How to take a headshot

By Ashley Pace (LinkedIn), Vice Chair, NTEA Generation Next 

This article was originally published in the November 2022 issue of Generation Next Edition.

Do you have a headshot at the ready? In my experience, many people do not have a professional-looking headshot ready to send within a 24 hour notice – which of course is often the window when someone “needs a headshot ASAP.” With a few tips below I’ll explain how you can get an almost professional headshot in a short amount of time.

Most people do not have the time or money to run to a studio and get a headshot taken, but with the few tips below you can get a “close enough” version that just might work.

  1. First, think about your purpose. Are you applying for a job? Running for election to the Gen Next Board of Governors? Need a LinkedIn profile photo? Sending cold-call emails to prospects? Think about who will be seeing the photo and what impression you want to leave.
  2. Second, find your outfit. Depending on your field of work and purpose, you may find a business professional or business casual more appropriate. Your headshot is meant to be a first impression of you, so consider your audience as you choose what to wear. Stick to solid colors if possible and definitely wrinkle free!
  3. Third, find a good-quality camera. Many smartphones these days come with hi-definition cameras, and even “portrait” modes that simulate a professional camera. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend to borrow their phone and then send you the photos afterward.
  4. Fourth, scout a location. Especially when shooting with a smartphone camera, natural light (sunlight) enhances the overall quality. Find a green spot outside with a natural background or a blank wall near a big window that lets in a lot of light.Make sure the background is free of any distractions always check for trashcans, dumpsters, and other common items that our brains look over.
  5. Fifth, set up the shot. Stand out a few feet from any walls/bushes/trees - don’t have your back up against anything. Recall your old school pictures and turn your body slightly to the side and angle your head back toward the camera. Don’t be afraid to take a few test shots to make sure you’ve got the right lighting, background, and position. If you’re taking the photos yourself, try to find a prop or tripod for the camera and utilize the self-timer. As a last resort, try a selfie from as far back as possible at a straight-on angle (not high or low, try to replicate as if someone else is taking your photo).
  6. Sixth, take some pictures. Take several pictures actually! Try a few different angles or backgrounds while you’re at it. If you want a more casual look, try different poses. If you have someone taking the photos for you, have them try different distances. If you have portrait mode or another focus mode on the camera that will blur the background, use it.
  7. Seventh, edit your photo. Take stock of the photos you have and choose the best one that fits your purpose – poll a friend for a second opinion if you need help narrowing it down. Crop the photo to include only your upper body, and make sure to crop out anything in the background that may be distracting. You can brighten the photo or blur the background as well, but don’t over-edit as this is meant to be YOU!
  8. Lastly, take a breath! You now have a usable headshot at the ready.
A side note – if you ever get the opportunity to take a professional headshot, it would be worth the money. Also, look locally as career centers will sometimes hire a photographer specifically for headshots and this can bring the cost down significantly.