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More than Just Pretty Pictures

Get the Most Out of Your Headshot Session: 5 Simple Tips

So you need a headshot. Perhaps you’re starting a new job or sprucing up your resume looking for your dream job, or maybe the image you’re using is 10 years old and you need an update. Whatever the reason, for many, the task of getting business portraits taken can be stressful and overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few simple tips to help you get the most out of a headshot session.

1.) Hire a professional.

This is important. Sure you probably have a friend who’s good with a camera that can snap a quick pic of you for free. Easy peasy, right? Usually not. While these images may be fine for personal social media profiles, they lack the polished finish you will get from a professional and are not a good choice for your first impression in a business setting.

A professional photographer will employ skills in lighting, posing, drawing out appropriate expression, and editing, to create an image that not only has you looking your best, but will also be a solid representation of how you want to present yourself to your clients.

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There are a ton of photographers out there with varying price points and skill level. This is not the time to hire someone who is just getting started or building their portfolio. You want someone with experience. Most seasoned photographers have a niche, 1-3 things they do all the time and do really well. You’re looking for a photographer who has headshots as part of their niche.  

I could write a whole book on how to find the right photographer for you, but for now the important thing to look for is a solid portfolio of headshots that contains both “in studio” and “on location” samples. It should go without saying, but retouching should be included. Please don’t hire a photographer that doesn’t offer retouching as part of their service.

2.) What should I wear?

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Now that you’ve found a professional to work with, you’ve got to decide what you are going to wear. Chances are your photographer has already given some guidance to start with, now you just need to put together a few solid outfits.  A good rule of thumb is to dress the way you would if you were going to be meeting a client for the first time or going to a job interview. This really depends on your industry. While a lawyer would typically wear a business suit, a painter will most likely have a more casual look. Think about how you want to present yourself and start building your outfits from there.  A few things to avoid are big and bold patterns, neon colors, and thin horizontal stripes. These things are fine in regular life, but they do not photograph well. Once you’ve chosen your outfits, be sure they are clean, pressed, and on hangers. No one has ever said, “I want to hire that guy in the wrinkly suit!”

3.) Hair, Nails, and Makeup.

You would think this section only applies to women, but there are some things for men to think about as well.  

Hair: It’s best to have a haircut that is a couple of weeks old. At this point your hair is looking well cared for, but doesn’t have that fresh from the barber or stylist look anymore.  

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Nails: Well groomed nails are rarely noticed in real life, they’re kind of like a side note.  However, in a close up photograph, broken, chipped and chewed nails stand out more than we would like. For both men and women, a quick trip to the nail salon is worth the investment.

Makeup: This is a good time to pamper yourself a bit and get your makeup (and hair, if you like) done professionally. A little pampering isn’t the only reason to get your makeup done by a professional. The truth is, the camera doesn’t see you the same way a mirror does. Ever hear how the camera adds 10 pounds? (This isn’t true by the way, poor posing adds 10 pounds, not a camera lens). Well, the camera takes off about 60% of your makeup. A makeup artist will understand this little phenomena and make the necessary adjustments.

4.) What kind of first impression do I want to make?

This one may seem a little less obvious than wardrobe and makeup, but it’s just as important. Take a little time to think about what you want to say and what kind of impression you want to send out to prospective clients. This message will vary depending on your industry. For instance, a psychologist may want to convey a calm, warm and trustworthy presence, but a CFO may need a more serious and forthright appearance. Break this process down to a mission statement or just a few words you would use to describe what is most important about you and your business. Be sure to tell your photographer what you came up with!

5.) Relax and Have Fun!

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This might seem a little silly, but it’s actually pretty important. If you are in a sour mood or are really uncomfortable, it will show in your body language and facial expression. From a photographer’s standpoint, it is nearly impossible to pose someone out of their feelings. So listen to some fun music, do a little dance, take a quick shot… whatever you need to do to put yourself in a decent mood. I mean, you need to get it done, you’ve already made the investment, you might as well enjoy the experience as much as possible!  

* By the way, if you’ve chosen your photographer well, they will have already covered all of this.

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