Tips for a Successful Corporate Headshot Session

Headshots are your presentation card. Whether on your website, LinkedIn profile, or marketing brochure, this might be the first time that a prospective client or business associate sees what you look like. And you want that to be a positive first impression. You want your personality to show through, look professional, and represent whatever it is that you do in the best way possible. Headshots can be formal, fun, corporate, casual, you name it. Whatever the case, make sure you choose a professional photographer who knows how to make you look your best with lighting and posing.

Most people assume that headshots are for actors or actresses to help casting directors choose if they’re the right fit for a role, but that isn’t the case at all. Headshots are a powerful way to market yourself. You could be a business person, model, lawyer, or perhaps you just want a good, clean Facebook profile image of yourself. In this article, you’ll learn how you should prepare for a headshot session with a professional photographer.

1. Choose the right outfit 

Clothing is a form of expression. Because of that, the clothes that you pick to wear will reflect your personality in the final photographs. A good piece of advice when choosing clothes for a headshot is “simplicity is best.” Here are some other tips!

  • Solid colors look great in headshots.
  • If going with a pattern, keep it simple.
  • Start with a simple shirt or blouse and slowly add layers.
  • Bring a few changes of clothes to the shoot.
  • Make sure that ALL clothes are ironed and pressed before the shoot. Wrinkles in clothes are difficult to Photoshop out. 
  • Bring a lint brush or roller with you to the photo session.
  • Don’t worry about shoes if you’re just getting a headshot. Be comfortable; if that means no shoes, go for it!

2.  Style your hair for your headshots

When preparing for a headshot, your hairstyle can play a significant role in how the final image looks. Selecting a style that not only suits your hair type but also aligns with the intended use of your headshot is crucial. Here are some tips to consider: 

•    Bring Essential Hair Tools: Always have a brush and some hair product (gel/hairspray) on hand during the shoot. These can help manage flyaways and maintain your desired style throughout the session.
•    Versatility for Long Hair: If you have long hair, start with it down. As the session progresses, you can tie it up in a ponytail for a more casual look. Allowing some hair to fall naturally along the sides of your face can frame your features nicely.
•    Consider Professional Help: If it's within your budget, think about hiring a hairstylist for the morning of the shoot. They can provide expertise and ensure your hair looks its best in the photos.
•    Plan Haircuts or Major Changes: If you're thinking about a haircut or a significant change in style, aim to do this a few days before your shoot. This allows your hair to settle and look more natural.
•    Prep on the Day of the Shoot: Dedicate a little extra time in the morning before your session. Ensure your hair is clean, styled, and looking its best.
3. Prepare your makeup and your face
For many, a headshot session can be a bit daunting, especially when considering how to present oneself. Makeup and facial appearance play crucial roles in the final outcome of the photos. Here's a guide to help you achieve the best look for your shoot:

•    Opt for a Natural Makeup Look: Begin with a light application, just enough to cover blemishes. As the session progresses, you can intensify your makeup with eyeshadow or darker lipstick.

•    Moisturize and Avoid Matte Makeup: While matte makeup might be trendy, it can dry out your skin. Keep your makeup and moisturizer handy during the shoot for touchups and in case your skin feels dry.

•    Lip Care: To ensure your lips look soft and supple, bring along some lip balm or lip gloss. The evening before the shoot, gently brush your lips with a toothbrush to exfoliate and remove dead skin.

•    Avoid Extreme Beauty Procedures: It's best not to undergo facial peels, extensive exfoliating, or tanning right before the shoot. Such procedures might leave your skin looking irritated.

•    Hair Removal: Clean up any unwanted hair, such as brows or upper lip, a few days in advance of the shoot.

•    For Men: A fresh shave is advisable right before heading out for the shoot. A 5 o'clock shadow is challenging to correct post-shoot. Apply cooling gel or aftershave to minimize skin irritation.

•    Manage Oil and Sweat: Due to hot studio lights, you may experience excess oil or sweat. Bring oil-absorbing sheets to combat this issue. A recommended brand is Clean and Clear: Oil Absorbing Sheets, available at most Walmarts or local drug stores.

•    Eyewear and Contacts: If you typically wear colored contacts, opt for clear ones for the shoot as colored variants can sometimes appear artificial in photos. Always keep eyedrops at the ready. For those who wear glasses, if they're part of your usual look, do wear them. If they're primarily for tasks like reading or computer work, consider leaving them out. Before the shoot, ensure your glasses are clean, and during the shoot, position them correctly to avoid obscuring your eyes.

•    Professional Touch: If it fits within your budget, consider hiring a makeup artist for your session. They can help apply and maintain your makeup look throughout the shoot.

4. Practice for your headshot

Getting ready for a headshot session involves more than just selecting outfits and grooming. It also requires familiarizing yourself with your best angles and expressions. Here are some practical steps to help you prepare:
•    Involve Friends or Family: One of the best ways to become comfortable in front of the camera is to practice. Ask friends or family members to take candid shots of you. This practice will help you acclimate to the sensation of being photographed and make you more comfortable viewing your face in pictures, offering a perspective of how others might see you.

