How To Take a Professional Headshot Yourself

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you want your profile to stand out to recruiters, you might consider adding a professional headshot to your social media channels, website, and email icon. Your headshot, accompanied by a resume, provides an outline of your looks, features, and personality. You can hire someone to take a headshot, or you can do it yourself. In this article, we discuss what a headshot is, explain how to take a professional headshot yourself, and give you tips for taking excellent headshots.

What is a professional headshot?

A professional headshot is a photo of a person's bust taken from the shoulders above and gives a good perspective of you by clearly presenting your facial features. A headshot appears on your social media profiles to enable people to recognize you. A headshot communicates who you are and presents you as a confident professional to potential employers, clients, and colleagues. It's worth putting a lot of care into a professional headshot, as it is the initial point of contact with prospective clients or employers.

What does a headshot need to include?

A professional headshot exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Clearly portrays your face

  • Communicates your personality

  • Shows well-groomed hair, makeup, and clothing

  • Taken under good lighting

  • Taken in front of a plain background

  • Professional pose

  • Natural smile

A professional headshot is a necessary tool in industries such as acting, theatre, and other forms of entertainment. For instance, a casting director looks at a headshot to determine their cast for their productions. In essence, a headshot represents an audition opportunity to prospective actors and actresses.

Where can I use my professional headshot?

Here are reasons you need a professional headshot:

  • For use on social media: With so many social media platforms available today, you need a headshot to make it easier for people to recognize you. In addition, a headshot distinguishes you from other people who share your same name.

  • For use on a resume: Some employers ask candidates for a picture on their resumes. You need a professional headshot to portray a positive perception of you from the employer.

  • For personal branding: A headshot is an excellent way of making your brand known to people such as potential clients and employers. A well-taken headshot communicates what your brand represents.

  • To create a positive impression: A professional, well-taken headshot makes a positive impression on others. For instance, a headshot is the first point of contact between you and a potential employer.

  • To portray your personality: A professional headshot portrays your personality attributes such as confidence and energy.

Related: Guidelines on How to Network

How to take a professional headshot yourself

You don't need to hire a professional photographer to take your headshot, and can do it yourself with the right preparation. Here is how you can take a professional headshot yourself:

1. Groom yourself

A professional headshot represents your brand. Being well-groomed is an integral part of what makes a headshot stand out. Ensure you pay attention to detail during your grooming routine. Here are some tips for how to prepare for a headshot:

  • Aim for neutral makeup

  • Keep your hair well-set

  • Wear solid, dark-coloured clothing rather than patterned or bright clothes

  • Avoid sleeveless tops unless necessary

  • Stick to simple jewellery

  • Ensure your facial hair is well-groomed

2. Identify a suitable location

A professional headshot is as good as the chosen location. A key factor to consider in selecting a location for your headshot is the source and direction of light. You may use natural or artificial lighting, but natural light typically produces the best results. If you are taking the headshot indoors, turn off all lights in the room and set yourself up close to a window by standing at least four feet from the window. Ensure the light comes from behind you.

Light shining on your face may make you uncomfortable and may distort your face if you squint. If you take your headshot outdoors, choose a shaded location away from direct sunlight or spotty light. Also, remember to turn off the flash on your camera to avoid adding excessive light. While natural light is the best, you need to time your photo shoot within the early hours after sunrise or the last hours before sunset. You can also time your activity during a period with overcast skies. Too much sunlight can have a damaging effect on the quality of the headshot.

3. Set up a simple background

You are the focal point of the headshot, and this involves choosing a simple background that does not distract the viewer from you. An uncluttered background helps you stand out. Here are a few background tips for a professional headshot:

  • Wear a solid colour different from the background

  • Remove distractions such as road signs, wallpaper, and lamp posts

  • Use a solid coloured backdrop or a fabric with simple texture

  • Try different backgrounds and outfits to find the best match

4. Use a tripod and timer

With the lighting and background ready, you may now move to set up the camera. Set up a tripod stand between you and the source of light. Set the camera timer and pose for the shots. Review the shots to see if they meet all the criteria and look the way you want. You can also ask a friend for a second opinion.

5. Edit and export

After taking several shots and selecting the best, you can now edit the headshots. The selected headshots should have a clear background, good focus and headroom, and natural expression. To edit your headshot, do the following:

  • Adjust the brightness, colour, and contrast

  • Add subtle effects that do not distort your face

  • Avoid heavy filters

  • Crop the headshot

Once you are done with editing, you can now export and save your headshot. Always save the photos in their original size to avoid losing their resolution and quality.

Read more: Why Quality Over Quantity Matters in Your Job Applications

Tips for taking a professional headshot yourself

Here are some essential tips to apply when taking a professional headshot yourself:

Try different poses and expressions

Try different poses to enable you have a broad choice on the final headshot. Besides trying different outfits, maintain a genuine smile as they determine how your audience sees you. A good pose enhances your brand and confidence. Some ways of posing for a headshot include speaking as the camera clicks, relaxing your shoulders, sitting or standing with your back, and looking straight at the camera lens for good eye contact.

Adjust camera settings

Whether you are using a stand-alone camera or a smartphone device, tinkering with the camera settings can be helpful in finding the perfect settings for a professional headshot. While devices have unique features, look for these settings in your device to make your headshot stand out:

  • Set the highest resolution for clear and crisp images

  • Enable the anti-shake feature to ensure the camera is steady

  • Set the light exposure feature to determine the amount of light reaching the image sensor

  • Enable a feature to allow rapid snapping of photos

  • Adjust the timer accordingly to allow you time to pose

When you find the best combination of features, note them down to save time during subsequent shoots.

Relax

There is a lot to consider when taking your own professional headshot. For the best results, remain calm. This ensures the final product makes you look natural and comfortable. To stay relaxed and prepare for an excellent headshot, try these tips before you get started:

  • Calling a friend or family member

  • Taking random trial shots

  • Taking a short walk

  • Taking deep breaths

Update your headshot regularly

Your look changes as you grow and develop, which can make your headshot look outdated if not retaken. Current headshots keep your online profiles looking fresh and offer an accurate representation of your appearance. Update your headshot regularly, at least every two years, to ensure it represents your current appearance.

Tailor the style to your industry

Every industry has certain standards of taking a headshot. For instance, if you are an actor, customize your headshot to the entertainment industry. Tailoring your headshot to the industry helps your profile stand out.

Related: 16 Job Hunting Tips to Get Your Desired Job

Pay attention to detail

A headshot reveals details many employers look for when hiring. You therefore need to take care with your grooming and preparation. What might be unnoticeable to your naked eye can be conspicuous in the headshot. Attention to detail also means you need to set aside sufficient time to take the headshot. A rushed process might lead to a substandard output.

Optimize for different platforms

A professional headshot is useful for different platforms. Optimize your headshot to appear perfectly in these platforms. Enable your audience to see the real you from a computer or their mobile phones. Test your headshot appearance on different websites and social media platforms. Every platform has a unique profile picture size, so be prepared to crop and adjust the image.

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