Taking good Headshots

Last week on the first episode of her new podcast, Your Story Within, Dr. Jeannine Bennet spoke with professional photographer Laura Hatcher on the role of a good headshot in landing a job. I took notes and have some quick tips for you below.


smile and relax

If you’re uncomfortable in front of the camera, you’re not alone. Laura recommends that her clients wear clothes that fit well and don’t cause self-consciousness. If you’re constantly tugging at your clothes, you will very likely come across in the photos as uncomfortable or tense.  Remember, we’re aiming for confident and capable.

You may feel silly practicing poses in front of the mirror but do it anyway. I believe that everyone is photogenic, but most people don’t know their best angles. Put your phone camera on a timer and practice different poses to see which ones look best. Do a quick internet search for professional headshots and flattering poses, then practice what you learn.

I promise this small investment in your time will pay off when you get your photos back from your photographer. With a little bit of practice under your belt, you will feel much more relaxed in front of the camera.


Brooding headshot

Depending on whether you are applying for jobs as a kindergarten teacher or a high-powered executive, you’ll want to evoke a specific mood in your headshots. Do you want to come across as friendly and approachable?  Confident and commanding? An intellectual visionary?  The clothing, setting, lighting, and expressions you choose all play into this feeling.

Consider the colors that you choose to wear for your photos. Do you have a signature color or specific branding color?  Notice that Dr. Bennett’s headshots (below under “SMILE!”) feature her signature blue, which ties in beautifully when she uses her photos across the website and promotional material. If, however, you look terrible in your brand’s signature color, consider using splashes of it in other ways in the photo, like props or accessories.

If you don’t have a signature color, Laura recommends jewel tones as they are universally flattering and bold. Also, dress for the job you want. Going for a managerial position? Wear a tie and blazer (men) or a dress shirt and jacket (women), not a t-shirt. If you have more questions about what to wear, check out Laura’s article.


attention to detail

The last thing you want a prospective employer to notice about your photo is the button you forgot or the wrinkles in your shirt. Take the time to iron or steam your clothes, groom your hair, nails, skin, etc., polish your shoes, fix those flyaway hairs, and check that your clothes aren’t transparent under bright lights. Sure, a professional photographer can fix a multitude of sins with editing, but those things usually aren’t cheap to fix post-production.

Additionally, make sure that your clothes are the proper size for you and are ironed or steamed. Bulging buttons or a wrinkled jacket are a big turn-off to potential employers. Make sure that you’re not wearing any busy patterns, glaring brand logos, or distracting accessories. YOU are the focus.


professional headshot

Nothing is as reliable as good a good customer testimony. Not only is word-of-mouth important, but when looking for photographers, you can also view their portfolio to see if you like their style. I recommend finding a handful of quality photographers and then whittling them down based on your budget and the packages they offer. Once you’re down to a few, give them each a call and see if they put you at ease and you get a good feeling about them.

Laura says that it is essential for both the client and the photographer to feel like they are a good match. Since getting your photo taken can make you feel very vulnerable, a good rapport with your photographer can make the difference between a good shot and a great one.


smile in your headshot

Listen, I love being thrifty, and I am the queen of a good DIY. I took my headshot (see below) at our public library (with a very confused fellow patron looking on) using the excellent natural light from a huge window. My 13-year-old daughter/photographer used my cell phone to take the photo. I wore a jacket I scored at a thrift store for $5.00. I spent exactly zero dollars for a handful of shots that I am very pleased with. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for it! You’ll at least get some practice in for when you hire a professional, even if you don’t like the photos you take yourself.

If you decide to go the professional route but don’t want a hefty price tag, contact a local college and see if any photography department students would like to build their portfolio. Can’t find a fledgling photographer?  You may be able to offer your skillset in exchange for photos. Just ask if the photographer would be interested in exchanging services. Many service-based professionals often make trades, so don’t feel strange asking.


Jeannine Member

Remember, a photo is worth a thousand words. Your headshot should reflect your personality and the career you want. A great headshot will portray your professionalism, confidence, approachability, and perceived capability. I urge you not to brush off the importance of a good headshot. It could be the thing that sets your application apart from the rest.


Melanie Lemus is the Communications Specialist for Vision to Purpose providing self-help, business, and career-focused topics. She lives in Virginia with her wonderful husband and witty daughter. Melanie loves her freedom – in Christ and America. She’s passionate about natural health and homeopathy, and she’s always down to take a hike through the mountains.


Vision to Purpose is an organization dedicated to helping individuals and businesses succeed by offering tailored career, life, and business solutions.

Need a resume writer? How about a career coach? Perhaps a business consultant? Look no further; Dr. Bennett and the Vision to Purpose team can help! You can learn more about Vision to Purpose by visiting www.visiontopurpose.com.

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