Secrets for a Better Professional Headshot

A while back, we wrote an article about some of the common mistakes real estate agents make with their headshots. If you don’t avoid these things, you could end up on a site like this one or this one.

So what should you do to take a good picture?

You don’t have to be a professional photographer, or hire one, to get a headshot you can be proud of. Just follow these simple tips.

Plan your shot.

Spending a little time planning up front can save you in the long run. Think about what you want to convey and let that guide your choice of clothing, setting, and pose.

You’ll also want to consider where and how you will use your photo. Real estate headshots are used everywhere from billboards to social media profiles. Ensuring your image looks good across varying formats and sizes takes a little thought and planning.

Keep it simple.

Busy backgrounds, ornate patterns in clothing or jewelry, and other unnecessary details can draw attention away from your face. If you look like me, then you might argue that’s a good thing, but a headshot isn’t about vanity. It’s meant to reassure potential clients that they are dealing with a real person.

If you’re going to shoot indoors, try to stand or sit by a wall that is a solid color. When shooting outdoors, try to pick a spot with open space. Pick clothing that contrasts with the background but doesn’t distract.

Choose the right lighting.

Lighting can make or break a photo. If it’s too bright, your headshot will look washed out. If it’s too dark, you will be hard to see. The types and position of light are important too.

Natural (outdoor light) is ideal when possible. If you are shooting indoors, try to stand near, but not in front of larger windows or under skylights, and turn off lamps and overhead lights. If you don’t have enough natural light for a good picture, then close the blinds and use artificial light as your main source.

If you’re using your smartphone’s camera, while it might run counter to common sense, avoid using your phone’s flash because the lighting is very flat and often creates the dreaded red eyes.

Use soft lighting to avoid awkward shadows and harsh contrast. If you’re shooting outdoors, try to do it on a cloudy or overcast day. If you have to do it when it’s sunny, find an area with shade, such as under a tree or the side of a building. Plus, lighting that’s too bright will cause you to squint.

If you’re indoors, don’t shoot directly in front of windows or other backlit scenes. They’ll make everything in the foreground appear darker. Also, try to avoid standing directly underneath any overhead lights. Try to position your shot so the light is falling on the subject.

Use the rule of thirds.

One of the first things aspiring photographers learn about composition is the rule of thirds. This theory provides a simple guide for positioning the subject of a photo. It can be applied to just about any photo you are shooting or cropping.

Here’s how it works.

Divide your image into three equal sections vertically and three equal sections horizontally. Imagine drawing a tic-tac-toe board over the image.

By placing areas of interest along these lines, and especially the intersecting areas, your photo will be more balanced and interesting. Since the eyes are a natural focal point, aligning them with one of these points helps draw greater attention and makes the image more pleasing to viewers.

Next time you update your headshot, follow these guidelines. People will think you had a professional shoot, even if you just use your smartphone.