How to Take a Professional Headshot Without Paying for One

Once you’ve created a piece of marketing for your business—whether that’s a business card, website, or a beautiful 48-page coffee table publication—it becomes the default first impression your brand will make on countless potential customers.

Out of everything on your Facebook page, one of the first things most people notice is your profile picture. In order to make the best impression possible, you want to make sure your profile picture is both professional and personable.

We spoke to ReminderMedia staff photographer Shana Smith, who offered her suggestions for creating a fantastic headshot that will be sure to turn heads and leave people with positive feelings around you and your business.

Be genuine.

When you’re trying to build relationships with people, you need to get them to know, like, and trust you. That means you want to give the impression of professionalism without appearing inaccessible. While it’s not necessary to force a big smile, you don’t want to appear overly stoic, either. Be warm. Be genuine. Be you.

Natural light is your friend.

There’s a reason professional photographers spend so much time lighting their subjects. If your potential customers can’t see your face, they’ll have a much harder time trusting you with their business.

The easiest way to ensure your headshot is well-lit is to have it taken outside (or, at the very least, near a window). Trust us: taking advantage of natural light is much easier than properly lighting an indoor photo.

Having said that, you want to be careful about how you use the natural light. Make sure the sun is shining on you, but not behind you. If the sun is directly behind you, you risk looking overexposed (read: ghostly pale).

On the other hand, the sun shouldn’t be shining directly on you. You’ll still look overexposed—plus, all your blemishes and wrinkles will be on full display, and you’ll probably be squinting in your picture.

It might take some time to get the lighting just right, but don’t give up! With a little effort and experimentation, you’ll eventually be rewarded with an amazing photo.

Wear neutral colors and avoid patterns.

When it comes to dressing for your headshot, solid colors are a must. Patterns can be distracting and will sometimes clash with your background. Believe it or not, even pinstripe suits—which are pretty subtle, as far as patterns go—can be difficult for many cameras to process.

So, which colors should you wear? In general, you should avoid clothing that is stark white or black. These colors can mess with the camera’s exposure and create all kinds of issues with your final shot. Instead, settle for more neutral colors that you feel look good on you. After all, you want to go into this shoot with confidence!

Download a sample of our customizable marketing tool, American Lifestyle.

Find a background that isn’t distracting.

In the same way that loud patterns can be distracting and difficult for cameras to process, so, too, are elaborate backgrounds.

Remember: the focus of this photo should ultimately be on your face, because you are trying to humanize your brand. It’s not just that people will be distracted—it’s also a technical issue. If you’re using a smartphone (or any camera with an autofocus), the camera will tend to focus on these backgrounds and not on your face.

While you could shell out the extra dollars for a higher end camera, the point here is to save money while still getting a great headshot. So, spend a little extra time finding a suitable background. The cash you save will be well worth the effort.

If you’re a ReminderMedia customer, you can take advantage of our Creative Services background enhancement service.

Strike a pose.

If you’ve gotten any kind of professional photo taken in the past, you’ve most likely heard these instructions before:

Lift your chin up.
Keep your back straight.
Look at the lens, not at the photographer.

Whether or not you hire a professional to take your headshot, these are good words to live by. It’s important to project confidence, and body language plays a huge role in how self-assured you appear.

Now that you’ve got a better idea of what makes for a compelling, professional headshot, you can enlist the help of a friend or colleague to make it happen—saving you valuable marketing dollars that you can use for other things, like running effective Facebook ads.

Written by Kevin McElvaney

Zealous wordie and reluctant writer of short bios. I'm dedicated to creating useful and educational content.