Why You Need a Professional Headshot

Once only reserved for executives, LinkedIn made headshots an imperative part of the professional landscape in the last decade. And it’s easy to see why your professional portrait is an entry point for doing business. Your professional photo can make a powerful statement before you even say anything.

Why are headshots important?

In an increasingly virtual world, we need to connect with other humans, even through faceless means like texts and emails. A professional headshot is your digital handshake. It’s a friendly way to introduce yourself and interact with fellow professionals when you can’t be face-to-face.

Your professional photo can send a message of confidence, intelligence, and trustworthiness in a 2D, virtual world before you even speak. 

Even if your company doesn’t offer headshots, you should consider making an investment in one right now. 

Can I use a selfie as a headshot?

It is never a good idea to use a selfie as your professional headshot. Selfies are great for capturing the moment…a great tan, new haircut, or how you look in your favorite pair of jeans. 

Selfies are not good for capturing the professional you. Your headshot should be the definitive visual representation of you for at least the next 18 months. Not the visual representation of how amazing you looked in Cabo last summer.

One more time: Do not take a selfie and pass it off as a headshot.

Can I take my headshot with a phone?

Would you hire a wedding photographer who exclusively shoots on an iPhone? Me neither. 

Phones can give you great quality photos. But excellent photos involve two parts: the camera and the photographer.

If you are using a phone for your headshot, make sure the person behind the camera knows what they are doing. Can they frame the photo correctly? Are they instructing you to move this way and that to reduce shadows? Can they adjust the lighting so you don’t look washed out or too dark?

There’s so much riding on this photo, I definitely recommend hiring a professional to do the work. And don’t pay them a dime if they whip out their iPhone.

How do I hire a photographer?

First, search for a photographer who specializes in headshots and business photography. They have tons of experience in making you look confident, trustworthy and professional. Wedding photographers, food photographers and baby photographers are talented, but if you’re spending the money, why not go with the pro who really knows their stuff?

Second, research, research, research. Look online for headshots you like. Create a swipe file of your favorites: either a folder on your computer or a Pinterest board. Note what makes the headshot great in your opinion–the pose, the lighting, or the background.

Now, research local photographers and explore the portfolio on their websites. Remember that swipe file? Pull it out and see which photographer best matches the style you’re trying to achieve.

Third, interview your favorite photographers. Check out their studio setup, additional portfolio pieces, their prices, and if you’re really on the fence, ask for references. You’re spending big bucks on their service and want to make sure this is a good fit.

And fourth, remember you hired a professional. If they tell you that a pink background will make you look like you’re in a Pepto Bismol ad, you should take their advice. After all, their job is to make you look good.

What should I wear for a headshot?

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. The same goes for headshots. This is the professional you…make it count. A gray or dark suit with a white shirt and solid tie is the corporate headshot uniform. But depending on your current career and the industry you’re in, business casual may work for your headshot too. 

Here are some recommendations:

  • Choose a long-sleeve or 3/4-sleeve solid color shirt. Patterned shirts are too visually distracting.
  • Be mindful of the background. If you’re shooting against a white background, a white shirt isn’t a good idea. Same for dark suit and dark background.
  • Avoid short-sleeve or sleeveless shirts. When your photo is cropped, the top of your arms will creep up into the shot and look awkward.
  • Style your hair and makeup normally. Now is not the time to go all Glamour Shots. Remember this is the real you, business version.
  • No tee-shirts, graphic tees, or flannel shirts over a tee-shirt. Just don’t.
  • Keep jewelry simple. Stud earrings and a simple necklace won’t compete with your winning smile! Save the statement pieces for the workplace.

Want the best of both worlds? Negotiate with your photographer to take two photos…one with a suit jacket and one without.

How should I pose for my headshot?

Focus on controlling your eyes and mouth.

It’s trite, but true: eyes are the window to the soul. Your eyes can say a lot about you: joyful, trustworthy, kind, etc. Make sure your eyes tell the story you want to convey with your headshot. Practice your pose in the mirror, so you can get it right.

Same goes for your smile. A headshot smile should be natural–not forced–and a good photographer can really help here. A photoshoot situation can be awkward and your smile could suffer. Trust your photographer to help coax a great, natural smile for your photos.

I have a headshot now. How do I use it?

Put your headshot to work. Remember, this is the definitive visual business representation of you. Change all your social profile images to your headshot. And yes, even channels like Pinterest and Instagram need to reflect the new you.

And most importantly, use your new headshot to update your resume website. This is really important if you’re searching for a job, being considered for a promotion, or are part of media outreach. 

How often do I update my headshot?

A good rule of thumb is to update your headshot every 18 months. But in some cases you may want to update it sooner if you no longer look like the person in the photo: lost weight, major hair color change, grew a beard, etc. Or you may want to update your headshot if you’re leveling up in your career–moving into an upper management or executive role.

No matter where you are in your career, a good professional headshot is essential to doing business in today’s connected world.

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