Seven Tips to Get a Headshot You Can Use

Last week I asked, “Do you have a professional headshot?” and urged you to take care of this now and not put it off. Here are seven tips to have a successful photo shoot, many of which I learned the hard way:

  1. Hire a professional: A friend with an expensive camera won’t do; a professional photographer with experience taking headshots is essential; ask to see their portfolio before committing.
  2. Envision the results: What look do you want to achieve? Will it be professional or casual, an inside setting or outdoors, playful or pensive?
  3. Plan extensively: This includes hair, wardrobe changes, possible props (a pen, coffee cup, glasses), setting (a desk, table, park bench, trees), and ideas for poses. If you see author photos you like, show these to the photographer and discuss how they apply to you.
  4. Prepare to pay: In my experience, cost tracked directly to quality and usability. Yet we must also balance this expense with our budget. As a starting point, expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars, likely more. Consider the cost of senior pictures; our author headshots are more important.
  5. Trust the photographer: A professional will likely twist and contort our body into the most uncomfortable and awkward positions, but usually the results are good. Be compliant, willing, and flexible; do what they say. Go with it and don’t object; they know what they’re doing. However…
  6. Know when to say no: When a photographer asked me to remove my glasses, I objected. If I’m not sleeping, I’m wearing my glasses. I never take them off, don’t twirl them, or push them onto my head. A shot without glasses may look good to someone who doesn’t know me, but it won’t be me. If I show up at a book signing wearing glasses but my book and publicity shots don’t include them, readers will feel the disconnect.
  7. Relax and smile: It takes a while for a photographer to coax some usable shots out of my non-accommodating self. Knowing that, I mentally prepare to be as easy to photograph as I possibly can. (When they say, “Ooh, these are some really great shots,” I know they’re actually trying to loosen me up.)

With proper planning, having a headshot taken can be an enjoyable time and produce great results. Then we can enjoy the process and expect great photos.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!