Statistics show that better headshots get better results. I can google some data for you, or you can do it yourself, but you’ll find it’s true. You ever hear the maxim, you have to spend a little to make a little? Spend the money. It’s worth it. Hire a professional photographer that is trained in lighting, posing, composition, and location. A selfie ain’t gonna cut it no more. Save those for your partner, family, and friends.
A good headshot photographer should typically cost you between $300-$1000 depending on how extravagant you go. Anything less is just a glorified passport photo. If the headshots look cheap, they probably are. Think of a good headshot as an investment in your career. You wouldn't go to a job interview looking like a sham, why treat your headshots any differently?
2. Go for personality over glamour.
Do not go overboard with this. It’s simply not necessary. Make sure the photograph actually looks like you - a dressed up version of you, but still you.
I have seen some headshots that make the person look like a porcelain doll. Make sure and use a photographer that makes the headshot look real AND like YOU. This is not a fantasy photo shoot of what you WISH you looked like, it’s about who you look like. Imagine showing up for your job interview looking like someone else then you are - it might actually freak out whoever you are meeting and cost you the job. I’m just sayin. Trust me on this!
3. It’s all about the eyes.
Find a photographer that interacts with you a little bit to draw out your personality and smile, and puts an emphasis on your eyes.
A good headshot is all about the eyes, and what’s happening behind them. It’s your closeup, your moment. Your eyes should be perfectly in focus, alive, and energized, and not dead and glazed over. There should be strong inner thoughts, implying a backstory and a life behind the eyes. A slight squint and strong piercing eyes will bring a picture to life and help it stand out in a pile of hundreds. A good headshot photographer knows how to bring this out in you.
4. Pay attention to framing, lighting, and background.
Typically, a great headshot is photographed from the chest up with the best lighting on your face, with some slight dramatic shadow lighting. Don’t go overboard, you are not auditioning for a theatre production. Look directly into the camera. The primary focal point should be on the center of your eyes - nothing else. This is not the time to throw up hand gestures or waves or jumping, just remember to K.I.S.S ( you should know what that means) - Keep It Simple Stupid. If you are using a background iit should be slightly out of focus - as in not the central point of the image. This is called “bokeh” btw - now you learned something new.
A good headshot should make you STAND OUT and the backdrop whether it’s a formal backdrop or natural surroundings should never be the focal point.
It’s about you, not the environment.
5. Natural light vs. studio.
Personally, I prefer to use BOTH inside and outside light and backdrops. I like to offer variety and it gives you options and additional photos to update your profile from time to time. Natural light gives a very real, “film” look, which I personally prefer. Studio lighting tends to be a little more polished, with a more neutral backdrop. Both can be wonderful.
6. Clothing and props.
OK, this is a headshot. Do not get carried away. Keep it simple and classy, and follow the standard format. Professionalism gets you noticed, not desperation. A simple, solid color shirt with a little texture that fits you well and matches your eyes for men typically works best - there are exceptions, review your objective with your photographer, they should be able to provide you the best tips. Women, a nice solid dress or blouse, even a jacket and shirt - again, consider the context for the photos and dress accordingly.
Typical rules of thumb: No whites, no graphics or anything you think might distract from your face. And no props.
7. Don’t go crazy with the makeup.
Yes, there is such a thing as post-production and frankly, I can make you look like just about anyone or anything. However, this is not the time or the place for that. Keep it real, keep it authentic and keep it as natural as possible. Easy on the makeup. REPEAT - easy on the makeup.
Here are five tips from my favorite Hair and Makeup star in Charlotte - Jessica at Beauty Asylum.
Girls, be yourself, do your hair the way you would for every audition.
Guys, bring some oil sheets to take down the shine, and maybe use a lightly tinted moisturizer to take out the redness and even your skin tone. Some people spend way too much on makeup, only to have to get their headshots redone afterward because they look fake in all the photos.
Find a photographer that you can connect with - I am serious on this. Someone you feel comfortable around, do some research, find some photos that look like they know what they are doing and call them. Can you engage with them? Do they make you feel comfortable? Ask a few questions from this post above - see if there answers match. Don’t use a dud you find annoying, your photos will look - well ANNOYED!
You have to vibe with the photographer, and that person has to make you feel very comfortable, as you will hopefully be using this headshot for a couple of years and sending it to everyone in town. Good luck!