11 Essential Tips to Get The PERFECT Headshot Photo

By Kyra Chambers •  Updated: 08/07/22 •  11 min read

When it comes to getting the perfect headshot, many people think all you need is a good camera and some lighting.

However, there’s much more to it if you want the perfect headshot photos!

You need to consider factors like clothing, hair, and makeup. You also need to find the right photographer who can help you capture the perfect shot.

So, let’s discuss some great tips for getting a professional headshot!

Meet With Your Photographer Before Your Headshot Session

This is important, especially if you’ve never worked with a photographer.

You need to make sure you’re on the same page about what kind of headshot you want. You should also discuss things like clothing, hair, and makeup choices.

Your photographer will have a lot of experience with headshots, so they’ll be able to give you some great advice.

Plus, meeting up before taking headshots will introduce you to their style and help you feel more comfortable come shoot day.

Professional Headshots Require Beauty Sleep

Get a good night’s rest before the session. This will help you to look refreshed and alert in your headshot.

The day before a photoshoot might give you the same excitement you feel the day before the first day of school, so it might be hard to fall asleep. You might think about how you’ll do and what you’ll wear, and worrying if you’ll look awkward will race through your head all night.

Consider taking melatonin or another sleep aid to help you relax and fall asleep.

But only if you can’t fall asleep on your own and know it’s safe to take.

Also, make sure you take it at the right time so you’ll get a good 7 hours of sleep. You want to give your sleep aid enough time to wear out by morning.

You don’t want to be drowsy at your photoshoot!

If tea or taking a sleep aid isn’t possible, do a chore before bed that’ll tire you out. Or maybe read a boring book because every single person needs sleep.

You want to get the right amount of beauty sleep before the shoot to look professional, awake and alert in your headshots!

Wake Up Early for Your Photoshoot

On the day of the shoot, wake up early enough to give yourself plenty of time to get ready. At least 3-4 hours in advance (maybe a little earlier if you have kids!).

Stay hydrated, do your hair, makeup, wardrobe, coffee, breakfast, travel, etc.

Consider setting some of these things up the night before to save even more time for yourself.

Have your hairstyle planned out if you’ll be doing it in the morning. Or, if it’s already done, set it and protect it properly the night before (bonnet, rollers, scarf, protective style, etc.)

If you’re like me and need a cup of coffee to prevent a headache, see if your coffee machine can make coffee at a particular time. And set it up for 30 minutes before you plan to head out the door.

If you’re a Dunkin’ or Starbucks person, give yourself enough time to make that run before heading to your photoshoot. Factor in the drive-thru wait time as well.

This will help you to avoid rushing and feeling frazzled before the session.

Pick the Right Outfit for Your Professional Headshot

Set out your outfit(s) the night before too! You don’t want to go through that indecisiveness we experience on important days like this.

Your outfit should be professional and flattering, with little to no logos that might appear in your pictures. Avoid anything too revealing or casual.

If you decide to wear any patterns, try to keep them small, subtle and on only one article of clothing. Neutral is always a great choice; choose something you’re comfortable with!

Connecticut Headshot Studio Pictures

Your clothes represent how you want to be portrayed in your photos.

So if you’re a serious person, dark and neutral colors are ideal. If you’re a bubbly person, bright and pastel colors will highlight those characteristics. 

Things You Should Avoid:

Avoiding these things will give you a more polished, professional look.

Hair and Makeup Photography Tips

I’m all for creative, colorful hairstyles (I’m a 25 year old who wears fake grey hair!).

But for instances like these where you’re getting headshots done, your hairstyle should ideally look:

  1. As close to its natural state as possible
  2. Looks appropriate for your career
  3. Makes a great first impression
  4. Looks like something you frequently style it as

Keep this in mind – People should be able to identify for 1-2 years with the headshots you take.

If you’re prone to fly-aways and frizzy hair, try your best to tame it before arriving at your session, and also bring whatever pins, brush, spray, or gel you used just in case they want to pop back up again.

Ladies, if you don’t wear makeup that often, this would be the time to put it on. Nothing too heavy (unless that’s your thing). Just enough to even the skin and highlight certain features. A little bit goes a long way.

Makeup is especially ideal if you have oily skin or discoloration, and it saves the photographer a lot of time in editing, too, when you take the extra step to apply makeup.

They’ll appreciate it a ton!

Also, bring a comb, brush, lipstick or whatever you previously used getting ready so that you can touch up before the session.

Backdrop Selection Before You Start Shooting

If you’re getting headshots done for a job, check with your company to see what guidelines you may have to follow. Then let your photographer know any accommodations or backdrop requirements before the session.

This may include needing a specific pose, backdrop color, or crop ratio for your final image. 

Remember that you’ll be looking at these photos for a long time, so it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable with the final product.

Backdrop for Professional Headshots

Create Separation from the Background

To take great professional headshot photography, you must ensure separation between the subject and the background.

This means there should be a clear foreground subject (the head!) and a clear (ideally blurred) background.

The way to achieve this is by using a shallow depth of field, which means you’ll need a camera with a large aperture (low f-stop number).

