Guide to Headshots

Headshots are different from creative portraits in that they are head & shoulders only, often have diffused, more even light, and don’t have busy backrounds.  Many of us have profile pics on our social media that we feel show our true personality & creativity, but these aren’t always appropriate for more career-oriented sites like LinkedIn. A headshot can be creative & show some personality, and still give the appearance of trust & professionalism.  Let’s look at some examples….

Under-lit, too busy, & bad cropping: 

image  image

Overlit & bad cropping:


Too dramatic: (might be applicable for a specific theater role, but either way, you still want a headshot of what you look like on any given day)

image  image

Too much head angle or body gesturing:

image  image

More traditional, good lighting, emphasis on the eyes:

image     image  image  image

More modern, good lighting, bright eyes…


  image image


Interesting images, but more for a bio & not considered a business/professional headshot:

image  image

You get the picture, no pun intended.  Think of your professional headshot as an image your mother would love. 

Tips for the Photographer:

  1. Talk to your subject for 5 minutes before shooting. Most people don’t like having their picture taken, so helping them feel at ease before you click the first frame.
  2. Keep the camera at eye level or slightly above.
  3. Keep the focus on the eyes
  4. Keep the background simple
  5. Use diffused light
  6. Ideal lenses: 85mm prime lens or shorter, unless you have room to back up, then a longer lens will also work & help you distance the subject from the background.
  7. If your subject is in the performing arts, consider a lighting style & background that may slightly influence the overall mood of the photography.

Tips For the Subject:

  1. Collaborate with a fellow photo student
  2. Bring a few different shirts to the session, preferably solids, nothing too busy that will take away from the face
  3. Be prepared to spend at least 30 minutes
  4. Bring references of other photos you’ve seen that you might like.
  5. Ask the photographer to shoot a few different angles, with and without smiles so you have a variety to chose from.

All images are copyrighted by their respective photographers.