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The Dos and Don’ts for Getting Professional Headshots

So long, headshots that look like they fell out of our high school yearbooks—and hello, professional photos that are LinkedIn- and Instagram-friendly! If this is your first time getting these images taken, you might wonder what to wear, how to do your hair, and what should be in the background. Luckily, Ed’s got you covered—he got photography pros to reveal their secrets for snapping headshots that look polished and effortless.

DON’T… Get a headshot that looks like everyone else’s.
Molly McCauley, owner and photographer at Molly + Co, believes that social media influencers have changed the game when it comes to what can be used as a headshot. That’s why she recommends taking a few different snaps. These targeted and intentional images can be used for different aspects of your brand, such as a more serious photo for LinkedIn versus a stylized lifestyle portrait for Instagram.


DO… Follow your normal hair and makeup routine.
This is not the time to try out mermaid hair or full goth vamp makeup. “The purpose of a headshot is to let people know what you look like and to get a sense of who you are,” says Marie Papp, professional photographer at Marie Papp Photography. She recommends that you wear your hair and makeup as you normally would for work. And keep in mind that your headshot should be a collaboration between you and photographer, so be sure to explain your vision of what you want to communicate to the viewer.

DO… Shoot from several angles and poses.
Jennifer Lavelle, lifestyle photographer at Jennifer Lavelle Photography, says that 50% of the time, clients know which side is their best side for the most flattering photos. The other 50% of the time? They have no idea—and that’s totally fine too. Either way, ask your photographer to shoot from several angles and mix up the poses. For starters, Lavelle recommends shots with the subject sitting on a bench or chair. “They tend to be a bit more relaxed and then I can get some great shots of them,” she says.


DON’T… Dress uncomfortably.
Forget about wearing painful stilettos or a dress that’s chic but too small to your photoshoot. It’ll only make you look stiff and uncomfortable in the images. Dress comfortably and professionally and bring along a few wardrobe options to try on—like colorful flats in addition to being shot in heels—to give your photos some variety.


DO… Consider going outside.
Ultimately, the decision to shoot in a studio or outdoors depends on your preference and time of the year. But if the weather is nice, you should be able to find a wide variety of fun backdrops for your photos. They don’t all need to be cityscapes—Lavelle recommends finding brick walls for an urban feel or some greenery for an added pop of color.

McCauley adds that the background should make sense to you, but don’t be afraid to seek out unique settings. “I recently photographed a lifestyle client against a white brick wall in the entrance of a parking structure. We did this because we wanted a white background, but it also gave us lovely, even lighting that was flattering on virtually every skin tone. Backgrounds can literally be anything!”

Just remember: When you’re outside, you’ll need to be close attention to your hair. “When I photograph women with long hair, I am constantly checking how their hair is falling and repositioning it,” Papp says. “If the client wants a precise look with their hair, it’s harder to control outside when the wind blows.”

Image credit: Molly McCauley

Heather Taylor is the Senior Editor of PopIcon, a blog about brand mascots powered by Advertising Week. Her bylines have been published on Business Insider, HelloGiggles, Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Find her on Twitter @howveryheather.

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