What Makes a Great Headshot?

Okay, we've all seen some really bad headshots, amiright?

That tacky picture on your insurance salesman's business card. The stoic face that stares at you from your shopping cart advertisement, before you hurriedly cover him or her up with groceries. The larger than life monster, grinning at you from the side of the Madison Metro bus. 

Whether we could put it into words or not, we know what makes a bad headshot. A general lack of sincerity or enthusiasm and backdrops that look like they were yanked straight out of the school photos you tried desperately to keep your mom from purchasing during your formative years at West Carrollton Junior High. Lack of personality would also be on this list for me. 

So, now that we can agree on what makes a less-than-inspiring headshot, let's talk about what makes a good one! 

Essentially, if you're in the market for a headshot, it's because you want people to like you. Not only do you want them to like you, but you want them to trust you enough to give you their business. You want people to see a picture of you and feel confident in your ability to do your job awesomely and expertly. 

Beyond hiring a professional you trust to take your headshots, there are a few things you can do that will help make for the best possible photos. 

Wear something you feel comfortable and confident in:
Unless it's a specific look you're going for and something you are used to wearing, headshots are not the time go for high-fashion, uncomfortable clothing. My general recommendations are to choose solid colors (try to avoid solid white), for women - choose a top that has a flattering neckline and try to avoid jewelry that draws all the attention away from your face. Ultimately though, these are merely suggestions, and you should go with what feels best for you! This client, a real estate agent, chose a stunning but comfortable dress in a neutral color, and simple but classic jewelry. 

Hair and makeup - Why the "Go big or go home" mentality isn't necessary:
If you are using a headshot as a way of 'introducing' yourself to a potential client, you obviously want to present the best possible version of yourself. That being said, you still want to be presenting, well, yourself, and not a made-up person who doesn't actually exist. This is probably not the time to try a brand new hairstyle or that super sweet blue eyeshadow you were saving for a night out with the girls (unless you've already tried it at least once and feel great about it!) Stick with something that makes you feel like a very confident version of yourself, and you will be happy with the results. This client, Co-Director at GLS, exudes confidence while looking exactly like her amazing self. 

Location, location, location: 
So that old adage about real estate also applies to headshots. There isn't anything wrong with headshots done in front of a backdrop. On the contrary, sometimes the end use of the headshot might require it. However, if you have the choice, I highly recommend selecting a location that resonates with you personally. This client, an attorney, chose a law library as a very fitting location for his portraits. 

What feeling are you going for? 
The right type of headshot for you personally will depend on a lot of factors, and also what message you are trying to convey to people who will end up seeing these portraits. Some people use them for business cards, others for ads, and still others for author bios. What part of yourself are you wanting to shine through? This client, an author, wanted a portrait that was more introspective in nature. 

In the end, I hope you take away that headshots can be as fun and creative as you make them! If you have headshot needs you want to discuss, please send an email to contact@robandsamphoto.com and I'm happy to hook you up with a quote or we can brainstorm ideas together! 

All my photographic love,

Sam