By Bernadette Johnston
It wasn’t too long ago that the only people with headshots were models and actors. These days, though, it’s not unusual for a job application to include a request for an applicant’s photo or for a company’s website to include pictures of employees. If you’ve been thinking about getting a professional headshot, there are some decisions you’ll need to make ahead of time, like location, attire and what you want to communicate about your brand. Below, we lay out four considerations to keep in mind when planning a quality professional headshot.
1. Studio vs. Environmental Portraits: Decide what’s best for your brand.
When selecting a location for your headshot, you first need to decide whether you’re interested in a studio headshot or an environmental portrait. To make this decision, it’s important to consider what you want your photos to communicate about you and your brand or business.
Studio portraits are ideal for companies that want to have a clean, fresh look and uniform portraits of their team. Many photographers can bring their studio to a client’s office and photograph several people in one sitting, making this an efficient option. Also, the use of studio lighting and the same background creates consistency and cohesion. Studio headshots are useful for website directories that feature your team and for social media bio pics. Some companies use the images in slideshows and marketing collateral.
Environmental portraits are a great option if you want a more relaxed, personal look to communicate you or your company’s personality and brand. One of the significant benefits of environmental portraits is that you can select a location that effectively tells your story. For instance, is your style best communicated by a natural setting or an urban environment? Everything in the shot, from the style of the architecture to the color of the foliage to the quality of the light, plays a role in creating an image that is authentic to who you are as a professional.
Professionalism and personality are key when it comes to selecting what to wear for your headshot. Make sure your attire communicates that you are polished and professional. When choosing colors, consider the attributes of your personality that you want to convey: Are you bold? Empathetic? Edgy? Calm? Energetic? Quirky? Reliable? Then choose colors that communicate these attributes. And don’t forget to consider the setting of your photograph and how your colors interact with your surroundings.
3. Capture a variety of looks
To make the most of your headshot session, it’s beneficial to capture a variety of looks so that you have options to choose from. If your photographer allows it, bring a couple of different outfit options that are easy to switch (two different ties or shirts/blouses). Wear glasses? Get photos with your glasses on and off as well with your blazer on and off. This gives you the opportunity to use the images for different purposes if you aren’t wearing the same thing in all of them.
It’s important to share with your photographer any ideas you may have or concepts you want to explore before the shoot. Let your photographer know how you want to come across in your photos and don’t hesitate to share examples of images that you like or want to use as inspiration. Also, let your photographer know if you have any features that you don’t want to draw attention to. We are often our own worst critics and what we see as “flaws” are totally subjective, so if you tell your photographer to avoid your profile or that you are self-conscious about your height, they can make adjustments to capture your best features. Make sure to communicate with them before the session because what you tell them may affect what gear they bring. Hopefully these suggestions will help take the guesswork out of how to get the perfect headshot that communicates your personality and best suits you and your brand.
Bernadette Johnston is a professional San Diego-based photographer who is devoted to creating images that portray the intersection of visual aesthetics and storytelling. Bernadette with her husband and fellow photographer, Richard Unis, founded Narrative Images. Together they have photographed events and projects all over the US and internationally and enjoy the challenges that come with the variety of the work they do. She teaches Introduction to Photo Journalism, Documentary Photography, and Family Pictures for UC San Diego Extension.
Photos by Narrative Images
Commercial and Non-Profit: narrativestudios.com
Family Portraiture: narrativefamilyphotos.com
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