Headshots are an investment you make for your career. For actors, models and others in entertainment, they are vital. But, even in the corporate world headshots are more important than most people think. So, what can you do to be sure you get headshots that will help advance your career?
First, be sure your headshots are being done with a commercial-grade camera, not a smartphone or other point-and-shoot camera. If you settle for a smartphone selfie, it will not only look unprofessional, you might give an impression about how much you care about quality that you don’t want to give. So, it should also go without saying that you should work with a photographer that knows very well how to use a commercial-grade camera.
You will usually want to opt for studio headshots as they are more polished. In a studio setting, the photographer has complete control of lighting via the use of strobe lights. In natural light, lighting dynamics can vary. The sun, clouds, temperature and other ambient factors cannot be fully controlled. As a result, in almost all cases, studio lighting appears more polished.
However, natural light isn’t bad, and it shouldn’t be completely overlooked. In other words, outdoor headshots are also fine. Just know there might be more variables to consider. Also, not all studio lighting is created equal. So, check out the photographer’s portfolio for quality factors. Have a conversation with your chosen photographer to help you decide on lighting, background options, and more.
Your headshot is being used to sell you. So, be sure it represents you. In other words, don’t attempt to come across as someone you’re not or cannot pull off in person. So, light makeup is a good idea – or at least the usual amount of makeup you’d normally wear. To be a bit more precise here, if you’re an actor or model, wear the same amount of makeup you’d wear to a typical casting. For corporate, wear the same amount of makeup you’d wear for a client meeting.
Some photographers will tell you retouching a photo isn’t good. This just isn’t true. There are always opportunities to retouch a photo without it misrepresenting who you are. This includes for items such as removing a stray or fly-away hair, a pimple or other non-permanent blemish, lint on a shirt, and so on. Fixing any of these items does not create a misrepresentation. Instead, it makes your headshot more polished.
Tips to Prep Ahead of Your Headshot Session
You might think to get a haircut and if you do, it’s a good idea to do so a few days prior to your session. This way, if you get a bad haircut, you’ll have time to recover or reschedule. As with makeup, try to make sure the haircut you get is common to your usual look.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before so you look fresh the day of your session. It will also put you in a better mood, which can come across in your headshots. Drink lots of water too, the day before and day of, so your skin looks more naturally hydrated.
Tips for During Your Headshot Session
So, you’re at your session and ready to go. Your headshot photographer will likely have suggestions for making the session go great. So, don’t be afraid to ask for tips. Many actors and models are naturals at headshot sessions but for others it can be a nervous moment. Again, your headshot photographer can likely help make the session fun and relaxing.
So, almost in all cases look into the camera for the photos. This helps create a welcoming perception, demonstrates confidence, and builds trust with the viewer. Also, in almost all cases, you should have a subtle natural smile. If you’re not a natural smile-person, again your photographer can probably provide some tips.
Naturally, your posture will come across in the photos. For corporate use, stand tall and firm but be sure you come across relaxed too. The point is to look as though you’re approachable. For actors and models, it’s all about getting in a groove, flow and character. This is particularly true for actor theatrical headshots and model lifestyle shots. Again, your chosen photographer can probably provide guidance if needed.
While taking the photos, making subtle adjustments with your head and face are all the difference. This includes less of a smile, more of smile, a tiny head tilt or tiny chin drop, and so on.
What to Wear for Headshots
Avoid wearing plaids, stripes, strong colors, and generally busy clothing. Simple, natural and solid colors are best. The focus should be on you so, don’t wear anything that would be a barrier to that focus. This includes too much jewelry. Also, be aware of clothing that has branding, such as logos, that might takeaway focus from you.
For corporate headshots, you can opt to dress in a business suit or, if that’s not normally worn on a workday, dress how you would on a routine day. It is up to the business to decide how to brand this. However, for groups of headshots, consistency is important to consider. For example, should everyone wear suits, a company shirt, etcetera?
Another popular thought on what to wear is to dress how you would when you’re meeting a new client. In this way, a new client seeing your headshot ahead of a meeting will enter the meeting with you having the comfort of a familiar impression of you.
And yet another popular approach is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If dressed in a suit, bring a second business coat to quickly change looks and have options. This can include a second scarf or other accessory for women or a second tie or handkerchief for men.
The Finished Product
With your headshots done, you’ll be eager to use them. Unless you have specific branding requirements – such as to fit a website’s specifications – stick with an output of tried-and-true 8×10″ portrait-size photos. The crop should usually be from around the belly button up or upper chest and up, depending on the application.
If you follow these steps, you’re almost guaranteed to have great headshots, a great time getting them, and to make a great impression on anyone seeing them.