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Professional headshots: Do’s and Don’ts

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“While going over a large pile of job applications, a human resources director arrives at your resumé and…”

Headshots or no?
professional headshots of a businessman wearing a suit and tie

It's something we've all worried about at one time or another. That fear of getting passed over, the worry of getting their attention, the frustration of the competition. So many "what-if's" overwhelm us that we've already convinced we won't get the interview.

Based on Google Trends, since January 2008 the number of people looking for professional headshots has increased by 80%. That's a huge increase, which indicates that more and more people are putting their best "face" forward. People are seeing the benefits of having professional headshots for everything from job applications, business cards, LinkedIn profiles, and more.

...since January 2008 the number of people looking for professional headshots has increased by 80%.

Here are some major problems to watch out for with using regular photos:

  1. Outdated photos: You may like a photo of yourself from your cousin's wedding back in 2010. But chances are, you're appearance has changed. It's time to keep your appearance current if you want your potential boss to recognize you.
  2. Group photos: These can be a nightmare, especially when you try to crop out others from the image. Chances are someone had their arm on your shoulder, or around your waist. Furthermore, attempting to remove that person from the shot is more difficult to pull off, not to mention the guilt you'll feel!
  3. Bad lighting: Unless your friend was a professional photographer, there's a huge possibility the lighting in the photo was bad. Backlit shots create lens flare, distracting the viewer from seeing your face in the image. Shadows and hi-contrast lighting will also make it difficult to see your gorgeous face.
  4. Casual outfits: Dressing professional is something all professional headshots have in common. Shorts, shirts with distracting patterns, and wrinkled clothing is a quick way to have a hiring professional skip right over your job application. The same goes with LinkedIn profile photos. No one wants to work with someone who doesn't appear to dress appropriately for the job.
  5. Bad posing: No one is born knowing how to pose properly for the camera. That's why working with a professional photographer ensures your body language sends the right message. Slouching can add to your waistline and no one wants an accidental double chin.
  6. Wrong background: A distracting background puts more attention on what's going on behind you, rather than putting attention on yourself. Random objects such as a trashcan, fire hydrant, or a flame-spewing dragon (just kidding!) pulls the eye away from you, the subject, and goes straight to the object behind you.

Today, the job market is more competitive than ever.

professional headshots of a businesswoman in a suit


Now that we've got your attention, here's what to consider when looking up professional headshots:

  1. Make eye contact: As the old saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul. In other words, making eye contact with the camera is a great way to connect with the people looking at your headshot. It's the best way to show confidence and trust to a potential employer.
  2. Dress professionally: Professional headshots wouldn't be called "professional" if you don't dress the part. A suit and tie is always a classic for guys. Depending on the work environment, wearing a tie may be optional as well. For women, a conservative dress or blouse and pants display that sense of getting the job done. Also for the ladies, wear natural looking makeup. Style your hair the way you normally would. Avoid overdoing it, so you don't look different from your headshot.
  3. Natural smile: Nothing can scare off employers more than a frozen or scary smile. We've all done it, looking like we're about to get run over by a truck. Chuckling or giggling during your headshot session can capture a natural and approachable expression.
  4. Good lighting: Having good lighting for a headshot makes all the difference. It creates dimension, the perfect amount of contrast, and adds the right amount of soft light needed for a great looking image.
  5. Great posing: When it comes to the right posing, it's all about body language. Trying to send the right message is very important. Keeping your shoulders back, standing tall, a turn of the head, along with a natural smile are all ways to pull off the right body language. For guys, putting your hands in your pockets helps avoid the "what do I do with my hands?" dilemma, and creates a professional yet comfortable look. For women, a slight twist in the waist and keeping your arms away from your waistline avoids adding unwanted inches to your figure. Having the right posing creates a foundation for your entire headshot. It builds confidence, communicates professionalism, and makes you feel better about yourself.


professional headshots male casual shirt smilieToday, the job market is more competitive than ever. Making a good first impression is essential to getting noticed. Using these tips and tricks. look at some of your old photos versus other peoples profile photos on LinkedIn. You'll see the difference when it comes to having professional headshots.

What are your thoughts? Have you had taken professional headshots before? Good or bad, what's the difference you see in your photos? Let us know in the comments below!



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