The Expert’s Guide to Professional Headshots

Headshot photographer helping a subject

What Is A Professional Headshot?

A professional or corporate headshot is a type of portrait photograph commonly used for LinkedIn profiles, corporate websites and team pages for business. Professional headshots are framed for the head and shoulders so the shot focuses on your face. The main point of a headshot is to introduce yourself to the observer, help you get noticed, convey that you are established and show that you are invested in yourself. A headshot for an individual is the equivalent of a brand logo.

Do I Need A Professional Headshot?

An individual’s professional headshot can be seen as the equivalent of a logo for a company. It garners attention, demonstrates that you are well-established, and conveys your commitment to your personal brand or business.

If you aim to showcase to potential employers, clients, or customers why you are the most suitable candidate for a job, creating an online presence with a professionally-executed headshot can significantly improve your chances.

Investing in a headshot is a way to promote you, and hiring a professional headshot photographer guarantees a top-notch result.

How Long Does A Professional Headshot Session Take?

How long a professional headshot takes depends on whether it’s for an individual or a company. Sessions for individuals usually range from 20 minutes to 2 hours. However, if you decide to book a makeup artist, this will typically add an hour to the shoot. Headshot sessions for companies can be carried out over a number of hours or several days, depending on the size of the team. Each person’s session typically lasts between 5 to 15 minutes, and the lighting set-up is commonly kept consistent throughout the process.


What Is Included In A Professional Headshot Session?

A professional headshot session typically includes a consultation to discuss your goals and image preferences, a photo shoot with a skilled headshot photographer, various poses, professional lighting and backdrop options, and expert guidance to create appropriate facial expressions and body language. After the session, you’ll receive high-quality, retouched images with options for digital files and prints if you are an actor. Additional services, like hair and makeup, may also be available upon request.

What Are The Different Types Of Professional Headshots?

Professional headshots are essential for creating strong corporate and personal brands and can be organised into four primary categories: corporate, editorial, commercial, and theatrical.

Corporate headshots are typically used for company websites, LinkedIn profiles, and business-related materials and help to present a professional and polished brand image. Corporate headshots communicate credibility and competence, which are essential for building trust in individuals and businesses.

Editorial headshots offer a more candid shot, capturing the subject’s personality and story and providing a glimpse into their life or profession. Editorial headshots are often taken for online articles, blogs, newspapers and magazines.

Commercial headshots – as the name suggests – are used for advertising and promotional purposes. They make the subject appear friendly and approachable, helping to attract customers and clients.

Theatrical headshots are important for casting directors to envision actors in various roles. They help showcase character range and emotion.

Left to right, example of Professional headshot, Corporate headshot, Editorial headshot, Commercial Headshot

Aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep the night before the session and stay hydrated.

How To Choose The Right Photographer For Professional Headshots?

To choose the right photographer for professional headshots, consider the following steps:

Conduct research: Begin by researching local photographers who specialise in professional headshots. Most headshot photographers will have online portfolios and reviews. Use these to gauge their expertise and client satisfaction.

Make a choice based on experience: Photographers experienced in taking professional headshots will be familiar with appropriate lighting, angles and poses to create a professional and polished image. However, an equally important component of headshot photography is the ability to relate to people and alleviate the anxiety or pressure you may be feeling. This is not in every photographer’s skill set.

Consultation: Consulting with potential photographers allows you to discuss your expectations and requirements and assess their personality and communication style. Speak to them over the phone or attend an in-person consultation.

Turnaround time: Inquire about the photographer’s turnaround time for delivering the final headshot images, and ensure it aligns with your timeline. Professional retouching takes time and is not something that should be rushed. If you require your headshots urgently, let the photographer know in advance, and they’ll advise if they can meet your deadline.

Budget: Determine your budget for headshots and compare pricing among photographers in your area. Remember that investing in a high-quality headshot is essential for a professional image.

Consider the ROI: A well-crafted professional headshot should earn you many times more than the initial outlay.

Above: Editorial Portraits by Hero Shot

What Is The Turnaround Time For Professional Headshots?

The turnaround time for professional headshots can vary depending on the photographer and their workload. However, the general turnaround time for individual sessions is three to five days from when you’ve selected your prints. The general turnaround time for group sessions is usually five to 10 days.

Expert retouching requires time, so it’s best not to rush the process. How long it takes can change depending on the time of year, how busy the photographer is and their quality control protocol.

If you need a speedier turnaround for headshots, let your photographer know. They may be able to get it done for you within the same day.

How Do You Prepare For a Professional Headshot Session?

To prepare for a professional headshot session, consider taking the following steps:

Research and select a reputable photographer specialising in headshots, and book an appointment in advance. Communication is key. Ensure you inform the photographer of what you’re looking for in the headshots. The more you communicate, the better the results will be.

Express any concerns upfront, whether this is of a physical nature or an emotional one. Their response to these and their ability to reassure you will also help determine if you have chosen a good fit.

Determine the purpose of your headshot (e.g., business, commercial, acting, social media) and discuss it with your photographer. Their purpose will determine the style of the headshots.

