12 Ways to Fake a Professional Headshot

If you are looking for a job, having a professional headshot on your social media sites will go a long way in making a positive first impression. While you may not have the dough to shell out on a professional headshot, you may have a friend who is a photographer and is willing to trade taking your photo for personal favors.

We interviewed professional photographer Kate Peterson (who actually took my headshot) and here’s how to fake a professional headshot. Grab a friend and your digital camera and let’s get started!

  1. Wear professional clothes. Opt for classic, timeless designs in your clothing and jewelry. In five years if you haven’t taken a new headshot, you don’t want to look dated. Dress for your industry — if you work in PR, that may mean you can bemore creative, whereas accounting will mean to go more conservative, like the photo below.
  2. Photo: Sophia Field Photography

    What not to wear. Avoid white which can reflect light, and if you’re shooting against a light background, can make you look like a floating head. Avoid bright colors which can detract from you. If your shirt has a logo on it, swap it out for one that doesn’t. Also, avoid patterns and opt for solid colors instead. The emphasis should be on you, not the loud Pucci print you’re wearing.

  3. Grooming matters. Men and women alike can benefit from a light dusting powder on their face to avoid shine. Guys, if make-up isn’t your thing, use a tissue to blog any excess oil on your face. Ladies, don’t overdo the make-up! Save the red eye shadow for another day.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep. The night before taking your headshot, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. If you were up till 3am cramming for a midterm, it will be written all over your face.
  5. Bring a mirror. In order to make sure there is no remnants of the salad you had for lunch in your teeth, bring a mirror. Before you take the photo, double check for smudged lipstick, flyaway hair, a shiny forehead, etc.
  6. Shoot in the shade. If you’re facing into the sun, the result will be a photo with you squinting — not flattering. Shootin the shade so you can relax your facial muscles and produce a better headshot. For best results, make sure you have even lighting.
  7. Choose a clean background. Instead of a cluttered background with lots of detail, a simple background will make sure you’re the focus of the photo.
  8. Turn at an angle. Mugshots shoot straight on, so make sure you turn at an angle, then look directly into the camera. Your headshot will look more natural this way.
  9. Stand up straight. The camera adds 10 pounds. Good posture makes you 10 pounds less. You do the math.
  10. Smile and look into the camera. Eye contact, accompanied by a warm smile, will help build rapport and make you seem trustworthy. Practice your smile in the mirror the day before.
  11. Take several photos. You’ll have several options to choose from, even after discarding the ones of you mid-blink.
  12. Crop tight. The standard headshot will include your head, neck, and shoulders. Zoom in and crop everything else out. On LinkedIn and Twitter where the profile pictures are small, a tight crop will be in your favor. Here is an example of a tighter crop.

For more reading on what not to do, check out Stacy Zapar’s blog about LinkedIn photos gone wrong.

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About Sarah Ward

Sarah is a social media manager and image consultant originally from Vancouver, Canada. After executing her first makeover in the seventh grade, she has been helping people look and feel their best ever since. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga, shopping on Etsy, and watching Grey's Anatomy.

View all posts by Sarah Ward →

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