How to Take Good Headshots?

How to Take Good Headshots

Taking the right headshot is like a photographer’s masterpiece. And professionals tend to be quite competitive in taking their subject’s face. Whether you are already a professional or still a starting aspirant, knowing how to take good headshots is an integral knowledge every person holding a camera must learn.

This article gives you a comprehensive guide in taking the perfect headshots – whether you’re the photographer or the subject himself. You will be introduced to some useful tips that will surely come in handy in your next photography sessions.

The Importance of Taking Good Headshots

Most people will treat your headshot as your calling card. You will be using this picture in a large array of applications – like building your profile in LinkedIn, or attaching it along with your bio-data and resume. It’s your opportunity to establish a professional impact and whether you like it or not, the bosses (and other people) will have their first impression through your headshot.

Fundamental Knowledge

Headshots are actually tricky and hard to pull off especially for first timers. This usually happens due to lack of fundamental knowledge. Here are the most important headshot tips you should incorporate into your pictorials. Follow these tips especially if you want to make an outstanding profile.

• A good headshot captures from the chest up
• The subject must have the light facing him
• The camera doesn’t need to be directly front facing the subject
• The subject doesn’t need to be directly facing the camera either
• However, the light must always be facing the subject, not from behind
• The subject must look at the camera
• Absolutely NO strong, dramatic, or weird shadows
• EXTREME close-ups will look very cheap; nothing more than a passport ID
• If you intend to print; three-quarter shots are good
• Professional output includes a blurred background
• Professional-looking images have high depth of field
• Focus on the subject and not the surrounding environment

It may not be necessary to follow every single tip stated above but they sure are important guidelines to take note of.

Studio VS Natural Light

There is actually no single answer as to which is better between the two – natural or studio light? It all depends on the type of image you want to convey.

• Studio lighting tends to be more polished with a more neutral backdrop. Its main advantage is allowing you to customize the amount of light you want to use and giving you flexibility on the background to use.

• Natural light on the other gives a real, genuine look which a lot of people prefer.

Natural light is also associated with ‘film’ look. Using natural light may require you to go near the window, in an open shade, or just go outdoors. The technique is to make sure the subject never goes against the light.

However, some photographers actually do both. Whatever you decided, the most important thing is to make the light EVEN on your subject.

Using Diffused Light

Headshot is defined as a photographic technique where the photograph’s focus is a person’s face. It’s not surprising to figure out an important fact – the skin becomes the central feature, especially in close-up shots. This makes it essential to portray the skin as blemish-free.

Use a diffuse light to wrap around your subject’s facial skin. The light will define the lines of the face while effectively concealing blemishes and skin imperfections.

Using Hair light

Instead of putting massive attention to make-up, you can enhance other aspects of your subject like the hair. Professionals would agree that adding a hair light significantly improves the output. Hair light can make the subject more dynamic and put more depth to the shot.

You can place the light either above or behind the subject (with a sun or a flash). However, it must NOT be dominating enough to the point it will steal the main spot light – the subject as a whole.

Use Proper Lens

If you’re using a DSLR, the proprietary lens is not always the perfect tool for the job. Attempting to do headshots, for instance, will require you specific lenses. Lens that are 90mm and above should do well. Professionals recommend zoom lens or prime lens. Lens distortion can easily put a near-dynamic headshot into jeopardy. Use a lens that is able to slim your subject’s face and compress the image.

Focus On The Eyes

As much as you want to make your subject look away from the camera for a candid feel, there is something in focusing on the eyes that gives a significantly genuine impact in the output image. As cliché as it sounds, the eyes are truly the windows to one’s soul.

By focusing on the eyes, you’ll allow your subject to create a strong connection to whoever sees the image. The impact would be a powerful photo that speaks volumes.

Guiding The Subject

Most of the time, attaining the perfect expression doesn’t lie solely on the subject. Being the photographer makes it your obligation to help bring out the best expression for your particular exhibit. You play a big role in matching the purpose of the headshot. And you can do so by guiding your subject.

For starters, you should initiate a complimenting conversation. Maybe you can crack a joke to capture a genuine smile, or maybe ask some serious questions to pull out a profound gaze. Be creative and figure out how to pull out the most natural looks from your subject.

Posing Experiments

If you want to take a headshot for a professional profile, then there’s no other way to take a striking pose than look at the lens directly – as stated in the fundamental knowledge section above.

Other than that, there are unlimited headshot posing you can experiment with. There’s so much room for creativity so have your subject play with different poses and composition. When trying to do more unconventional and less formal shots, here are a few tips to remember.

• For a more relaxed standing look, men should put their hands in their pockets.
• Avoid the dreaded double chin and achieve a slimmer, longer extension by having your subject to extend their neck a bit.

Gender Roles

The concept of gender roles doesn’t only apply in real-life relationships but can also be related to photography, especially in close-up shots. It is said that proper angles are key essentials to the outcome feel and look.

• For men, you can accentuate fulfilment and strength by capturing slightly up.
• For women, you can emphasize the feminine essence by slightly shooting downward on them. This trick can also make the eyes look larger.

The Make-up Conundrum

A lot of people get stuck on deciding whether they’ll do makeup or not. This usually happens on people who want to make a professional shoot for their profile. Ideally, it is best to do only simple makeup and not go crazy with it.

Keep your makeup classy and simple. Remember that desperation won’t get you noticed – but rather professionalism. You must look like yourself on your best day, just enough makeup that doesn’t make it too obvious that you tried too hard.

  • It’s advisable for men to apply some oil sheets to get rid of the shine. Also, it’s advisable to improve skin tone and conceal facial redness with some lightly tinted moisturizer.
  • It’s ideal for women to do simple make-up (as stated above), and instead put more attention to their hair.



Learning how to take good headshots is an important knowledge in photography. Know that you’ll never going to nail the right image on your first shot even if you have your best vlogging camera. You might need to adjust your exposure, or some setting may be off. Anything could need some tweaking. The important thing is to never cease to learn from your previous shot and capture a better one with every new attempt.

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