Top 10 Headshot Photography Tips from a professional photographer


Prep is vital for great headshots. Know the look you want, pick the right outfit and makeup, and get props and backgrounds ready. Spending time on prep will help the photographer capture your best headshots. Plus, you’ll be relaxed in front of the camera and sure of your shots.

For deliverables, offer clients an online link that can be sent via email or a secure portal.

Let’s review the prep process for headshots in detail.

Prepare the location

Prepare your photography space before shooting. Consider the direction of the light, any shadows or distractions in the background. Natural light is usually better, but if outdoors, watch out for wind and other elements. If extra lighting is needed, bring a reflector and/or diffuser for control. Neutral wall color behind the subject helps, too. Textures and materials can cast unwanted reflections, so be aware of that.

Get everything ready, so when you shoot, it looks great!

Research poses and expressions

Posing and expressions are essentials for great headshots. They should show a person’s personality and energy. To get excellent headshots, look at how others have posed their subjects. Lighting, angles, facial expressions, and posture all influence the mood of the photo. Know where a person’s features are most defined. This makes them stand out in their images.

Practice expressions ahead of time too. Research these elements to capture a person’s true essence in their portrait!

Research the client’s brand

Researching your client’s brand is a must for a successful headshot session. Understand their brand to get the best images for their company. Communicate with your client about branding strategy and the look they desire. Ask what the goal is for the end result – professional or casual?

Research other images from their website or within the photography community to get an idea of what to aim for. Suggest poses that draw attention to unique elements of the clothing. Have an accessory pouch with items like scarves or hats to add personality or change up an image. This will help maximize ROI.


Headshot photography? Yep, you’ll need the right equipment. A digital camera with manual settings, that’s best. We suggest a DSLR camera with a big sensor. Plus, good quality lenses and a tripod! Lighting equipment too. It’s important for capturing quality, pro-lookin’ headshots.

Let’s dive into the details.

Choose the right camera

Headshot photography relies on the equipment you use. To get great pics, select a camera that captures high-quality images with accurate colour. There are many digital cameras available, from basic point-and-shoot to more advanced DSLR models. Research which one best suits your needs and budget.

When selecting a camera, consider image quality, shutter speed, frame rate, battery life and weight. The lens also affects results – longer lenses (e.g. prime lenses) give interesting perspectives that flatter faces and allow you to stay comfortably away from subjects. Experienced headshot photographers usually choose DSLRs or mirrorless systems. They have great lenses and precise autofocus which saves time when shooting many frames per minute.

Choose the right lens

Choosing the perfect lens is crucial for professional headshots. The correct lens will give you sharper and more accurate pictures, which is important for headshots. When picking a lens, look for one with a wide focal range, like Nikon AF-S 70-200mm VRII F4G ED or Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens. Both provide plenty of range and give exceptional results for headshots.

Other elements to consider when selecting a lens for headshots are size, weight and durability. You need to make sure your lens can handle everyday wear-and-tear and other conditions that may arise when shooting on location or in a studio. Also, if you take photos of multiple people or in various places or settings, select lenses with zoom capabilities to avoid having to switch lenses and wasting time while taking multiple setups or trips during a session.

Choose the right lighting

Light plays a big part in headshot photography. Selecting the right lighting can make or break your photo. Natural lighting is ideal, if you can get enough of it. It gives a softer appearance than harsh indoor lights.

If natural light isn’t available, invest in portable lights. This way, you can change angles quickly. Someone to assist is also useful. They can help adjust the lights and fan off camera!


Composition is essential for successful headshot photography! It creates a pleasing image and improves the impact of the photo. Here are 10 tips from a pro:

1. Follow general rules.

2. Balance the elements in the frame.

3. Make sure there’s a point of interest.

4. Utilize the rule of thirds.

5. Fill the frame with your subject.

6. Leave space for movement.

7. Pay attention to the background.

8. Use diagonals to create dynamic images.

9. Vary your camera angles.

10. Use lighting to frame your shot.

Consider the background

Take note of the backdrop for headshots. Photographers oft prefer a plain, white-walled background. Pick one with no loud patterns or blemishes. Consider textures such as brick walls, wooden door panels, or green foliage as part of your background.

Understand how to use color, shape, and line to draw attention to the facial features of your models. This can make the difference between good and great!

