Having a headshot is an important part of branding yourself. In the digital age it is important that your professional online profiles are kept up to date, reflect you well and appear considered. When a company can see that you are passionate to present yourself in this way, it bodes well for you! Lots of application processes also require a headshot to be sent. There is nothing worse than finding this out and having to whip out your phone to take a speedy snap. This photograph will be the first impression that the employer will have of you – and first impressions matter! Not to mention freelance workers who also rely heavily on the digital marketing of themselves alongside their digital portfolios to receive work. In these unprecedented times many people have sadly lost their job. In response to that we want to share some helpful tips to help you take the best photo to represent yourself, all from the comfort of your own home. The Big Six!
1) Backdrop A great place to start when finding a background for your professional headshot is with a plain neutral wall. A simple backdrop will never distract the eye and will be the easiest background to showcase yourself against. If you don’t have any lights to play around with stick to lighter colours. A solid neutral background colour will work well for any business casual shots. When you use a neutral background colour it gives you the option to wear anything from smart casual to more brightly coloured clothes. You will have an idea of what is most appropriate for you. If you want to wear business casual like clothing, but also want your image to pop, a bright block coloured wall can work well for adding some creative flair to your headshot. The background can be a really fun feature and you can use your surroundings to your advantage. For instance, textured walls like brick can work really well to provide a little more detail in your shot, as can blurred city centres and so forth. Your home work space can be a great place to capture your headshot, this situates you in your own working environment that will also reflect your personality.
Ultimately, the backdrop really is up to you, but if you really don’t know what is appropriate, you can’t go wrong with a neutral wall!
2) Lighting The most important thing about the lighting on a professional style headshot is that it is even across the whole image. Not only are harsh shadows unflattering, they do not look very professional. You want to be lit in a way that shows off your whole face! Another way to prevent shadows over your face is to avoid pointing the lights directly at your face, instead, try positioning the light slightly above your head. If you are shooting inside two lights will usually work best. If you are utilising your lamps at home make sure they do not have two different kinds of bulb. If you only have access to one lamp try positioning it centrally rather than on one side, this will give you the best chance at it evenly covering your entire face. Don’t worry if you don’t have any lights to play around with, simply utilise natural lighting and bright white rooms. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid of stepping outside! To reiterate, lighting does not have to be this hugely technical thing and in these scenarios trust what your eyes are telling you. The most important thing is to try and be somewhere that has enough even light to cover your whole face, whether it is provided by the sun or a bedside table lamp.
3) Pose The best place to look is slightly above the camera. When you stare directly at the camera it can often feel a little too intense. If you direct your gaze just slightly above the camera you will still keep the viewers focus, but in a less confrontational way. A great tip is to open and close your eyes right before the picture is taken, this really draws focus to the eyes and helps them not to look distant. If you are shooting alone it is a good idea to utilise burst mode. This is a feature that captures multiple images very close together. When you are shooting alone you don’t have control over the exact moment the shutter is pressed. Burst mode helps you to avoid ending up with a bunch of pictures where you are blinking or caught off-guard. Most importantly don’t be afraid to experiment. Try some different expressions to get your personality across, being creative in this way will also help you consider if you think a smile or a neutral expression is more appropriate. Tilt the head, then try one square on and see if you can get an eye for what works for you!
A standard headshot will usually be framed from the chest upwards. This helps frame your face in a way that does not feel awkward or forced. You can try ones a little closer together but generally aim for at least the head and shoulders to be in shot. Realistically, a tripod is quite important to taking a professional headshot because the angle and height of the camera will impact the quality of your headshot. Another reason for a tripod is that it will offer stability to your device and focus is very important in headshots. If you don’t have a tripod to hand, there are a bunch of creative ways to deal with it. If you live with someone ask for their help, and just let them know what to do. If you don’t have anybody to ask for help then utilise the self-timer setting and prop your phone or camera up on a stack of books or lean it against some furniture, this will offer the height and stability of a tripod!
One last thing to note about the framing is that a lot of beginners think that your face must be central in the frame. It usually looks a lot more natural if your body is slightly angled with your head turned towards the camera. Once again, get creative with how you frame and position yourself.
5) Editing If you did not manage to capture the perfectly framed or lighted shot then do not worry, there is a tonne of free and easy to use editing software that can bring out your photograph’s potential. If you are shooting on a smart phone it will have built in features within the gallery app where you can do things like play with contrast, filters and add auto-enhancements. Be careful not to do too much so that your photo looks unnatural. You can also get the Adobe Photoshop Express app for free which is great for things like image resizing and cropping. Another great app that you can download for free is Adobe Light Room. This is a really easy to use app that makes photo editing super simple. 6) Intention The last tip is intention. Know what your photo is for and think about the contexts it will exist in. If it’s going to be presented very small on a resume think about ways to make it stand out above the rest. This could be something as simple as having a pop of colour in your background. If you know your image is going to be presented quite large be mindful about the quality of it and that it is sized for purpose. You should also think about framing in relation to context. For example, sometimes an online profile requires a circle crop. Be aware of this when you’re capturing your image and leave enough space to not chop of your hair. Extra Top Tips! - If you are a makeup wearer and shooting with flash be aware that foundations and creams with high amounts of SPF in can cause flashback. This can create a sort of white-ish glow that won’t show up in person but can ultimately ruin every shot. - Turn on a funny video or have a friend make you laugh to prompt an authentic smile – fake smiles can look awkward. - Pop your chin up a small amount to elongate the neck. - If you are using a phone use your back facing lens – these are usually higher spec than your selfie cam and so will produce a better quality image. We hope that you can use our tips to represent yourself in the best possible light and put you in a better position to land your dream career.
"The best thing about a photograph is that it never changes, even when the people in it do."
- Andy Warhol