•    Discover Your Best Side: Spend some time in front of a mirror to determine which side of your face you favor the most. It's commonly believed that everyone has a "better side" – it's all about finding yours. However, keep in mind that while a mirror will reverse your image, the camera won't. Therefore, the final photos might appear slightly different from what you observed in the mirror.

•    Experiment with Expressions: Practice varying your facial expressions while looking in the mirror. Determine whether you prefer a more stoic appearance or a cheerful one. Practicing different smiles will also be helpful, as it will give you a range of options for the shoot. Remember, a skilled photographer will capture a variety of expressions to give you ample choices.

5. Get good sleep & relax

A good night's sleep is important for feeling fresh and relaxed! Aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep the night before your session. This will not only help reduce the appearance of tired eyes or dark circles but also improve your overall mood and energy, which will shine through in the photos.

In addition to sleep, staying hydrated is vital. Drinking ample water the day before and the day of the shoot will help keep your skin looking vibrant and prevent dehydration, which can make you feel tired or stressed.

Lastly, take a moment to set boundaries in your schedule. Block out your calendar, ensuring you have ample time before and after the shoot. If you've had a particularly stressful meeting or a busy day, take a few minutes to relax and decompress before starting your session. Taking deep breaths, practicing brief meditation, or simply closing your eyes and visualizing a calming scene can work wonders. A relaxed demeanor can significantly influence the outcome and give you genuine results.

6. Headshot photo shoot tips

While the technical aspects are largely handled by the photographer, there are several things you, as the subject, can do to ensure the session runs smoothly and produces the best possible results. Here are some valuable tips to consider:
•    Set the Mood with Music: If your session is in a studio, consider asking the photographer to play some background music. This can help alleviate any initial tension or nervousness. Giving the photographer an idea of your music preferences beforehand is also a great idea!

•    Trust the Photographer's Expertise: Follow their directions, even if they seem odd or unusual. They understand the intricacies of capturing the best angles and expressions for headshots. While certain poses might feel unnatural or amusing, they often translate beautifully in photographs.

•    Keep It Light and Fun: Remember, headshot sessions aren't meant to be stressful. They can be enjoyable experiences, so let your guard down and embrace the moment.

•    Smile Naturally: Forced smiles can come off as insincere in photos and can be physically straining. For a genuine smile, leave a slight gap between your teeth, just enough to fit the tip of your pinky. This technique ensures your smile appears genuine and relaxed.

•    The Power of the Squint: A slight squint in your eyes can make a world of difference in photos. It adds depth, confidence, and avoids the "deer in the headlights" appearance.

•    Take Periodic Breaks: It's okay to pause every now and then during the session. Step away, hydrate, and take a moment to relax. This can help refresh you and ensure consistency in energy and mood throughout the shoot.

7. Work with your photographer to touch up photos

Not only do photographers have different shooting styles, but they have editing styles, as well. Let them know how you want your photos to be edited.
•    Do you want any imperfections Photoshopped out? Some people like everything to be cleaned up in their headshots (freckles, moles, scars etc.). On the other hand, actors and actresses need to be mindful that casting directors want to see any imperfections or distinguishing marks you may have. This shouldn’t be confused with blemishes or acne. This is something that should be discussed with your photographer. If they don’t bring it up, then you should! Don’t feel awkward asking or being asked about this. If they’re truly a professional, they’ll expect this conversation.

•    Many people ask if certain parts of their image can be Photoshopped. For example, “I have a double chin. Can you get rid of that?” or “Can you make my eyes bigger?” Well, the answer depends. Sometimes the photographer can, and sometimes they can’t. Every image is different and Photoshop, although powerful, can be a beast when editing. A true professional photographer will try their best to make you look amazing.
•    If you don’t want any editing done to your image, let the photographer know beforehand.

•    If you want major editing done, keep in mind that it may cost extra.

•    Photographers often spend more time editing than shooting. If you want major editing to be done, expect that it may take a little longer for you to receive your finished photos.

8. Choose a great headshot photographer

Each photographer has their own individual style when it comes to shooting, editing, and other elements of photography. They also have their own ‘camera-side manner’ (what they’re like at photoshoots). Perhaps one photographer is very laid back with their clients and likes to keep a casualness to their shoots, while others are more stoic and like to keep a more business-like setting to their sessions. Does either style make one less professional? Absolutely not. It’s all a matter of preference.
Photographers also come with different levels of expertise. This should not be confused with how long a photographer has been shooting. For example, some photographers that have only been shooting for a few short months have some amazing work under their belt. On the other hand, some photographers have been shooting for 20+ years and their work might still be lacking. Don’t be fooled by the length of time they have been shooting. Judge by the quality of their work.
So, how do you judge the quality of a professional photographer’s work? Simple: look at their portfolio. Today, any photographer worth their salt has some type of online portfolio that you can view at your leisure.
If you're on the lookout for a professional headshot photographer, our "Photographer Finder" tool is just the resource you need. Each photographer listed is a proud member of PPA, dedicated to upholding the highest standard of professional photography. Dive into their portfolios, explore their craftsmanship, and conveniently access their contact information all in one place. Find your ideal photographer today!


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