Consider the angle of the shot

Angle is key for headshots. Consider how the light hits your face and where you are relative to the camera. Experiment to see what looks best. Make sure the face is lit and has enough depth.

Start with shoulders towards the camera or turn body 3/4 away. Move face slighty from lens to soften shadows. Encourage your subject not to squint or make funny expressions. Keep a neutral expression, like a pleasant smile or natural look.

Consider the distance from the subject

When snapping a headshot, it’s all about giving the viewer a feel of your subject. Getting too close can be unflattering and distort features. Too far away can seem distant and disconnected. Find a comfy middle ground that still shows emotion.

Imagine you are taking a portrait of someone you know. What should be seen on their face? How far away for that emotion? How will lighting affect the pic? Asking yourself these questions will help you find the optimal shooting distance.

Choosing the right distance is essential for a great headshot. If natural pics with minimal props or background, shoot closer to create intimacy with your subject. Emphasize more background detail, back up and create space before firing with higher aperture f-stops.

Remember: choosing the right distance can make or break a headshot. Take your time to get it right!


Post-processing is key for headshots! You can adjust exposure and color balance, and more – to sharpen details, textures and the photo’s look.

Here are some tips to help you create the perfect headshots post-processing.

Adjust the white balance

Adjusting the white balance in post-processing? It’s like telling the camera what is true white. Correcting any environment temperature and color casts. Perfect white balance? It makes headshots look professional and polished.

Accurate level of white? Shoot in a studio or carefully light the subject.

Adjusting the white balance after it’s shot? Manually change sliders on editing programs like Lightroom or Photoshop. Or try presets such as Adobe Camera Raw to save time. Don’t over-correct. Subtlety is key! Simple adjustments on levels and curves bring out light and fantasy details. Making them truly stand out.

Adjust the exposure

Adjusting exposure is essential for photographers. ISO determines the sensor’s sensitivity. The aperture controls light entering the camera. Shutter speed governs how long the shutter stays open. By adjusting these settings, you can take optimal exposures and create great headshots.

Software like Lightroom or Photoshop help you get the perfect look. Contrast curves, hue/saturation, dodge and burn are ways to make your image stand out. Noise reduction is important with headshots as they often require high ISOs in low light conditions. When done correctly, you’ll have amazing headshots that make a statement.

Adjust the color and contrast

Adjusting color and contrast of a headshot is essential. Use a selective approach based on the subject’s skin tone. You want to create a flattering look and accurate representation.

Quickest way: “Levels” or “Curves”. Fine-tune shadows, highlights and midtones. Manipulate color casts and even out over-exposed parts.

Use a reference photo as a model. Pay close attention to light around eyes, nose and chin. Avoid strong light on cheeks and forehead. Aim for accurate representation considering age group and gender. Try different settings until desired result is achieved.

Client Interaction

Getting great headshots from your clients is critical! Make sure they feel comfy in their environment and with you, the photographer. That will make them secure enough to show their true personalities, which will make amazing pictures.

Here are some tips for getting the perfect headshots:

Make the client feel comfortable

Be sure your client feels relaxed during the shoot. Talk about why they’re taking photos and answer any questions. Offer advice on their outfit, accessories, hair and makeup. Your interaction will help you get a good style that shows their features, builds confidence and gives a nice final product.

Decide what kind of feel the client wants. This will help with lighting, lens and posing. Comfort is important – take short breaks when needed to change clothes, adjust hair/makeup, chat and figure out what kind of portrait they want. Use body language to make natural moments for post-production. Make sure to listen to your client – even after the session. Follow up with them about their experience and build a good relationship for future shoots.

Give the client direction

When it comes to headshots, giving direction is just as important as with any other type of photography. Getting the perfect look and feel is key. Establishing rapport helps you to guide your client and show them how to pose, which poses work best, where to stand, and how to express themselves.

For those who don’t know what looks good, offering direction can be useful. Start by making sure the client’s attire, makeup/grooming, and accessories are all ready to go before beginning the shoot. This ensures that you can focus on the camera-work, instead of worrying about details like fly-away hairs or glasses.

To give direction during the shoot, break down complex instructions into simple steps. For example, suggest a slight tilt of the head and looking slightly off camera without overdoing the eye contact. This allows the client to get comfortable while still giving you a professional-looking shot. Lastly, if you’re unsure if they are doing something correctly, have them view themselves in a mirror. This way they can make adjustments immediately, so you don’t have to worry during the camera-work.

