So you are looking for a headshot photographer but not quite sure where to start. Let’s jump into understanding what it takes to create the perfect headshot. But to do that, we have to define a headshot.

What is a headshot?

A headshot is a photograph that focuses on the head and shoulder area of the person being photographed. Common uses of headshots are for social media profiles, websites, marketing materials and publications.

What Makes a Good Headshot Photographer?

A good headshot photographer is someone that can understand your vision and help create it. It is someone who knows how to pull your personality into your headshots even if you are slightly nervous in front of the camera.

Types of headshots

When selecting your headshot photographer, be sure to understand how they work. Are they capable of working with studio lighting and natural lighting? Or are they either one or the other. Headshots can be created in studio or on location. They can also be taken in front of a solid color backdrop such as a studio wall of paper backdrop or environmental which uses things like office decor or an open space that conveys your overall brand and focus.

When it comes to location, in most scenarios, when only one person is being photographed, the studio will often be the best choice. When teams / multiple people are involved, on location (usually the office or team space) will be ideal for one big reason… it impacts productivity the least. Team members can have their headshots taken and then go right back to working on their assignments or projects.

Let’s talk backgrounds. The common option is a paper background because it’s clean. The most popular options are white, shades of grey and even black. Background color choice are typically made based on company brand. If you or your team works in a really nice space, the environment of that space can be utilized as the backdrop for your headshots. Some ideas of these types of spaces are areas that have open floor plans and really unique architecture. Here is an example of environmental headshots.

What Should You Wear for Headshots

This is probably the most asked question that a headshot photographer will receive. I think the easiest thing to do here is to start with the common no no’s when it comes to headshot wardrobe. A general rule of thumb is to avoid patterns, lines or anything that can be a distraction for your headshots. Wearing solid colors is definitely the way to go. Unless you want a look that is brand specific, navy blue, black, gray, are great go to colors for business focused headshots for suits. Typically, lighter colors do not photograph as well and you will find that in most use cases, they won’t give you the look you desire.

When it comes to a more casual look, the same school of thought will apply here too. Solid colors will work best. However, with more casual looks for headshots, you can get a little more creative if you are trying to stay on brand with your appearance. No matter the route that you take, it’s best to still stay clear of patterns and designs in your wardrobe.

Think of a look(s) that you yourself would not mind seeing for a year or may two. Even after some time has passed, you want to look back at your headshot and say that you made a good choice in your overall presentation.

Makeup for Headshots

Do you need makeup for your headshots? The answer is yes. Because your photographs will focus on your face, hiring a professional makeup artist for your headshot session will do wonders for overall presentation on camera. When under the lights, and with the lens focused on your face, every detail will be magnified and makeup is a great way to make sure you skin tones are even, and help give you an extremely polished look. Always select a makeup artist who is well versed in working with different types of skin, complexions and someone who understands makeup application for use in photography studios. Our lead makeup artist.

Be Welcoming in Your Headshots

In most situations, your headshot will be a piece in your overall plan to attract more business or to land you that dream job. One important factor to keep in mind is that your headshot will often be the first introduction that someone has to you. You want to make sure you are welcoming. The easiest way to do that is to smile or have a pleasant look on your face. There are businesses or industries where this may not apply, but in most circumstances, a welcoming headshot will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals.

What Makes a Headshot GREAT

The first step to a great headshot is finding a great headshot photographer. Step two would be to follow the tips above. After that, we get into more of the technical aspects which are being mentioned here for the sole purpose of helping you to identify the headshot photographer that will be right for you.

Lighting is KEY when it comes to your headshots. Understand that when you hire a professional photographer to create your headshots, you shouldn’t be looking for a photographer who creates photos that are similar to passport photos. In passport photos, the lighting is flat, your up against a white background and just flashed with light hoping to get a clear exposure.

Headshot lighting should be more creative and done in a way that highlights your features and really helps you to stand out. If your headshot is ever used in graphics with other people, you want your image to really stand out. Although headshots may not take as long to photograph as a brand shoot, it’s still a photoshoot that is just focusing on your upper body and that means the same care and should be taken to make you look your best.

The second part to this is going to be your posing and composition. Make sure that you convey to the photographer what your images will be used for so that he can pose you and compose your images in a way to make them fit their ultimate purpose.

How Often Should You Take Headshots

The frequency that you take your headshots comes down to how often your headshots are in circulations. If you are primarily using them for your social media profiles, or website, you can usually get away with updating once a year. If you are a public figure and your headshots are used on social media, websites, speaking engagements, presentations, etc, you may want to actually look at every 6 months. The reason being is because you always want your images to stay fresh.

There are times when you get a headshot that make you say “THIS IS IT!” and it becomes what we call your “Signature Headshot”. Your signature headshot is one that can be used over an extended period of time even if you still take supplemental headshots in the interim.

Unless otherwise stated, the headshot photographer will always own the copyrights to any images that they create. In working with clients, photographers grant clients usage rights to use the final images for whatever purpose or project that the client disclosed during the booking process.

Once you receive your final images, there may be a time where you want to use the images for something other than what you and the headshot photographer discussed. Issues usually arise when these situations are relating to publications (books, magazines) or when you will use the images to help generate revenue. If this occurs, it is best to contact the photographer to seek the proper wording for photograph credits and to see if there is any monetary impact with using the images.

Pro Tip!

A week or so before working with your headshot photographer, be sure to monitor the foods you eat and to make sure you drink plenty of water. You want to make sure you avoid the possibility of eating anything that will cause you to have a breakout and you want to drink plenty of water to hydrate your body which in turns helps your skin. With headshots being focused on your face, you want to make sure you are doing the most you can to show up photo ready.