Setting Up Your Headshot

Setting up a headshot can be pretty intimidating if you’ve never done it before. Increasingly, we are becoming capable of creating our own digital media and some financial professionals, and consumers alike, are foregoing hiring a photographer in favor of capturing the images themselves. If you’re one of these industrious few or want to learn more about the process, we’ve put together a guide below to get you started setting up a shot.

1.    Get a camera, preferably an SLR or another high-performance camera. That said, even cell-phone cameras are pushing the bar in terms of photo quality, and an iPhone or Galaxy has enough power to work in a pinch. As a good benchmark, the camera should be no less than 8 megapixels. 

  • It is always best to have a second person “on-set” to help out. Ask your friends with nice cameras if they’ll be willing to lend it to you, or shoot the photos while you focus on posing.
  • If you can’t get someone to help you, make sure you have a timer or remote shutter on your camera. There are apps for most phones that cover this if you need.

2.    Wear simple, neutral clothes and/or makeup.  Don’t try to impress with a wild look or striking outfit — you just want your naturally beautiful self.

  • Men: A simple button-down is usually your best bet. Aim for solid colors or basic, clean patterns.
  • Women: A nice cardigan or even a form-fitting, clean v-neck might work, as will simple dresses and tops. Remember that a proper fit is the most important thing.
  • Don’t match your skin tone — look for something that makes you pop. Dark-skinned people should stay away, generally, from dark colors, while fair-skinned people should avoid white. Freckled or rosy-complexioned people might want to avoid reds and oranges.

3.    Use a simple, solid background. Striped backgrounds are a very bad example, and so are bright colors. Solid colors won’t distract your viewers, allowing them to focus on you. Step a few feet away from the background so that it blurs behind you. This helps you really pop off the page or screen.

  • Light or cream colored background, as well as black or navy, are good colors to shoot for.
  • The most complicated you want to get might be an outdoor wall, like some nice red brick or wood paneling on the side of the house. This is about as complicated a background as you should go, however.

4.    Ensure you are evenly lit, taking extra attention to avoid shadows on your face. Never have your strongest light source behind you. You want lights that lead to a nice, even glow, with very few shadows and soft angles. A big place to focus is underneath the eyes — since most lights are overhead, this area shades in and makes you seem tired. Use a light bounce, lamp, or even a large flashlight to add a little light from below the face.

  • Cloudy, overcast days provide gorgeous, even lighting in most circumstances. Avoid the hours around noon.
  • The hour right before sunset and the hour right after sunrise are called “golden hours.” If you have plenty of access to light, these shots often look incredible.
  • Use clamp lights or lamps when shooting indoors. You don’t need professional lights, but you may need to take a lamp or two from other rooms to create enough light.

5.    Set your camera up on a tripod or hand it off to a friend. Do no try and hold the picture and take your own headshots. There is a very specific type of shot most people want in a headshot — and your hand reaching out of frame is not a part of it.