Choose appropriate clothing that reflects your brand and is free of distracting patterns or logos (unless you consider this to be a part of your brand). Bring multiple options to the session, and remember to keep your industry in mind when choosing an outfit and colour scheme. Traditional colours will suit a traditional job, whereas punchier tones will make for a more striking headshot.

Keep hair and makeup simple. Classic, natural looks usually work best in headshot photos. Keep colours simple and avoid glitter or sparkly products. Make use of translucent powder to eliminate shine. Choose a hairstyle that feels comfortable.

Aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep the night before the session and stay hydrated.

Arrive early for the appointment to discuss final details with the photographer and to relax before the shoot begins.

What colours should I wear for a professional headshot?

Using colour efficiently can help you appear confident, empathetic, trustworthy, slimmer and even more relatable. Some colour schemes to consider for headshots include:

Solid And Neutral Colours
Have much less chance of overwhelming the frame and are ideal as they are used to being seen by the eye. Dark neutral tones include black and navy, while light neutral hues include cream and white.

Bold Shades Surrounding The Neckline
It is helpful to wear darker shades around the neckline to draw attention to the face – like the lapel of a blazer or the neckline of a top.

Deeper Colours For Outdoor Headshots
Deep colours ensure you do not look washed out as they reduce the reflection of light from clothing.

Avoid Graphics and Patterns
Instead of wearing distracting bold or unique patterns, choosing a top with solid colours is best to keep the focus on you.

Keep Your Industry In Mind
When choosing the colour of your outfit, consider the industry you work in. Traditional colours, such as white, black and navy, are more suited to traditional jobs. Conversely, if your goal is to stand out, punchy, vibrant colours can help to create a more striking headshot.

What Should I Wear For My Professional Headshot Session?

Wearing clothing that reflects your industry and the desired image is essential for a professional headshot session. It will also make you feel confident and comfortable.

Here are some general guidelines to keep you on the right track:

Look To Your Coworkers: What’s considered appropriate in one industry may not be for another. Those in creative roles are likelier to adopt a smart-casual look in headshots. In contrast, a lawyer, for instance, would typically be expected to dress more formally, with a suit. If in doubt, look to your coworkers or superiors for an idea of what’s appropriate in your workplace.

Avoid Being Too Casual: Even if your workplace embraces a casual dress code, consider smartening up a little for your headshots. Not only will this make you appear more professional and authoritative, but it will also boost your confidence and influence how you present yourself in the photo.

Keep Jewellery Simple And Minimal: High-quality headshots should enhance your features rather than distract from them. Keeping jewellery minimal and simple can help prevent distraction. Consider wearing small earrings, a watch, or a simple necklace to compliment your features/outfit.

Avoid Worn Or Faded Clothing: When taking a headshot, it’s best to avoid wearing older, faded clothing as it can be distracting. Opt for new-looking clothing with intact colours, ensuring it’s clean and wrinkle-free.

How Do I Prepare For A Virtual Headshot Session?

There are a number of important tips that will help you get the most from a virtual headshot session. These include:

Wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident but are also appropriate for your industry. Solid colours will ensure your pictures remain timeless and avoid distracting elements.

Finding a plain wall in front of a large window for the flattering light.

Raising your camera to eye level. If you don’t have someone to help with this, use a selfie stick, phone tripod or a table with stacked books or boxes.

Finding a shaded area with a lightly textured backdrop if shooting outside.

What Should A Professional Headshot Cost?

The cost of a headshot is determined by various factors, which vary from photographer to photographer. However, you can expect to pay $250+ for basic headshots and $400+ for multiple-look sessions.

When you hire a professional photographer, you pay for their experience, skills, equipment and overall time. Experienced headshot photographers bring a host of competencies to a photo shoot, including expertise in body language, psychology, problem-solving, colour matching, confidence building and coaching. These skills are what generate the polished final shot.


Do I Need A Professional Headshot Or An Editorial Portrait?

Opting between a professional headshot and an editorial portrait will depend on what you need the images for. Professional headshots are usually used for corporate websites, business team pages and LinkedIn profiles, whereas editorial portraits are commonly reserved for press releases, magazines, blogs, about me pages, etc.

Professional headshots focus on your face and introduce you to the observer by framing your head and shoulders. Editorial portraits, on the other hand, are more about telling a story, utilising more visual elements, and emphasising the use of angles and composition.

Can I Bring Props For My Professional Headshot Session?

Yes, you can bring props to a professional headshot photography session. However, ensuring they are appropriate and relevant to your profession or the image you want to convey is essential. Props can showcase your personality, skills, or interests and make your headshot stand out. However, remember that the main focus of a professional headshot is your face, so avoid using large or distracting props that may take attention away from you.

For a polished final result, it’s best to consult with your headshot photographer before including any props in your session. They can offer guidance on the most effective approach.

Can I Bring A Friend Or Family Member To My Professional Headshot Session?

Typically, you can bring a friend or family member to your professional headshot session if it makes you feel more comfortable. It’s normal to feel anxious before a photo shoot, especially if it’s something new to you. However, having someone you know around may add pressure and distract you from connecting with the photographer. Skilled photographers know various tips and techniques to help you relax and enjoy the experience, so, you can expect any anxiety to dissipate once the session begins.

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