Take multiple shots

Interacting with clients is vital for successful headshot photography. Before taking the photos, it’s key to take a few moments to make your customer feel comfortable. Ask some personal questions, like their hobbies or interests, to build rapport and trust.

Then, let them pick their favorite photo from lots of poses. This helps capture many versions of their personality, ensuring they have plenty to choose from when selecting a final image.

Final Touches

Final touches are a must for a photography shoot. As a pro, I love adding a light reflector to soften shadows, a subtle blur to the background, and adjusting the contrast.

Here are my tips for getting the best headshots with these final touches!

Crop the image

Cropping photos digitally is a great way to direct attention and make your subject look amazing! Make sure you focus on the most important elements – like glasses glimmering in light, teeth sparkling in a smile, or eyes sparkling with humor.

Remember these key points when cropping:

1. Crop for impact – cut out what doesn’t matter, to keep the overall effect.

2. Crop symmetrically – make sure all sides are even. Don’t forget to leave room around the head too!

3. Keep it natural – don’t take too much away from one side. Use tools like straightening or vignetting if it doesn’t look right.

4. Don’t over-crop – leave enough room around all edges, in case the photo is used for business cards or social media. The photo should look professional and have impact!

Sharpen the image

Sharpening an image is a crucial part of headshot editing. Software can help bring out the details and lines. Don’t get carried away with sharpening though – too much of it can make the photo look digital or smudgy.

Look into Unsharp Mask, High Pass Filter, or selective masking techniques. Unsharp Mask adjusts the Radius and Amount of contrast for selective enhancement without losing detail. Lightroom has good options for basic and advanced Sharpening as well as third-party plugins like Nik Sharpener Pro 2 and Topaz Detail 3.

Keep in mind that subtlety is key for headshots. Consider the viewing distance too – if people will be viewing from further away then High Pass Filters will give extra depth and clarity.

Add a vignette

A vignette adds a professional feel to an image. It’s a lighter center area with darker edges, mostly around the frame. This draws the viewer’s eye to the subject’s expression in headshots.

To make one, use post-processing software or an app. Dim the edges relative to the center. Adjust contrast or highlights for extra drama, but not too much. You don’t want a big hole in your scene!


Delivery is key in headshot photography. Pro photographers should package the finished headshots carefully. Create a digital and printable version. Knowing how to present to the clients is a must!

Compress the images

Compressing images is key for headshot delivery. An image compression tool helps reduce file size for easy transport. Compression tools minimize data, letting files be small but keep their integrity. JPEGmini and TinyPNG make it easy to compress images without losing quality.

Compressed images are perfect for email and social media, like Instagram and Facebook. Double check your email service’s file size limit so you don’t send too-large images. Many photographers create a web page with links to headshots, eliminating file size worries.

Upload the images

Once your session is done, decide how to send the files. Offer clients an online link that can be sent via email or a secure portal. Services like Dropbox and WeTransfer are secure for uploading images. Once ready, send them off!

Let clients know when to expect files. 24 – 48 hours should be enough. Include details in any messages if technical issues cause delays. Keep everyone informed with up-to-date, consistent communication throughout the experience.

Share the images with the client

Once you’ve finished your headshots session, it’s essential to ensure the customer gets the photos they want. Depending on their requirements and preferences, there are a few techniques to deliver the pictures to them.

One way is to give your client digital and physical copies of their photos. This could include burning the digital files to a CD or DVD and printing physical copies on quality photographic paper. There are a lot of pro photo printing businesses which provide services via online orders or mobile app, depending on the quality you want to offer your customers.

If your customers favor convenience rather than quality, you can send them low-resolution digital files through Email programs like Gmail which supports large file sharing up to 25 megabytes per attachment. Another option could be using file storage services such as Dropbox which makes transferring large files between multiple gadgets quicker and easier than email methods. It also gives an extra layer of security for both sides in the form of backups of all uploaded data files.

Whether you choose print or digital delivery methods, it’s best practice to remind customers that all digital images should be backed up regularly on external storage devices to avoid any accidental loss of valuable data when hardware parts wear out over time. When all the arrangements for image delivery have been completed by both parties, success is assured!



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