Professional Headshots: What To Wear and DIY Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 8, 2022 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated June 8, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

Professional headshots provide a picture of who you are in the business world and can help you in several areas of your career. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about professional headshots, including how to take a DIY professional headshot and when to hire a photographer, plus answer some frequently asked questions.

What is a professional headshot?

A professional headshot is a photograph you use to create your personal brand, and increasingly are being used in infographic resumes and on job networking websites. Professional headshots usually focus on your upper body, such as your head and shoulders. Your professional headshot often creates the first impression business colleagues and customers form of you.

Related: 4 Steps To Building a Brand

How to take DIY professional headshots

DIY professional headshots

Follow these steps to take your own professional headshots at home:

1. Prepare for your photo shoot in advance

Make sure to prepare for your headshot photoshoot a few days ahead of time. Take care to follow a healthy skin care routine, drink water, eat healthily and get plenty of rest. Also, plan some outfit options. This step should help you look and feel your best when it’s time to take your picture.

2. Ask for help or use a camera stand

Ask a friend or family member to take your professional headshot or use a camera stand. You shouldn’t use the “selfie” method, as it can make you look unpolished and unprofessional. If you don’t have a camera stand, you can also prop your camera up against a steady surface such as a table, shelf or books and use the timer setting.

3. Choose a simple background

Choosing the right background for your professional headshot is important so the focus of the photo remains on you. You should try to find a neutral background such as a solid wall, brick wall or neutral outdoor setting. Keep office clutter or busy outdoor scenery out of your photo’s background.

4. Use a natural light source

Try to minimize artificial lighting. Instead, take advantage of natural light sources. If you’re taking your headshot indoors, stand close to a large window, but not in front of it. If outdoors, try to find a well-lit area where the sun isn’t directly in your eyes or behind you. Once you’ve found your background and light source, position the camera in between you and your light source.

5. Use the rear-facing camera

If you’re using your smartphone to take your professional headshot, it’s important to use the rear-facing camera. The rear-facing camera often has features that help capture better quality photos than the forward-facing one.

6. Take several photos

The best way to get a great professional headshot is to take several photos in various outfits and different poses. Take photos smiling and also being serious. By creating a range of expressions, you’ll have plenty of photo options to choose from. The best professional headshot is one that most authentically captures both your personality and brand.

7. Use photo editing software

Several photo-editing apps and software programs can correct minor issues within your photo, such as brightness and contrast. You should also crop your photo in a way that keeps the focus on you rather than the background or other details.

Read more: 12 Tips for Quality Headshots

When to use a professional headshot

You should use a professional headshot any time a picture of you is needed to display who you are as a professional. Professional headshots are used frequently, so it’s important to have one on hand for easy distribution.

Some examples of when you might want a headshot include:

  • Social media profiles, including job networking sites

  • Business cards

  • Resumes

  • Email accounts and signatures

  • “About us” pages of company websites

Having a professional photo of yourself to use in these instances is important to the professionalism of your brand.

Related: Should I Put My Picture on My Resume?

Professional headshot tips

Here are a few additional tips to remember about professional headshots:

Save your headshot in multiple sizes

Depending on where and how your professional headshot is being used, your picture may need to be formatted to fit either a larger or smaller frame, or various social media profile-photo specifications. Maintain the quality of your photo—avoid unnecessary pixelated or blurred images—by saving your picture in several formats.

Read more: 10 Types of Image File Formats

Keep your headshot updated

Your professional headshot should always be an accurate depiction of what you currently look like. People change their appearance all the time—they lose and gain weight, change their hair color and grow facial hair. Make sure to take photos at least every two years to keep the most accurate reflection of who you are today.

Related: Guide To Updating Your Resume

Professional headshots FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about professional headshots:

How much should I pay for professional headshots?

If you decide to splurge and not take your own headshot, you can always hire a photographer. While most photographers charge by session and their rates vary based on experience and location, some are paid hourly.

Related: How Much Do Photographers Make?

What makes a good professional headshot?

The characteristics of a good headshot include:

  • Your face in clear lighting that doesn’t cast heavy shadows.

  • Your clothing, hair and any makeup or jewelry are professional and not distracting.

  • You appear friendly and experienced.

  • It shows off your personality.

Is a professional headshot worth it?

If you know a great photographer and feel more comfortable using one than opting for DIY professional headshots, the cost can be worth it. Professional headshots also often come in multiple sizes and formats so you don’t have to worry about how and when they’ll be used, or any photo editing.

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