Professional photos are a great asset for anyone. Organisations and businesses can feature them on their website to introduce their staff to a wider audience, and for public speakers or authors. They are a way to engage with your audience in a more personal way, allowing them to meet you and your staff virtually. Often, personal elements are the difference it takes for customers to choose you over your competitors, and headshots certainly add to the personality of your brand.
However professional headshots can be daunting to have taken! Many people are quite nervous or hesitant to have photos, and having a professional photo taken for their job isn’t any different- even if it is necessary. We’ve been capturing images of people for over half our lives, and we’ve learnt how to help others feel at ease and relax when they’re having their photo taken. If you’re feeling a little nervous about getting in front of the camera, here are some of the tips we provide our clients with to help them relax and take a great photo.
1- Define the Purpose
Define the purpose of your head shot by considering the following questions:
Where will the photo be featured and seen?
– Is it for the business website?
– Is it for a professional event, such as a speaking engagement or presenting research?
Think about the kind of website or event, and its overall feel.
– Is it casual or is it professional?
– Is it fun or more serious?
Finally, consider what you do, and who your audience is. Different industries and different demographics have different values, which they will project when viewing your website, branding, and headshots. It’s important to consider what you want to communicate to your audience, and how they will process the information you present them with. One example of this is when we met with a business advisor who was older than us, and had worked extensively in the government sector. She advised us that wearing blazers would help us look professional to clients- however, as millenials in a creative industry, we have never seen any other photographers or videographers wear blazers- even at weddings! It isn’t a standard within our industry, or with most of the clients we work with. Establishing the message you want to give and how it can be received will guide you as you prepare for having your headshot taken- including how to pose, what to wear, and the location of your headshot.
Often when taking professional or family photos we hear the exclamation, “I don’t know what to do with my hands!” Posing for photos can feel overwhelming in the moment, and we may feel silly or uncoordinated as we try to figure out which way to look, where to stand and where our hands should go. It may feel silly, but we suggest practicing posing in front of a mirror so you can become familiar with what your body looks like as you move, and will help you feel more comfortable trying poses. Another suggestion is to make a board on Pinterest with poses you like or would like to try out, and you can share it with your photographer so they can plan for these. We’ve put together a Pinterst board here that we share with clients which you can check out for some ideas.
We will always guide our clients and make suggestions as to where to stand, how to look at the camera and what to do with their hands. Some basic tips are to stand away from the camera and angle your torso and head towards the camera; cross your arms or place your hands in your pockets; tilt your head slightly to either side or up; and stand up straight but relax your shoulders. Another idea is to have some jokes ready. Even if they’re corny, jokes help you relax and feel more comfortable, and this comes through in your photos. Natural laughter always brings out natural smiles- and forced smiles are very obvious in photos!
3- Clothing- Colours and Designs
For headshots it’s best to wear clothing with minimal designs or embellishments as these can look distracting. Block colours always look good in photos. Pick colours which suit your skin tone and don’t wash you out. Popular designs and embellishments can also date your headshot, and in turn your website. When deciding what to wear for your headshot choose clothing that reflects the feel of your organisation, as well as who you are. If you are having staff shots taken, ensure that everyone is coordinated with each other if you are all wearing uniform- it can look a little odd if there is one person not wearing a uniform!
4- Hair and Make-up
Even if you want to look natural and make-up free in your photo, we recommend taking some time to groom yourself before your photo- the camera picks up everything! You don’t have to organise a make-up artist (although it’s always nice to look polished in your shoot), but it’s important to ensure you look professional. Consider how you would dress for a day at work, or a meeting with a client. However if you wake up with a pimple it’s not the end of the world- it often happens and we will often do light touch ups on photos.
Finally it’s important to consider what kind of background or location you would like for a headshot. While headshots are predominately taken in front of a plain background, this is not a standard and you shouldn’t be limited to it! Picking a location can show your audience more about your organisation or about yourself. Consider having your photo taken in front of something associated with or a part of your organisation (like at a desk or in a workshop) or in a location you enjoy (like a park or the beach). For outdoor shoots, set aside time in the early morning or late afternoon as the harsh midday sun can cast shadows. If you are having your headshots taken at your workplace, try to organise an area that has the most amount of natural light. While we are able to take our own lighting to locations, working with natural lighting is always great.
While there are a lot of aspects to consider, at the end of the day the most important thing to do when having your headshot taken is to relax. When you are relaxed and comfortable, who you are comes through the lens and provides a great tool for connecting with your audience.