A great headshot is an essential tool in your personal branding toolkit. Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, small business owner, or corporate executive, your headshot must convey confidence, approachability, and professionalism to potential clients, customers, and colleagues. But getting a great headshot requires more than just showing up on the day of the shoot. In this article, I’ll share my top top tips to help you prepare for your next business headshot session.

#1: Choose your wardrobe carefully.

Your wardrobe can have a significant impact on the success of your headshot. Plan your wardrobe in advance, choosing clothing that is professional, clean, and wrinkle-free (yes, wrinkles in clothng will show in your headshots). 

Avoid wearing clothing with busy patterns or logos that can detract from your face. It’s also important to consider the colors you wear. Solid, neutral colors like black, white, gray, and navy tend to work well in headshots. 

Accessories can add interest and personality to your headshot, but they should be used strategically. If you decide to use accessories, choose ones that are appropriate for your profession and add a pop of color or interest to your outfit.

And if you are a dog or cat lover like I am, be aware that dark colors collect pet hair like a magnet. I always keep a lint roller in my studio, but the more you can address this issue in advance the more we’ll be able to focus on creating great images.

#2: Get Plenty of Sleep. 

A good night’s sleep can’t be overlooked if you want to look your best in your headshot. Be sure to plan ahead and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your professional headshot session. When necessary, things like bloodshot eyes, and dark circles can be mitigated with photoshop and extra effort in the retouching process. But you can’t photoshop the fresh and energetic smile that only a good night’s sleep will deliver. And if you’re a night owl like me, you might reconsider that early morning portrait session.

#3: Practice Your Facial Expressions.

Your facial expressions can make a real difference in the success of your headshot. It sounds silly, and might even feel a bit awkward, but practicing different expressions in front of your bathroom mirror in the privacy of your own home can make a dramatic difference in the confidence  you display in front of the camera. You want to find a look that is natural to you, which conveys confidence, approachability, and professionalism in your headshot. You want to strike a balance between the classic “deer in the headlights look” and squinty eyes. And you also want to find a similar middle ground between an overzealous smile and no smile at all. Take some time to experiment with different expressions until you find the one that works best for you.

#4: Drink Plenty of Water. 

It might seem unrelated, but drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to your professional headshot session can completely change your appearance.  Drinking water helps to keep your skin hydrated, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Experts recommend that you drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, and that’s not a bad goal in the days leading up to your photoshoot.

#5: Time your Hairdo. 

Don’t wait until the last minute to tame the mop on top your head! And don’t try out a brand new hairstyle the week before your headshot session.  Come to your headshot with a hairstyle that makes you feel confident and that reflects who you are.  And make sure to schedule your haircut at least a  week or more before your photoshoot to give your hair some time to settle.

#6: Keep your Makeup simple.

The hair and makeup that you choose for your professional headshot should be a timeless and classic representation of the person you are. Some photographers will insist on makeup for a professional headshot.  And while I think well done makeup can elevate a headshot to some degree, I also don’t believe that makeup is necessary to create a beautiful portrait.  Whether to wear makeup and how much is a deeply personal decision, and I absolutely support my client’s in making the choice that is right for you.

Regardless of your decision, your makeup should be clean, natural, and appropriate for your skin type and skin tone. If you are not comfortable applying makeup yourself, I encourage my clients to consider hiring a professional makeup artist to do it for you. Makeup is both an art and science. And a skilled hair and makeup artist can help you choose the right colors and apply your makeup in a way that will look great on camera.

For both men and women to eliminate shine, apply a layer of translucent powder can be applied to the forehead, face and neck. I keep this handy in my studio, especially for some of of my more follicly challenged clients (you know who you are!).

#7:  Share your Story!

When it comes to professional headshots, there’s no such thing as “TMI.” In fact, nothing makes a photographer’s job harder (and sometimes more awkward) than not knowing anything about the person that is standing in front of the camera. Headshot sessions are short, and there’s not a lot of time to learn about a person’s unique needs. Before your session, be sure to fill out my survey and give me some insight about your likes and dislikes and what you do and don’t want from your professional headshot session. Tell me who you are, what you do, and why you love your job. The more you can help me prepare for your portrait session, the better I can help you create outstanding images that will reflect your personal brand.

#8: Relax and have fun!

This might sound a bit tongue and cheek, but the truth is that this is probably the most important advice that I can offer.  And for some it’s the hardest to achieve. If you don’t find a way to feel relaxed during your headshot session, your apprehensive mood will travel through into your portraits. And thus your headshots will fail to convey a sense of approachability and confidence — the two most critical elements in a personal branding image.

Grant yourself the confidence to get it wrong during your headshot session. And know that no person ever comes to a portrait session and nails every frame in front of the camera. We’re going to take a number of images during your headshot session and I can promise you two things:  (1) There will absolutely be blinks, fake smiles, and unflattering expressions in some of your images. And (2) none of those images will ever see the light of day! Creating great headshot images is a team sport. I need you to show up to your headshot session ready to experiment and to work together to create a handful of images that feel right to you and that best convey your talent and unique personality.

What questions do you have about preparing for your professional headshot session?  Don’t be afraid to reach out with any of your questions or concerns! Learn more at brianpasko.com/headshots.

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