How to Nail Your Next Professional Headshot

When Business Coach, Personal Stylist, and Creator of the popular “How to Double Your Instagram Following” webinar, Hilary Rushford complimented me on my IG profile pic for its hard-to-miss pops of color (seen below), I knew I had found my formula.

{This shot was taken outside against a bright wall, which provided the perfect setting and the most appropriate backdrop color for my yellow mustard jacket, given that spring had just begun.} 

As a stylist and an entrepreneur, I want to make a powerful first impression, and it’s essential for my business and my brand that my professional headshot reflects my individual creativity and expertise in the art of styling.  Therefore the traditional approach to professional headshots doesn’t work for me because of the industry I am in. 

I also understand that not everyone is a fashion blogger, and generally, most professional headshots happen inside a studio or a small booth.  So fear not! You too can find your formula.  Here's a list of things you can do to ensure that your new headshots reflect the professional rockstar that you are.

Focus on what has always worked well for you

Your professional headshot is your opportunity to stand out and simply be you. Please do not tone it down.  That being said, it’s also wise not to try something extremely new or trendy.

Yes, it’s essential that you look professional. And yes, you want your LinkedIn profile to look flawless and be an attention-grabber to potential clients/employers, absolutely – two more very good reasons why it’s important to let your personal style radiate.

  • If you’ve always loved how red, or purple, or prints look on you – why the hell not! Do it by pairing your bold piece with a neutral color piece for good balance.
  • If statement necklaces make your heart go boom – yes, yes, yes! (Always keep in mind that balance is your friend; meaning one statement piece at a time will go a long way). 
  • Are you a vintage curator? You have an amazing pair of funky glasses that showcase your authentic personality? Darling, go for it.
  • Or … Are black, white, and grey practically your wardrobe mantra? Opting for a sleek, minimalist outfit works fine too! Perhaps you can add your favorite watch for added elegance and/or apply a soft pop of color on the lips.

Really the key is to focus on details, and not necessarily big items.  Also, remember that your top half will be the main focus because … well, your gorgeous face is what the photographer is looking to capture!

However, just because the camera focus is on your top half doesn’t mean that bottom half will get zero attention.

Your entire look should be cohesive from your hair to your shoes, because 1.) Your bottom piece or some part of it will most likely get captured at some point during close-ups, so you want to make sure it is a piece that complements the overall vibe you’re going for. 2.) Your photographer might have props on hand for full shots.

Let’s imagine for instance that you are wearing a blazer over a tunic blouse, and opted for black leggings and very comfortable pair of flats you like to wear everywhere. During your session, the photographer pulls a high chair for you to sit down (as props often help expand the options for poses and shots), so you sitting on the high chair could add elements of elegance, fierceness, and approachability. Unfortunately the leggings and super, extra comfy shoes you wore do just the opposite and might even appear a little too laid back.

Seriously … You want to love these photos and feel great when you upload them into your social media profiles, and feature them on your About page.  So give it your all and play big!

Selfie yourself up to find your unique angle(s)

Selfies have sort of gotten a bad rep, but if it weren’t for selfies, I wouldn’t have realized that the way my hair was parted would determine the angle to position myself in for a good shot. Although most of my work as a wardrobe stylist happens behind the camera, as a blogger, the lens gets turned back on me many times. And because the goddesses didn’t bless me with Kate Moss’ heavenly symmetrical face, I practiced within the (thankfully) private walls of my home quite a few times … shamelessly.

Here’s my rationale: if I am going to pay for professional photos, it matters to me that I learn my unique angles and beautiful imperfections. That way the latter will get minimum to zero camera attention.  

I can tell you that once you’ve practiced how to position your face, and which direction to move your chin towards, your posture and stand will be more assertive and will emanate an air of confidence. You won’t have to worry about how you look or all the crazy, self-doubt things we constantly tell ourselves about our bodies.

Inquire about the backdrop and color options with the photographer beforehand

This step won’t hurt your PH preparation at all. In fact you will get a better idea knowing exactly what your outfits are up against.  For example, a stark white backdrop can backfire when you show up wearing an off-white top or a pretty little white dress. Blending in is certainly not what we’re going for.

Finding out those details is certainly easier if you’ve secured the service directly with the photographer and the shoot is happening in their studio.  However, if you are going to a conference and there will be a booth for attendees to have their professional headshots taken, you may simply email them and inquire about that.

You never know; your questions might not be something they thought of, and if they want their conference guests to have an amazing experience, they might share that info including a few great tips on “How to nail your professional headshot at (Insert Name) Conference” in a mass email weeks before the big event. 

What to avoid ( because they tend to conceal or downplay rather than enhance the look) :

  • Scarves
  • Hats
  • Jean Jackets/cargo jackets { Better alternative: fitted blazer, cardigan }
  • Turtlenecks
  • Low necklines
  • Oversized sweaters
  • Tank tops
  • Neon and pastel colors can distract or look harsh
  • Clothes that appear wrinkled

And one final thought and this one’s the most important … Remember to relax and have fun! 

Photography credit: Brittanny Taylor