Why professional headshots can help you make a great first impression

Want to make a great first impression? Find out why you need a professional headshot and what makes a great one.

Cameras on smartphones have become incredibly sophisticated and take excellent pictures in most circumstances. But when it comes to professional headshots, you need a trained photographer who takes photos for a living to ensure your headshot makes the best possible first impression on others. After all, these images are usually the first contact others have of you, so you want to look your best.

Take actors and actresses, for example. Their livelihood depends on a photo of their face opening the door to casting directors and talent agents. You can bet that they would never think about using a selfie or a Facebook profile picture as their headshot. So, why should you?

What is a professional headshot?

Professional headshots are typically used on business or professional websites, press releases, social media platforms, and other mediums. They should convey your personality while also making sure you look competent, enthusiastic, and trustworthy to the world.

A professional headshot also demonstrates that you take your job seriously and are not an amateur. 

The photograph should take into consideration the company and field you work in. If you work at a bank or insurance company, you may want to for a more formal pose with a solid, neutral background that makes you look more powerful.

If you work at a creative agency or high-tech start-up company filled with colleagues who ride their bikes to work every day, you may have more leeway and be able to add more color or design elements into the background. Either way, your image should come across as natural and friendly. 

If you’re not sure what your professional headshot should be, take a look at the image your boss uses or others in your field use on their LinkedIn pages or on the site where your picture will be posted. If you’re still unsure, err on the side of formal rather than be too casual. 

What are the elements of a good headshot?

A professional photographer  knows how to capture the right expression to showcase who you are and portrays energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.

Lighting and placement

The photograph should focus on your face, without any shadows. Look directly into the camera, and the background should be blurred or a solid color so as not to distract from your face.

Make sure you chose the right outfit

Even though a headshot only shows a portion of your shoulders and neckline, clothes are extremely important. They are a way for you to build your professional identity. The clothes you wear for a professional headshot should be simple, stylish, and reflect your personality. 

A color that complements your eyes is always a good bet. Stay away from white and patterns or prints that are too loud because they will distract from the center of attention—you. 

You want to make sure the clothes fit properly. If they are too tight and are straining at the seams or buttons, you will look heavier than you are. If they are too loose, you will look sloppy. You want to be comfortable, but not like you are about to run out to play in a softball tournament.

It’s even better if you bring several outfits to a photo shoot so you can decide with the photographer which one is best. Remember to dress for the position you want (not the position you currently have). Try them on a few days beforehand to make sure they still fit the way you want them to.

Your clothes should also be professionally cleaned and pressed. You can even bring your pressed clothes, rather than wear them, to the photo shoot if you’re worried they will crease when you are traveling to your meeting with the photographer. Don’t hide who you are. If you typically wear glasses, wear them in the photo.

A few more tips to remember

You want to look great in your headshot, but use makeup sparingly. It’s fine to touch up here and there, but you want your headshot to look realistic.

If you had a professional headshot done in the past that you really like, show it to the photographer. Get a good night’s sleep so you’re alert, focused, and in the right mood for the photo shoot.

And finally, don’t worry if you’re not photogenic or don’t like having your photo taken. A good photographer will know how to make you relaxed and get around these issues to get that perfect professional headshot.