Julie Rath: How to Get Killer Headshot Photos

When was the last time you updated your headshot? What, you don’t have a headshot? No problem…read on for how to plan it, what to wear, and how to get it done with aplomb.

Having a good headshot never seems urgent until something like a speaking engagement comes up or someone is writing a profile of you, and then all of a sudden you really need one. Even though this may not be at the top of your to-do’s, trust me, people are checking you out online — and forming impressions of you based on what they see. And thanks to Google Images, any public pictures of you are going follow you around long-term. Below are 9 tips for getting headshots that would make your mama proud:

How to get great headshot photos

1) Wear solid colors as much as possible. If you’re wearing a patterned tie, make sure the pattern is not too busy or large in scale, since that will draw attention away from what people want to see to begin with — that handsome face of yours. Showtime’s CEO Matt Blank above gets it right with his clean, crisp look.

2) Speaking of color, make sure the shade you have on flatters your skin tone. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to wear the right colors. (You can figure this out by having a color analysis done — contact me for info, or more loosely by asking people whose judgement you trust what colors they think you look best in.)

Bonus tip: If you have light colored eyes, play them up by wearing a color that matches them.

3) Get your hair cut 5-7 days before photos. That’s about the right amount of time for a new cut to “settle” in, especially if your hair stylist tends to cut you very short (sometimes they do this to make the cut last longer if you have trouble fitting appointments in). You can also get it cut closer to the date of your headshot, and let him or her know you’ll be taking photos within the next couple of days and not to go too short.

4) Choose your outfit carefully depending on the purpose of your photos. For example, the whole idea of a business headshot is to show people that you’re trustworthy, professional and approachable yet self-assured. If you’re in a field like finance or law, go with a suit and tie. For more creative and casual fields like advertising or technology, you can wear a blazer and dress shirt, or just the dress shirt. Whatever you plan on wearing, bring a few options to the shoot.

How to get great headshot photos

5) Consider the background. For something traditional in feel, have your photos taken in-studio. For a more interesting vibe that’s still business-friendly, do them on location in your office — if you’re an executive, you might place yourself in front of a window overlooking the city, or stand powerfully in your office. If your photos are for personal use, or your industry is more casual, go outside and shoot in a park or in front of a cool background. See the image above of Jay Penske or my client Chris’s “after” photo for examples. Once you know what background your photos will be shot against, be sure that the colors you’re wearing don’t blend into that.

6) Your facial expression sets the tone for the photos. Do you want to look serious, approachable, powerful or easygoing? Figure that out, and you’ll know how to pose.

7) Choose a talented photographer for your shots, one who you feel comfortable with and whose work you like. Photographers often specialize in different types of photography, so it’s a good idea to find someone who does a lot of headshots or portraits. (Victoria Janashvili did mine, and I was very happy with how they came out!)

8) This goes without saying, but make sure your clothes are clean and pressed.

9) Most importantly, be confident and show your authentic self. If you need to relax, jump up and down before the photos are taken and play music during the shoot. (A glass of liquid courage never hurt either…)

I know this is a long list of things to consider, but keep your eye on the prize. The short investment of time, money and energy in getting a great headshot is absolutely worth it.

Did these tips help you? Have more questions about how to handle your headshots? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear what’s on your mind.


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