How to Prepare for your Professional Headshot (in 7 easy steps)

Whether you’re an entrepreneuractor, lawyer or model your profile photo is like the logo of your brand and it’s vital to have a good quality photo to project professionalism and show that you mean business!

Here, Paula, founder and photographer at Paula Deegan Photography discusses 7 ways to prepare for a professional headshot so you can make sure your first impression is great one!

1. Choose a Style that Reflects your Personality & Industry

Your headshot should work for your market and expresses your personality and strengths. Think about how you want to come across. You want to look like ‘you’ but in the way you want ‘others’ to see you in your role. If you work in a creative industry, you’ll want to avoid looking too corporate, keep your outfit smart but casual. If you’re a lawyer, then go for a formal look with a tailored jacket and smart accessories.

Remember that people do business with people, so be yourself.

Studio vs Environmental

Your photographer will have their own style but your choice of background / setting will have an impact too. There is more focus on your face in a studio headshot (because there are fewer distractions), however, in a good quality environmental portrait, the background should be considerably more out-of-focus that the subject.

Studio headshot

Environmental headshot

Headshots vs Portraits

headshot is a type of portrait, it’s usually a tight crop of the face from the shoulders up. The subject is camera aware and typically looking at the lens. This is ideal for a profile photos for platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter where there is only a small space to see your face. If your face is too small within it, you may not be easily recognisable.

portrait is a much broader term – essentially any image there the subject is aware she is being photographed (even if your subject is not looking at the camera). Depending on your role and what you need the photo for, a headshot or portrait might be more suitable.

Environmental Headshot

Environmental Portrait

2. Choose clothes that suit you and fit well

Your clothes make a big difference to how you feel and this will come across in the photos. Choose clothes that fit you well and that you feel confident wearing. Try them on and check them in front of a mirror beforehand. Do they fit well? Are there any pulled areas e.g. around buttons? Does a jacket look good buttoned up as well as unbuttoned? Does anything gape? Is the neckline suitable for the image you’re trying to reflect? Does the collar sit neatly?

Most professional photographers will allow clients to bring a range of outfits to a shoot so check beforehand.

What to Wear for a Professional Headshot - Women

What to Wear for a Professional Headshot - Men

3. Be honest

Many people worry that they look too young or old and think they’ll be judged for it but it’s still possible to be yourself while projecting the right image. Be honest with your photographer in telling her the things you do and don’t like about your image. Perhaps you have a favourite side or you might prefer to be looking ‘away’ from camera. It’s always helpful to show your photographer a photo from the past that you do like so she has something to work from.

A great headshot should always look like you - just the best version of you - like, on a really good day!

4. Get your hair cut (but not immediately before the session)

If you're getting your hair cut, I recommend allowing a week or two in between your hair appointment and your headshot session. Don't get it cut immediately before - even if you're super-confident with your hairdresser, haircuts don't always go to plan and anyway, they tend to look a bit better after a few days, once they've had a chance to settle. If you are thinking of getting professional blow-dry before the session - then yes absolutely go for it!

5. Prepare beforehand

Preparing well will make a big difference!

Ahead of your headshot session: drink plenty of water to hydrate yourself, exfoliate and moisturise your skin and get a couple of early nights. Make sure you outfits are clean, ironed, on hangars and ready to go... Crisply, ironed outfits photograph so much better than crumpled ones so it's worth the extra effort.

You will feel more confident in front of the camera and it will come across in the photos.

6. Don't rush on the day of the session

Don't book meetings to close to your session. You don't want to feel stressed because you're in a rush to get away. Aim to arrive a couple of minutes early so that you have time to meet your photographer, relax and check your appearance before the shoot. Brush your hair, check your teeth (and make-up), check your collar is sitting neatly and you are happy with how you look.

7. Relax

Everyone feels nervous before a photo shoot but if you're having one with me (Paula), I can assure you it's very relaxed and friendly. During the session, we'll just be chatting and music will be playing: it's very lighthearted and absolutely nothing to worry about. If you do feel nervous beforehand, just try taking some deep breaths. The lights are super-flattering so I'm confident you'll relax once we get going and you've seen the back of the camera.

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