A good headshot is a key part of building your professional brand.
While it does need to look professional, it doesn’t need to be taken by a professional photographer. Professionals can be time-consuming and costly and you lose a bit of control in your end product. With a decent camera and a few tips, a great headshot is a perfectly acceptable DIY project.
Before we get started, let’s go ahead and rule out selfies, vacation photos, wedding pictures, or any other photo you have saved. You’re going to want a new photo taken specifically for this purpose.
All you really need is a friend or colleague to take the picture and the camera on your phone. Knowing a few tricks will help you to take a good, professional looking headshot using your smartphone.
Adjust Your Camera Settings
Go into your camera app settings and chose the highest photo resolution available. This will create a much larger file but it will be worth it for this job. You can change it back down to a smaller resolution when you’re done.
Use Natural Light
Lighting can be tricky when you’re inside. What seems like great lighting doesn’t always translate to a great picture. Overhead lights and fluorescents can ruin a professional look. Avoid this problem by going outside. If you can’t find a suitable outside spot, turn off the lights and stand near a window. The key here will be to find a window with bright, but indirect, light. You don’t want to create a harsh shadow across your face.
Bright, but not too bright
The balance to this is not to stand or sit in too much sun. This can make you look washed out, cause you to squint, and create strange shadows. All things you’re trying to avoid. Avoid these pitfalls by taking the picture in the morning or late afternoon. Find a shady wall in a well-lit area so the light isn’t shining directly on you but it’s still pretty bright.
Use a Simple Background
The purpose of the picture is to let potential clients see you, not the architecture of your building or the incredible tree in the park across the street. Simple is always best when it comes to backgrounds. You’re looking for a wall made of brick, metal or other simple texture.
Avoid trees or lampposts – things that could accidentally look like they’re growing out of your body. Be sure the shot is free of other people, random objects, or signs.
Be Sure to Practice
It takes a while to get used to having your picture taken. As a busy attorney, your inclination might be to take two decent shots and get back to work. Big mistake. Give yourself time to warm up. Work through the self-consciousness of it all and just go for it. Like it or not, this is how most of your clients are going to meet you. Don’t rush through it.
Try several different backgrounds. Try several different poses. Change suit jackets. Use different expressions and different smiles. It’s better to have too many choices than not enough. Give yourself at least 30 minutes so you don’t rush through it.
Stand or Sit at an Angle
Don’t just stand there, do something! First, do something with your hands and arms. Put one on your waist, cross your arms, lean on something, clasp your hands in front of you. Anything that feels comfortable.
Then, be sure to stand at an angle. Even if you’re just going for a shot of your shoulders and up, position your body so that you have to turn your head to look at the camera.
Dress like you’re going to court
A suit is usually the most appropriate look for your headshot. Keep it simple – dark solids are best. If you aren’t certain what might be best for you, jump online and see what your peers are doing on their websites. LinkedIn is a great place to see what others are using.
Bonus points for editing
This is not totally necessary but it will make a huge difference if you do it. Once you have a couple photos you like, use image editing software that will allow you to brighten, sharpen, crop, and straighten your chosen image. This is the last step to make the photo really pop. Check out Pixlr for a good online tool you can use for free.
Play around with the editor by creating different crop sizes. Try a portrait crop, a perfect square, and thumbnail size. You want to select the photo that looks best at all these different sizes. Many online profiles use a square profile image be sure you save one that looks good in this size.
As you can see, it really doesn’t take much to create a high quality, professional looking headshot for your website.