11 Tips for a Better Professional Headshot

10 Tips for Better PortraitWritten by Mat Probasco

You spend a ton of time developing your professional image, your personal brand. After all, what we’re after is success. But shockingly few of us put the same thought into the photos we post on our professional profiles internally or externally. This is a grave mistake. Here are 11 quick tips for how to take a better photo for your professional headshot—even a selfie.

  1. Have Someone Else Do It

It’s fine to shoot the photo yourself; we’ll cover selfies more below. If you can, however, apply the tips below to a photo you take of someone else or someone else takes of you. You’ll almost always get a better photo.

  1. Light is Everything

In most cases, the best shot involves looking directly at your light source, be it sunlight or a lamp. Don’t squint. Just take the shot. Shooting away from the light source will put you in a full-face shadow. This will not produce a great shot. People with darker complexions might disappear altogether. You want your professional headshot to be clear, without shadow or distraction.

  1. Turn the Flash Off

It’s tempting to use a flash, but this will almost always ruin the photo. Some parts of your face will look paper white and other parts oily or blotchy. Turn the flash off and rely on natural light.

  1. Mind Shadows and Reflections

Is half your face draped in shadow? Can we see the reflection of your hand holding the phone in your glasses? Make smart choices here. Look at your photo and be less critical of your goofy smile and more critical of the elements of the photo you can easily fix by moving one way or another.


  1. Eye-Level Angle

Shooting from too low or two high is not going to give you the photo you want. An eye-level shot will keep us from peering up your nose. This seems like a simple thing, but it can be tricky. If you are shooting a selfie, try to level your shoulders to avoid bunching or creasing your shirt or jacket.

Don’t take your photo from too high or too low.
  1. Framing Yourself

It may be called a headshot but in reality the photo should include at minimum your neck and top of your shoulders. Ideally a great professional headshot goes down to the breast pocket on your shirt or jacket, maybe even more. Anything less is too much face. When you frame the photo, be sure to include the outer edge of your arms.

  1. Keep It Level

Make sure you aren’t shooting at an extreme slant, left or right. Unless you are standing on a steep mountainside, the background horizon should be level.

  1. Background Counts

What’s behind you will be in the photo too. Make some simple location choices that avoid distracting or embarrassing backgrounds. If you are shooting in your office, do you want all that clutter in the shot? Probably not. Shooting outside? Make sure there is no tree growing out of your head, or liquor store signs, or anything else that draws attention away from you. Keep it simple.

Look at the background in your photo – avoid signs, mess, other people and distracting scenes.
  1. Simple Tech Fixes
  • Make sure your lens is clean. Wipe it down with that microfiber cloth you use on your sunglasses.
  • Set your camera to the highest resolution. This will reduce pixelation.
  • Don’t use a flash. We covered this above, but it’s worth repeating. One out of every 100 shots taken with a flash is decent. The rest are horrors.
  1. Think Critically

Just as you would not adopt a company logo haphazardly , neither should you publish and promote a less-than-flattering photo of yourself. These days everyone has a camera and almost everyone fancies themselves a photographer. Having a decent professional headshot is vital. Anything less just looks sloppy.

Adding props that are relevant to your brand can help to tell a story in your professional headshot but be sure that anything you use doesn’t add distraction.
  1. Relax

Relax your eyes. Relax your mouth and cheeks. Give yourself a little pep talk, and give us an easy smile. Your self confidence will burst right through the photo.

Like every other part of building your personal brand, how you present yourself in professional photos requires a little patience, some technical skill, and thoughtful dedication to being the best you can be.

Download this FREE PDF for some quick tips to take a better headshot photo.

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