No worries if you don’t have access to a DSLR or mirrorless camera! You can still get a great headshot with your smartphone. Just make sure to use portrait mode.

Powder Up When Taking Professional Headshots

Now, this is a personal must-have for all of my photoshoots! I always have powder to offer my clients. 

Whether you’re a guy or a girl, if you’re prone to oily skin or not, bring setting powder to touch up your t-zone through the session. Oily skin never looks good in headshots. I’ve realized how challenging it is to edit a big old shine spot on someone’s forehead, so I try to get everything to look as perfect as possible during the session.

If you don’t have oily skin, you might still sweat during your photoshoot for many different reasons:

Try your best to prevent any sweat from forming before your session, but I guarantee you that at least 1 of these scenarios will occur!

And if you don’t like other people touching your face, I highly suggest bringing your setting powder/face powder.

The Perfect Headshot Needs Great Lighting

Lighting is key to creating the perfect headshot. Without it, your images can look flat, and all your facial features might get lost in the darkness.

The perfect lighting for photographing headshots will:

  1. Flatter your skin tone
  2. Bring out your eyes
  3. Be even (no harsh shadows)
  4. Make you look awake and alert

The best way to get great lighting is to use natural light whenever possible. If you’re outdoors, find a shady spot so that the sun isn’t hitting you directly in the face. If you’re indoors, the best lighting for headshots is usually a soft, diffused light.

This can be natural light from a window (with a reflector to bounce some light back into the shadows), or it can come from a studio strobe or continuous light source.

If you’re using artificial lights, make sure they’re not too harsh or direct, as this can create unflattering shadows on the face.

And finally, pay attention to the direction of the light. It should be coming slightly above and to one side of the camera, creating a nice contouring effect on the face.

Understand Every Single Detail Matters

When trying to capture the perfect professional headshot photo, details matter.

A little too much lean in your chair, and you might look like you’re falling asleep. Tilt your head too much to the side, and it might look unnatural. And if your hair is a little out of place, it can ruin the whole shot.

That’s why it’s essential to have a photographer you trust who can guide you through the process and help you with all the small details.

Be Mindful of Your Time and The Photographer’s Time

It was normal for my mom to constantly scramble out the door in the morning.

Growing up, I saw my father wake my mother up earlier than she usually would so she didn’t have to rush for work.

He’s always been a morning person, and she wasn’t (I take after my mom on this one). So naturally, he would wake up before her and make her coffee and breakfast, put together her lunch, and during the winter time, clean off the snow and warm up her car.

That allowed her to take her time getting ready for work.

But then, she would always move a little too slow.

That extra time she had would pass by while she watched the news, sipped her coffee, ate breakfast, and did her hair and makeup. And then, in the last 10 minutes of getting ready, my mother would look at the time and have to start rushing again.

The point of this story is to show you that you shouldn’t underestimate how long you’ll take to get ready. Be mindful of your time and your photographer’s time.

Not only do we as photographers not want you to rush, causing you to put yourself and others in danger making your way to the studio. But it’s also just courteous to respect the photographer’s time.

There are a million other things we have to do before and after your session that you will never know about. Because we make our workflow look effortless and your pictures look flawless.

And sometimes the photographer might not be stern with their time, simply because they want to be polite and keep your business.

But it’s always a great impression to arrive ready and on time, even if you paid for their time in advance.

P.S. My mom overcame that whole morning scramble routine. Me, on the other hand… I’m still figuring it out!

The Best Advice is to Be Yourself

The best way to get the perfect headshot is to be you.

Your photographer should make you feel comfortable enough to where you can relax and be in the moment. And when you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, that’s when your true personality will shine through in your pictures.

So don’t try to be someone you’re not in your photos. Be one hundred percent confident in who you are, and let your unique self shine in your headshot photos.

Try Different Poses

I know some people who can walk into a room and nail their headshot on the first try.

They have great posture, know their angles, and naturally look great in front of the camera.

But if you’re like me, finding your perfect pose might take some trial and error. And that’s perfectly okay!

The best thing you can do is try different poses and see which one flatters you the most. Have the photographer take a few shots from different angles and distances.

If you find a pose you like, stick with it for a few pictures.

Posing for The Perfect Headshot

Posing might seem small, but it can make a big difference in how your pictures turn out.

Conclusion – Getting The PERFECT Headshot

A headshot is one of the most important tools in a professional’s arsenal.

Whether you’re an actor looking for your big break, a real estate agent trying to sell a property, or a small business owner looking to attract customers, a perfect headshot can make all the difference.

But how do you ensure that your headshot is up to snuff? Simple: hire a professional photographer.

A pro will know how to bring out your best features and capture you at your most natural and flattering. They’ll also have access to the best equipment and editing software, ensuring that your headshot looks sharp and polished.

So if you’re serious about making a good impression, don’t skimp on your headshot – hire a pro.

Kyra Chambers

Kyra Chambers, also known as Kyra The Creative is a Photographer, Artist, and Multi-media Designer. She's been taking pictures since 2016. She loves to capture memories for families and impactful images for professionals.