5 Ways to Avoid a Terrible Headshot

A business headshot is more important than you probably realize. It’s what people see before they meet you. It’s what they look at to gauge trust. It’s a photo that’s often the deciding factor between you and your competition. Yet, despite the importance of the business headshot, it’s treated like a third class citizen. Most of the time they’re seen as a total inconvenience to have done, or as a needless expense by an employer. Here at Spectacle Photo, we’ve taken a countless number of headshots for people coming from every profession imaginable. That experience has taught us some things, and we have a pretty good grip on what can make headshots either rise to glory or sink into the mire of mediocrity. We’re constantly hearing horror stories from our clients about their past headshots, and I want you to avoid the many pitfalls that lead to an embarrassing/unusable business headshot. These are our 5 essential tips to follow if you want to look fabulous and impress the masses with your headshots:

5. Care About What You Wear

Bring multiple outfits to your photoshoot. Be ready to take both formal and casual shots, because a lot of the time you don’t know what you’re going to need in the future. Make sure your clothes match, fit, are clean, and well cared for. You’d be surprised how many people do none of those things, and it always reflects in their photos. Employers don’t want no scrub.

4. Be a Poser

Be ready to do all kinds of poses. Look up poses online before your photoshoot and try them out. Some will work, and some won’t. When your photographer tells you to try a pose, just do it. As a photographer, it’s always eye-rolling when I ask people to do a pose and they start arguing with me. A lot of the time the picture the photographer is taking isn’t at all what you’re imagining, and while the pose might feel strange and awkward to you, it makes perfect sense through the eye of the lens. Just do the poses, and if it turns out you don’t like some of them, just delete them. It’s better to have more options to choose from than not enough.

3. Stop Talking About Backgrounds

For some reason, people getting their headshots taken are obsessed with the background. Don’t be that person. You don’t need your photo taken on 30 different backgrounds. You are the focus of the photo; you’re the one that’s going to sell it. If people look at your headshot and the first thing they notice is the background, either you or the photographer has done something wrong. Now, if you’re getting a business headshot done and your company has a mandatory background color for all employee headshots, of course it’s ok to tell your photographer he needs to make that happen. If your company doesn’t have any rules when it comes to headshots, then see that as an opportunity.

Let your photographer know the primary colors of your company brand, and see if he can set them as backgrounds for you. If anything impresses an employer when it comes to headshots, it’s that. Using a prime color from your company brand will show your employers and coworkers that you had headshots taken specifically for your job, and that you care about the company image. Other than that, you don’t need to worry about backgrounds. If you’re not convinced of that, just click here to read up on why mewling over things that are behind you is pointless.

2. Leave Your Insecurities at the Door

You’ve seen them. The headshots with the weird faces that are the products of suppressed smiles. You’ve seen the fear in the eyes of those who aren’t fully committed to a pose. It always sucks watching a person try to act overly tough or cool or whatever throughout their session just because they’re afraid of looking silly. Putting on an act in front of the camera, if you’re not an actor, is actually the number one thing that makes you look silly in photos. The camera is a powerful tool that sees all. If you insist on channeling James Bond for an entire session because you’re afraid of just being yourself, the camera is going to capture that in some way. While you might think you’re going to wow the crowds with your best Brad Pitt impersonation, your eyes will betray you. When people look at your eyes in your headshot (which is the first thing people look at when they see a headshot) they’re still going to see you in their, Craig the dentist, and know that you’re just acting weird and douchey. Oh, and ladies, please. PLEASE stop it with the “mysterious” face. 9 times out of 10 your mysterious

While you might think you’re going to wow the crowds with your best Brad Pitt impersonation, your eyes will betray you. When people look at your eyes in your headshot (which is the first thing people look at when they see a headshot) they’re still going to see you in their, Craig the dentist, and know that you’re just acting weird and douchey. Oh, and ladies, please. PLEASE stop it with the “mysterious” face. 9 times out of 10 your mysterious Instagram face is going to either come across like you’re either really snotty or that you’re in pain. The best way for everyone to not look like an idiot in photos is to not act like one. Take a few minutes to get over yourself, loosen up, and for the love of God, just be you. The true purpose of a business headshot is to look friendly and approachable. Save your arsenal of dating faces for your tinder selfies.

1. Smile!

“No. I don’t smile.” The first time I heard that I didn’t even know what to do. I just kinda stood there as the guy who said it continued to glare into the camera. At least once a month we get someone in front of our lens who thinks they’re too cool for school and flat out refuses to smile. These people always end up with the worst photos. Dudes refuse to smile because they think frowning and looking smug makes them look more manly, and the women who refuse to smile always have some unfounded hatred for their own face, and say things like “I’m not going to smile, I won’t show my teeth. I don’t like my teeth.” or “No, smiling makes my cheeks look big.” or “My face looks squinty and fat when I smile so I’m not going to do it.”

People regularly say those exact things to me. Dudes, you’re not auditioning for the next Die Hard movie. Ladies, whatever nasty, passive-aggressive comments your hater girl squad friends said about you in your past pictures isn’t true. Despite what you think, almost every person on the planet looks better when they’re smiling in a headshot, so just smile during your session when the photographer asks you to. You’ll always have the option to delete them later if you want. That’s the magic of digital photos. When people see your headshots online, they want to see a friendly face. They want to see that you’re relatable, and capable of a casual smile. Everyone smiles in their everyday life, and pretending like you don’t isn’t believable.

That about sums it up. If you follow those 5 easy steps, you’ll have done your part, and you should get an awesome headshot out of your session. If you pull off those 5 things and your headshots still suck, then it was probably your photographer who messed up. Before you choose a photographer, check out their work. Don’t take their word for it that they’re any good; let their portfolio speak for them. If you look at a photographers headshot portfolio and none of the photos in it are any good, it won’t be any different when it comes to you, no matter how much they talk themselves up. Don’t fall for the ol’ “Oh, that’s my old stuff, my new work that you can’t see is so much more amazing. I haven’t updated my portfolio in forever lolz!” trick.

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