Finding success these days often means promoting yourself and making a great first impression, which is why having a professional headshot can be an extremely powerful tool for standing out in crowd and helping people to remember you. However, not just any old snapshot will do. A headshot should look professional, natural, and showcase you looking your very best.
We spoke to Nancy Hauck, a photographer who works primarily in portraits and headshots both in the studio and on location, about tips and tricks for getting a great headshot and why you might need one, even if you don’t think you do.
Who needs a headshot?
Nancy Hauck mostly works with actors, models, and corporate executives, but really anyone who wants to make a great first impression and is concerned about personal branding should consider having a professional headshot taken. This includes doctors, journalists, lawyers, realtors… the list goes on and on. And considering so many people still use selfies or snapshots, it’s a chance for you to really stand out from the crowd. You may want it for social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), a job application, online dating, or really any forum where you want to make a good first impression. “Your headshot is your business card,” Hauck says. “People see your photograph and form an instant opinion and you want that opinion to be good.”
Why is important to get a professional headshot?
Hauck says the first thing she often hears from her clients is, “I tried to have a friend or family member take it for me.” Unfortunately, she adds, most of those photos don’t turn out well. “I want people to look at the photo and linger; I want them to think the person looks engaging.” And for that to happen, it takes much more than just expensive equipment. “It’s all about how the photo is composed,” she says. “It’s about capturing the spirit of the eyes and the emotions.” Not to mention the way a person is lit. “With every shadow, there’s a highlight and you want someone who knows how to work with those.” Ultimately, a professional knows how to position you, which angles work best, and how to capture facial expressions that will make a great first impression.
How important is rapport with the photographer?
“Taking a great photo is all about connection,” Hauck says. “I meet all kinds of people and I need to connect with them as a person.” Though she says she doesn’t like to create rules for the people she shoots, she adds, “Their eyes and jawline need to connect with the camera.” Mostly though, it’s just about getting them comfortable. “I show them the photos before we do a whole bunch and once they’re relaxed, most people see how good they look and then we fire away.”
What should I wear?
“Keep it simple,” Hauck suggests. “Wear a color that draws out your eyes and compliments your skin one.” She also recommends you wear something in which you’re comfortable. “When you feel good an confident, you take a better photo.” Still, you should also keep in mind the purpose of the photo. “If you’re in a creative industry, you can take more chances, but if the photo is for corporate purposes, it usually calls for a more traditional style.” Even if you’re very confident in your look, you should still bring options just in case.
Should I accessorize?
For women, whether or not to wear statement earrings is a personal choice that should be made with the end goal in mind. However, Hauck does say to avoid necklaces. “They don’t work because of the way the photo tends to get cropped.”
What should I expect during the shoot?
Hauck starts by finding out what the end use of the photograph is going to be so that the photographs work for what you need then for. Then she takes a few pictures to get her clients comfortable and shows them what they look like to make sure they’re on the same page and they’re happy with the direction. Ultimately, she does several setups with different lighting and angles. “If it’s for online dating, I’ll take one or two studio portrait shots and then we’ll go outside to shoot full-length candids.” If you just let the photographer know what you want ahead of time, she can arrange the day so that you get all of the shots you want.
How should I prepare for the shoot?
“If you care enough to pay money to a professional for a head shot, you should get a haircut and maybe even get your makeup done,” Hauck says. “And brush your teeth. You have no idea how often I have to fix food in teeth in post-production.” Certain types of glasses can also be problematic, so bring an extra pair if you can just in case. In addition, she says it’s important to get enough sleep the night before, drink plenty of water, tweeze your eyebrows, and stay away from heavy mascara that might flake. Also: Iron your shirt! “Photos capture all of the details,” she says, “so make sure you’re clean.”