Many of us are still reeling from the recession. But I have been encouraged as of late by some real signs of recovery. One sign is that I have been contacted by many people who are starting a new business or expanding their current business, and are in need of updated headshots. This is great news! So I thought I would write about how to get a great headshot.
Why do you need a headshot?
No matter the size of your business, when people visit your web site they generally peruse the home page first and then click on the “about us” page. They want to see who are the people behind the business. Humans have a need to connect with other humans. When they are choosing between you and your competitors this first impression of you may be one of the unconscious factors that causes them to choose your business. So think about what kind of image you want to project. If you are a therapist you may want to project a caring, supportive image. Or a lawyer may want to project a confident, trustworthy image. If you have done specific work on what your brand stands for make sure that your headshot reinforces that brand. For instance, if you have decided that your logo features the color red, wear a splash of red in your headshot. You want to create a clear, consistent picture of who you are and what your company does.
Five Tips to get a Great Headshot
1. Pick a great outfit. Be sure to wear a color that is your best color and brings out your features. How do you determine your best color? In my case whenever I wear royal blue I get a lot of compliments that day. So that seems to be my color. If you are unsure try several different outfits. If you are having your headshot professionally taken be sure that you have the option to try a couple of different looks. The idea is to get your headshot done well so you don’t have to do this for another decade!

When wedding planner and owner of An Elegant Affair, Barbara Clark, came in for her headshot we tried several different outfits. For us, the green on the left was the clear winner.
2. A headshot is all about the eyes. So be sure to get a really good night’s sleep the night before and drink lots of water leading up to your headshot. It really does make a difference. It is also better to be photographed in the morning while you are still fresh. For women you may want to apply just a little more makeup than normal. It really does photograph better.

This is a photo of my father, Stephen Prelipp, who needed a new headshot for his consulting business. He heeded my advice to get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of water and I think it really shows. This photograph will be his client’s first impression of him. This image is so important as they will be trusting him to help steer their businesses in a better direction.

3. Choose the best angle and lens. A long lens, such as an 85mm or longer should be used. And everyone looks better if they are photographed from above rather than down below.
4. Second to the eyes in importance is the skin. A typical headshot is composed of just your head and shoulders so your skin is featured prominently. You will want to be photographed in diffused light that wraps around the skin rather than glaring light that shows every wrinkle and blemish. So if you are using a flash bounce it! Or, if you are using natural light, wait for an overcast day. If you want to get really fancy use a hair light. This light is placed behind the subject (with a flash or the sun) to add depth to the shot.
5. Your expression is everything. Again, what kind of image do you want to project? When I was doing my self-portrait for my local buzz headshot I knew I wanted to come across as approachable and friendly. So I chose that kind of expression and was leaning in towards the camera. When I am photographing someone’s headshot I try to get them talking about what they do and what they are passionate about. We take shots of a whole range of expression from serious to confident all the way to very smiley images.

On the left, Planned Parenthood CEO Janet Colm wanted to project a more friendly image. On the right author Sarah Dessen needed to update her headshot. She also wanted to have a more smiley headshot.
Thanks for reading this blog post! If you have any questions or suggestions please contact me at I am always looking for great photo stories to tell about this amazing community that we live in.