How to Get an Incredible Professional Headshot - ACS Axial | ACS Publications

How to Get an Incredible Professional Headshot

Like it or not, presentation matters. It’s important to your career to look your best in person and in digital and print materials related to your work. That’s why you need a high-resolution professional headshot on hand that you can send out as needed.

A headshot is a posed photograph that focuses on a person’s head and face. They’re the pictures you see when you look at people’s profiles on business, university, and lab websites, as well as next to the biographies of speakers and prize winners online or in print.

It’s important to have a professional-looking, high-resolution professional headshot on hand and ready to send out on short notice to a reporter who wants to write an article about you, a committee that wants to give you an award, or anyone else who wants to recognize your work online or in print.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just use any old photo. Use these tips to make sure your headshot is sending the right signals.

Get a Professional

Consider having a professional photographer take your headshots. This can be expensive – expect to pay about $500 in the U.S. for a professional photographer with a studio – but it’s an investment in your career that lasts for years.

How should you pick your photographer? A recommendation from a colleague is the surest sign that a photographer is worth the money. Ask your coworkers who took their headshots. You can also check with your employer. Some large organizations will have deals with photographers to offer free or reduced-price photographs.

Be sure to check out a photographer’s portfolio before booking them. Do they have a deep catalog of work? Do you like their photos? Do they take headshots that match the style you want to convey?

Do it Yourself (or With a Friend)

If you can’t get a professional, don’t give up. Modern digital cameras and even some smartphones can still take appealing headshots. If you can, enlist a friend to help you take pictures. Your friend can troubleshoot poor lighting or angles and can help you relax, which will lead to better pictures.

If you’re doing it alone, consider using a tripod and your camera or phone’s timer feature. This will allow you to achieve a better angle and a natural expression.

Take photos at the highest resolution possible. It’s much easier to shrink photos down to fit a website than it is to enlarge a small photo. Trying to enlarge a small photo will result in a grainy, poor-quality, unprofessional image. Take the biggest, highest-resolution photo you can and you’ll be able to use it for everything from business cards to banners.

Getting the Right Look

No matter who takes the photos, make sure you’re standing in the right light. Take your photos near a window or in the shade. You don’t want to be standing in harsh direct light for your headshot.

Choose a pleasing background. You don’t want a bright white wall behind you, but you also don’t want a busy crowd of people. If you’re taking your photo outside, you can use the camera’s zoom feature to throw your background slightly out of focus. The resulting background blur is soothing to look at and won’t steal focus away from you.

Take your photos at a high angle. You want the camera to be looking down at you ever so slightly. Tilt your head a little to one side. Most people don’t look their best staring straight into the camera.

No Matter What

Dress as if you’re about to interview for your dream job. Wear clothing that fits you well and doesn’t clash with your background.

Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and your chest out. Good posture will improve your body language and make you look more professional.

Smile, but don’t overdo it. You want to look pleasant, so staring at the camera with a blank expression is a bad idea. But you also don’t want to overcompensate with a cheesy grin. Strive to appear confident and welcoming.


Want more stories like this delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter to receive a selection of stories related to your favorite topics.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.