentionally bring politics into the photo, like too much blue or red. Think of using warm and inviting colors. Commonly, these are earthy tones.

Outdoor headshots in a nature-like setting can also bring a sense of tranquility to the headshot. But be careful here too that the background is not stealing from the focus of you. Commonly, a headshot photographer will blur the background to help with this.

Finally, turn your body to a more profile view. It looks less confrontational than being squared. Also, subconsciously, it can look like you are coming in for a friendly handshake. You might even want to lean in ever so slightly.

How to Get Across That You Are Intelligent from Your Headshot

Reader’s Digest shared some ideas for showing intelligence. The applicable ones for headshots are summarized here but you can check out their full article for more information. Demonstrating intelligence usually requires verbal communication, which can include body language. Being expressive in your headshot can help impart a level of intelligence. So, don’t be afraid to lean in just a little bit more, or tilt your chin up just a little bit more, or smile just a little bit more, or all of these at once.

It’s pretty well known that glasses tend to subconsciously exude that a person is intelligent. So, if you normally wear glasses, embrace them for your headshots. But they can cause glare or reflection issues. Be ready to deal with that if you don’t have anti-glare or anti-reflection lenses.

Practice Makes Perfect

Whichever of these three you are going for, practice posing before your headshot session. Go into the bathroom and turn on all the lights. Close the door for privacy, if needed. Look into the mirror and practice your looks. Get a physical feel for how much smile, how much lean, how much turn, and so on.

You might even get dressed in the outfits you plan to wear. It’s true that what you wear can help you feel better. So, if you’re practicing in the bathroom mirror in your underwear, subconsciously you might feel exposed. So, does that really help you practice looking approachable?

Why An AI Headshot Can’t Help You with These

Most people still get their headshots done the traditional way, with a real photographer. But there are many people that will just get an AI headshot. If you want to be sure to capture one of these three traits, it is best to steer very clear of using AI.

Besides, if we’re being honest with ourselves, nothing says the opposite of these traits than getting an AI headshot done. It’s the lazy way out. It’s the cheap way out. It’s also, frankly, a lie. That moment in time never happened. You were never against that background. You never wore those clothes. You never made that facial expression. You are essentially misrepresenting yourself. Why would you risk that in your headshot? Remember what was written at the beginning of this post – you are being judged by it. There is a lot riding on it – more than most people give a headshot credit for. Just don’ t do it – ever.

Working with a photographer is helpful. The real-life photo shoot is everything to the results. In addition, while it can be expensive, it does not always have to be. There are affordable headshot photographers available that produce stellar results. Just do a little research.