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Professional Headshots | 5 Big No-No’s

There is more to professional headshots than shooting at your head believe it or not.

But, I also know we all have budgets, so if you can’t afford a professional photographer right now I have some tips to improve your headshot photos for LinkedIn, your business card, website ‘about page’, portfolio, or resume.

5 big no-no’s if you’re not using a professional for headshots


If you only take away ONE THING from this article PRETTY PLEASE let it be lighting!

That is the number-uno when it comes to professional headshots. Light makes everything brighter…From your skin, hair and your eyes {both in and under eyes}.

No professional lighting?

Set up near a window with the best in-direct lighting in your house. Turn off your overhead lights to avoid dark circles under your eyes + making your skin look like you need a liver transplant {yellow skin is not in}. Having a white, gray or black backdrop is the most neutral/professional looking. More on that below. A white poster board works, and a second one is also a good for bouncing light back up into your eyes to help them sparkle.

2\You Don’t Think About Your Audience

Who are you marketing to?

Before ever looking at your wardrobe, hair, or makeup, ask yourself who you’re trying to attract. What is the purpose for this headshot? A law firm headshot looks very different from a creative headshot. If you’re a creative business that’s upbeat + colorful, you’ll have a very different look than someone looking to find employment in a medical or law office. This is marketing 101, or maybe it was 102. Either way, go back to basics and before you market to your potential customers {or employer} you need to know who they are and what niche you serve.

A massage therapist will not have headshots in a confining, starched-straight blazer. Their work environment needs to elicit calm + relaxation, so I suggest lighter color tones. I created a clean backdrop inside the studio for these images. Eva selected the Elite Collection so she had images to use on her about page + her social media channels.

If you’re looking for a massage therapist, she is amazing! She helped me though my back injury before + after my surgery. Sycamore Therapeutic Massage

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Are you looking for a formal, corporate position? Jakob’s attire is the standard for formal business in professions such as a law firm or accounting agency. I used the industry standard of a marble gray backdrop with lighting to pop him off the background. The classic formal visual provides an entirely different ‘feel’ to the image.

Look for a solid gray or black background to keep your headshot in the traditional category. {Jakob recently graduated and only needed the Basic Headshot Collection for his interviews.}

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3\ You Wear Over-the-Top Attire

Keep It simple and stick to the basics. For business wear, you always win wearing a white shirt with a black/navy jacket. It’s a classic. To get a visual + a few other tips, I have videos/reels on my Instagram page to help. Peek at this quick reel HERE.

{From that video you see I keep life upbeat + fun! However, I am also professional. Life is a heavy place sometimes and I like to bring more joy into it whenever possible.}

4\ Really Noisy Backgrounds

Your Backdrop Matters. While there is not a lot of real estate in a headshot {shoulders up}, it’s still important to plan for everything in the frame. When I shoot a headshot I’m focusing on three key features of your face, but if there was something glaring behind you my eye will look right past you. You want all eyes on YOU!

Avoid noisy backgrounds. If you’re taking the headshot inside, find a clean, empty wall near good window light. If you’re outdoors to get better natural light find a brick wall, white or gray/cement building.

What are those three professional headshot features?

We gain all our expression from our eyes, mouth, annnnnnnnd

our eyebrows!

There is psychology behind eliciting our best headshot believe it or believe it! It’s a super power I have when I first raise my lens to you. My lens comes up and 96.7% of us put on our “freeze-smile”. However, after a few minutes I have your brain thinking about everything BESIDES my lens in your face. I am part photographer, part mind-distractor. Yes, I made that word up, but there truly is a psychological piece behind getting all three features shining together to get your best + most natural headshot.

And my #5 No-No…

5\You’re Not Sharp

A blurry photo is never an option in a headshot. Always put the focus on your eyes. The focus point on your camera MUST, HAS TO BE, ALWAYS, set on your eyes. You want to be the Mona Lisa looking right back at your audience with crisp, bright eyes.

There are many other pieces to a professional headshot to consider. And I help each of my clients through all of it step by step to get each person shining in front of their business. You need to focus on all the details of your business and that’s another reason I’m hired…I focus a lot on mine. When you’re ready to plan your best Headshot Collection, I’m ready to help you!

Until then, these 5 no-no’s will help you get by.

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P.S. When you’re ready to up-level your headshots, or your entire business brand, CONTACT me. I’d be excited to help you!

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P.P.S I also offer a full branding collection to help you market yourself on social media + this post for small business marketing ideas.


Modern High School Senior Portraits + Headshot Photographer serving Dekalb County and Kane County


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