What Are The Key Elements In A Good Headshot?

Professional Headshots done right.You have worked hard to craft your message on social media. You have created a personal brand that is compelling and complete. How do you make your headshot say all that in one image? There are several key elements to make that happen.

Mood: Make sure the mood matches your message.

Wardrobe: Have it match your message and usual work attire.

Makeup: Yes. You should. Men and Women.

Background: Neutral and not distracting.

Attention to Details: Glasses Cleaned. Hair Trimmed. Jewelry Minimal.

Crop: Feature your face.

Image Size: Too big loads slowly. Not too small looks blurry.

Professional Photographer: Not that cropped photo from your family portrait.

The first thing you will want to think about is the mood. Are you a cancer doctor? Are you a creativity consultant? Are you generally a happy, smiling person or a serious one? Take these all into consideration when you create your headshot. When I work with clients, I try to get all ranges of expressions. But I have to gauge the personality of my subject. They may not be a smiler, but they can still look happy and approachable without showing teeth.

If you wear a suit and tie to work, you should probably have that wardrobe in your headshot. If you normally wear a ratty old t-shirt and sit in front of a computer all day, you may at least want to pick a new, solid-colored t-shirt for your shot. Look as good as you can within your normal attire.

Find a good makeup artist before your shoot and have the makeup done. You can even go to a makeup counter at a department store, tell them you are having a headshot done and have them do your makeup. But a referral to a good makeup artist is better. It’s even better to let the photographer arrange that.   And makeup is not just for the women; men should get some powder to even out the complexion and reduce shine.

The background does not have to be a studio background. I have done lots of headshots at the work of the subject. A shot in your world may help tell your story and connect you to your audience. But, make sure the background is not distracting. For instance, you probably do not want evidence of another person in the background.

Attention to detail is key. If your glasses are scratched, dirty and dinged up, get some new ones for your shot. Trim your nose hairs. Shave, unless you normally wear a beard. Two-day stubble does not look good. Consider getting your hair styled before your shot. Plan your jewelry and don’t overdo it. This is about your face. Don’t let anything distract.

Crop your photo so that your face takes up most of the shot. If someone is leafing through LinkedIn on their cell phone prior to your meeting and you have a full body shot, they may not get a good feel for what you look like. Also, no one really needs to see the top of your head or anything below you sternum. Play with the square crop used for social media and get it dialed in before you post it.

Image Size is very important. Though most social media sites will make sure the photo you post is small enough to load quickly, on your website you will want to have a shot sized correctly. If the file size is in megabytes (eg 1.5 mb) rather than kilobytes (140 kb), it is too big.  A slow loading photo makes you seem unprofessional. I send my clients properly sized photos cropped three different ways for various uses.

Getting a professional photographer to create your headshot is paramount. A selfie or poorly lit photo looks amateurish and so will you. You want a professional headshot. Check out the portfolio of the photographer you are considering. Do you like the people you see?

Scott_R_Kline_SQ_E9851_BLK_BKGRD_WebScott R. Kline is commercial portrait and headshot photographer based in San Francisco, CA. His portfolio can be seen at He recently created, which provides professional headshot services at multiple locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow Scott on Twitter @scottrkline1 or on Linked/in/ScottRKline. –

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