12 Ways to Take a Great Headshot


Everyone needs a great headshot.

Why? Social media profiles. Executive biographies. Email signatures. Conference badge photos.

Having a great headshot helps build your personal brand.

But sometimes being photographed is the last thing we want to do. Here are 12 ways to get a great shot and have fun in the process.

Just do it. Get a new photo taken every few years. I waited 5 years since my last headshot, which was way too long.

My colleague Roger Hyde‘s team had created such a perfect environment years ago, complete with a wind machine, that I was hesitant to do it again.

But thanks to the gentle coaxing of photographer Jessica Sterling, my husband Kevin and I finally took new headshots.

Decide what message you want to convey. What do you want your headshot to say about you? It should amplify your personal brand – what you want to be known for.

I wanted a new photo I could use in a corporate environment. It also needed to work in other contexts in my professional and personal lives.

Pick a great photographer. Ask your colleagues and friends for recommendations. Or use social media to find someone local.

On a tight budget? Find someone who’s starting out or team up with friends who need headshots.

If you’re planning a professional event, bring in a photographer for attendees to get their pics done.

The global youth media company Fullscreen did this at a recent women’s leadership event – brilliant idea!

In my case, I had the good fortune of knowing Jessica Sterling from work, and I was familiar with her visual capability with people and organizations. I personally retained her services, and so it began.

Check out other headshots for inspiration. Look at headshots of people you admire. Check out leaders and standouts in your field. Find images that express what you want to convey. Think about how you’ll express what makes you unique. Share samples and discuss ideas with your photographer.

Personalities shine through in the speaker headshots for the upcoming TEDWomen 2016 conference. I can’t wait to attend this in October and hear from these fascinating women and men.

Have your makeup and hair done. Bring in the professionals!

Whether it’s your own go-to hair and makeup glam squad, or a stop at the Dry Bar for a blowout and Sephora for a makeover, have your hair and makeup done.

Thank you, Emma Willis and Countour Fosse!

Wear solid colors. Solids photograph well and are bolder. Bright colors pop and attract more attention. Too much white can wash you out.

Bring several wardrobe options to your shoot and play around with the pieces. Have different jewelry options.

Blue is my employer’s brand color, so I chose a jewel-toned blue jacket (this is where I mention that opinions are my own). But I also love red, so I brought my favorite Nina McLemore jacket.

Try to smize. While searching for tips on taking a great headshot, supermodel and entrepreneur Tyra Banks rose to the top. Here I learned how to smize. This is all about smiling with your eyes to take a great shot.

Relax and have fun. Cue up your favorite music. Bring a friend who makes you laugh and brings out the best in you. Let your playful side emerge and enjoy all the attention. After all, how often do you get to be center stage for the better part of a day in real life?

Take “behind the scenes” pics. Among the four of us in the studio, we each got some pictures as the shoot was unfolding. These were fun to post on Instagram that day.

Choose the best image to be your personal brand. Look through all the shots on a few different occasions. Mark your favorites. Ask friends for feedback. Think about the brand you want to express. Does your selection capture that essence?

Use your headshot consistently in EVERYTHING. I used to use one photo in “professional” social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and a more casual one in more “personal” social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram). I tried to keep the two worlds separate, but the lines continue to blur.

So this time I took Guy Kawasaki‘s advice in The Art of Social Media. I picked one picture to use in everything.

Just as a business brand uses the same logo consistently, your headshot is YOUR brand. You should use the same photo consistently in your social world.

When I made a list of where I’d use my new headshot, it kept growing. Executive bio. Social media profiles. My gmail signature (another nod to Guy Kawasaki for recommending Wise Stamp). College alumni profiles. Google. Yelp. AirBNB. On so on.

My headshot is on my camera roll so I can upload it into event apps and anywhere I might need it.

Take advantage of events that offer headshots. Be camera ready to take a new pic at a variety of events that offer photography.

And don’t forget to smize!

Published by

Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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