9 Tips for a Better Headshot

June 11, 2020  •  Marketing Strategy

As the face of your platform, you have to, well, put your face out there. But this presents many people with a dilemma.

How do you take and choose the right photograph for use on your online platform?

You Are Also the Product

When was the last time you went to the doctor? Whether it was for a well-visit or because you were sick, you visit the doctor (or dentist) because of the service they provide. All doctors complete extensive and expensive education, training, and certification. Therefore, you can pick any doctor you like and be happy, right?

Not exactly. While many doctors provide the same service, each has a different personality, the value of which becomes more apparent as your need on the doctor increases. If you’re sick, you want your doctor to be empathetic. If you’re anxious, comforting. If you’re confused, patient. A cold, awkward, or insensitive physician will send you in search of a new doctor.

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Whether you share ideas, sell a product, or provide a service, you are personally instrumental in your platform. In other words, you are part of the product. That’s why we recommend you get a great, professional photograph, or “headshot,” to utilize with your online platforms and marketing.

9 Steps to a Better Headshot

We recommend the following nine steps to ensure you present the best possible headshot to the world.

  1. Hire a professional. For the best impression, don’t settle for simply asking a friend, Olan Mills, or some portrait factory. Instead, search the web for “photography headshot [your city].” Review online portfolios and ask for recommendations from your local camera shop. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars.
  2. Negotiate for all rights. Make sure you do this on the front-end. You don’t want to pay a licensing fee every time you use the photo in a different context. Some high-end photographers will not agree to this. If so, keep looking. Photographers are plentiful, and you will readily find one who will work with you.
  3. Don’t shoot in a studio (unless your turf is a studio). Studios often feel sterile. Instead, shoot the photos on your turf, in familiar surroundings. This is so much more interesting and adds more of your personality to the final result.
  4. Wear something appropriate. The focus should be on your face, not your clothes. Ask yourself, “what can I wear that I won’t be embarrassed by ten years from now?” You might even want to make a few wardrobe changes during the shoot.
  5. Take lots of photos. You are not looking for a posed photo. You want something more natural, where your personality is fully expressed. The more photos you take, the more likely you will find ones that work. A good photographer can take a couple of hundred photos (sometimes more) in an hour.
  6. Look into the lens. You want to make a personal connection. This is really no different than meeting someone for the first time—look directly into their eyes. One exception is photos of you speaking or performing. However, these aren’t technically headshots.
  7. Smile—with your whole face. There’s no need to get cheesy. Just be natural. The goal is to look likable, which is far more important than looking “professional.”
  8. Crop the photo tightly. We don’t need to see your whole body or even your upper torso. Your face is the focus. While you’re at it, ask the photographer to blur the background slightly (photographers call this “bokeh”). This will emphasize your face even more.
  9. Pick one main photo. Use this on your products, your website, and as an avatar on all your social media profiles. You want a consistent brand impression. You can also pick a few alternatives, so that your strategic partners have a few options.

Again, these are suggestions, but we find they work again and again. Just remember, your face is your best logo. So present your best face to the world.

About John Meese

John leads a team focused on simplifying online marketing for professionals as the Dean of Platform University and lives in Columbia, Tennessee, with his wife and three beautiful children. You won't find him on social media, but you can connect to him personally on his blog: