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How to Take the Perfect Headshot

When it comes to self-promotion, there is nothing better that exemplifies this than the headshot. To build your very own platform, you require photographs of yourself. This is because people—your clients, customers, followers, prospective employers, etc.—want to get in touch with actual, live, breathing human beings, not just a product, brand or specific cause.

Offer the perfect photograph of yourself, and you immediately build up credibility, trust and the desire of others to connect with you! You will best succeed at selling yourself and your services if you can sell yourself via your great headshot.

The key to taking the perfect headshot lies in being authentic. It doesn’t mean to create a glamorized, Photoshopped piece of fiction (unless that’s part of your branding). It involves showing the world the sincere, legitimate you, just like the people who know you best!

Take these tips to heart if you want to take the perfect headshot for your brand, website, services or anything else.

Get a Professional to Take the Headshot


photo by Steve Jurvetson

One of the worst things that you can do and that too many people make is they think they can take shortcuts when it comes to their headshot. Instead of paying good money to get a professional headshot, they believe they can do it on the cheap or even for free by simply having their friends take some quick snapshots. For something as important as a headshot, it’s foolhardy to entrust it to just anyone (especially your unprofessional buddies!).

The wisest course of action you can take to find a good headshot photographer is to conduct a Google search for “photography headshot” in whatever city you live. At the same time, be sure to evaluate various online portfolios to determine which photographer’s work you like the best. It’s even a good idea to approach your local camera shop to ask for their recommendations. Invest at least a few hundred dollars to get the job done right.

Don’t Wear Something Inappropriate

Although the point of a headshot is to… focus on your face, naturally, you should still be wary of what you wear. The whole objective of a headshot is to focus attention on your face, so if you dress in a way that draws attention to your clothing, you naturally defeat the purpose of the headshot! The key to wearing something suitable is to find balance in your attire.

This means not to dress in something too flashy, showy, trendy or that shows too much skin. On the flipside, don’t dress in something too dated or conservative. A good rule to help you decide on what to wear for your headshot is ascertaining whether or not what you have on will be an embarrassment to you 10 years or so down the road.

So if you think that wearing a graphic-style tank top, for instance, won’t cause you embarrassment a few years down the road… you may want to think twice about that!

Stare Straight Into the Lens


image by kris krüg

In most societies on the planet, staring is considered rude, but when creating a headshot that’s effective, you want to stare right into the lens like nothing else matters. You, of course, are seeking to make a very personal connection with whoever looks at your photograph, and this is the best way to do it. Eye contact is a must.

Think of it as a situation when you meet another person for the very first time, and you’re looking to leave a good first impression. What do you do? Why, you naturally look the person right in the eyes and introduce yourself. It’s the same principle at work with your headshot, only it’s a picture of you instead of the live you.

Smile Like You Mean It


image by Ben Smith

You can smile like you really mean it when you smile with your entire face. People can easily tell when your smile comes across as insincere or contrived, as it will look unnatural or stressed in the headshot. Because of this, you should definitely avoid those infamously cheesy and giant smiles that are characterized by an obvious indication that you’d much rather be doing something else…anyplace else.

For you to smile like you mean it, you have to smile naturally. This can be difficult for some people, especially if they’re told to smile “naturally”, which seems to contradict the intention of the smile unfolding normally. However, keep in mind that your smile should not look “professional” because people can tell that’s a put-on.

Just smile naturally like you would if you’re sharing a laugh with your closest friends. So look likeable, and accomplish this by smiling with the mouth and the eyes!

Negotiate for the Photographs’ Rights


image by Horia Varlan

Be sure you remember to negotiate for the rights to your headshots. Take care of this right at the beginning, so that you don’t have to be burdened with paying a licensing fee in the future, every time that you utilize your headshots in a slightly different context. It’s unfortunate, but the more high-end the professional photographer you go with, the likelier it is that he just won’t agree to handing over the rights.

Nonetheless, if the photographer won’t agree to negotiate for your headshots’ rights, then don’t hire him. It’s that straightforward and simple. Just continue your search for a professional photographer who will agree to hand over the rights. There are many around who are reasonable. After all, there are many photographers around who will gladly give up the rights to be hired and work with you.

The Perfect Headshot: You, Your Personality and a Good Photographer

When all is said and done, it comes down to just three ingredients to get that successful headshot that you deserve: you, your personality and a professional photographer who knows what he’s doing. That’s it! Think it’s that easy? It will take some doing until you have everything all lined up and working smoothly for the shoot.

You should be choosy about picking a photographer for your headshot. Don’t be afraid to fire off several questions to get a good feel of what his experience level and professional conduct are like. Even if you settle on a photographer you trust, there’s still… you! Are you going to be comfortable enough during your shoot that you present a natural smile that’s likeable? You’ll likely have to pose for several headshots before you settle on a good one. Then, of course, there’s still your attire to worry about.

Feel free to tell us all about your headshot experiences via Twitter or Facebook! If there are any headshot photographers out there, do you have any additional tips you’d like to add? As always, make Contrastly your one-and-only destination for all the latest photography tips, advice and tutorials on the web!