Professional head shots are absolutely key in today’s media-driven environment. While it has never been acceptable to use a point-and-shoot image, it has become critical to have a head shot that is on par with your personal brand because it is the first thing most people see. It sets the stage, if you will. But, it is important to understand that there’s more to having professional head shots than having "someone with camera" take them. There is far more that goes into it and, believe it or not, some of it falls back on you to get the best results possible!
With that said, here are the Top 10 Tips (Top 5 Do’s and Top 5 Dont’s) for professional headshots based on my experience as a head shot photographer in Metro Detroit, Michigan.
Top 5 Do’s for Professional Head Shots
- Do be styled. Are you a news anchor or a rock star? Attorney or tech blogger? Professional head shots need to tell the world about your personal brand. Your styling must be consistent with, and reflect, who you are and what you do. So, it is extremely important that you be very clear with your photographer and styling team on the image you want to portray. YOU are the Creative Director for your personal brand. Similarly, it is important you work with your photographer as the Creative Director of your professional head shots to ensure they capture your style.
- Do arrive clean and fresh. It is very important to arrive for your head shot photo shoot with clean and fresh look. This includes arriving showered, freshly groomed and freshly shaven (for men!). If you’re considering cutting your hair, do it at least 4 or 5 days before your photo shoot. For best results, I highly recommend making the additional investment in a professional hair stylist and makeup artist. You do this for your wedding day to ensure you look your best, so why wouldn’t make the same investment in professional head shots that represent your personal brand to the rest of the world?!
- Do have fun. More often than not, when people look stiff in photos, it’s because they WERE stiff! A lot of this falls on your own shoulders. Just be yourself and relax. Let the photographer do the rest!
- Do determine how your head shot will be used. This one is more important than it sounds. Are your professional head shots going to be used on a corporate website? Business cards? Social media sites? It is critical to know how your head shot will be used before the photo shoot since how the image will be used will determine the type of background used. White background (aka High Key) head shots are extremely popular for actors, models, comedians and more! But, you may want to think twice before using a high key head shot on a website with a white background since, visually, the image will blend with the website and appear to "float". At the very least, you may want to consider putting a black border around the head shot. Your photographer should be able to help you with this, so ask!
- Do get enough rest. It’s a big day, so be well rested for it! Be sure to get plenty of sleep for the two nights prior to your head shot photo shoot. This will absolutely help you avoid tired puffy eyes and appear fresh. Do not stay out late the night before your photo shoot!
Top 5 Don’ts for Professional Head Shots
- Don’t go cheap. We’re talking about your personal brand! What is your brand worth to you? Perhaps the better question is … how much would a poor image damage or hinder your brand? This is not the time to skimp. Be sure to invest a little extra to benefit from using a professional hair stylist and makeup artist. If your funds allow, I highly recommend engaging a personal stylist that can hook you up with wardrobe and accessories too! It’s the little things that people will notice in professional head shots and all of these will help you go from "ordinary" to "AMAZING". You absolutely get what you pay for in this area.
- Don’t settle on a photographer. Just like professional hair stylists and makeup artists, you get what you pay for from a photographer too. These days it seems like anyone with a digital camera refers to themselves as a professional photographer. But, that really depends what you consider "professional" to really mean. Regardless, take a look at their portfolio (Do they even have one?!). The quality of their work should speak for itself. Do their images have a "wow factor" that you are attracted to? If not, you will likely be better off looking elsewhere.
- Don’t be obsolete. Unless you are a designer or fashion model, your professional head shots are not a time to display cutting edge fashion forward clothing. If you do, you need to know that your head shot is going to look dated in a season of two. That is not necessarily a bad thing since there is something to be said for being trendy. But, it does mean that you will likely need new professional head shots each year. Sticking with solid colors and simple accessories will help your head shot remain usable for the longest period of time.
- Don’t go glam. Head shots should reflect the real you and not a fake obviously over-retouched image of a porcelain skinned person. Stay away from anything that looks overly worked and overly retouched. A good rule of thumb is … if it’s a temporary blemish (e.g. acne, scratch, etc), it’s okay to have your photographer retouch it. Otherwise, it’s a marking that makes you who you are (e.g. freckles, moles, etc).
- Don’t be afraid. It’s okay to be nervous. Unless you spend a lot of time in front of a camera as an actor, model, newscaster, etc, you may even feel a bit afraid. That’s okay. A good photographer will sense this and try to help you relax. But, remember, there’s nothing to be afraid. It’s just a picture. More importantly, you don’t have to like every picture your photographer takes. You really only need one good shot and it’s okay if it takes you 99 bad shots to relax and unwind enough to get the good one.
If you’re ready to update your head shot, I would love to talk with you. Please feel free to contact me online or call 313-883-9500 to discuss your personal brand and the images it deserves.