What makes a good head shot?

August 9, 2010

Before I launched my Facebook page for Socialexis, I sent the link to my sister and my best friend, asking them to look it over. Both came back with the same criticism: I needed a more professional photo.

I knew they were right. Not only did I need one to promote my new business, I also needed a professional head shot for this blog and hopefully, at some point, to promote my book.

Andrea of Servidone Studios sets up a backdrop.

But I hate getting my head shot taken. I never like how they come out! People often tell me I’m photogenic, but apparently that doesn’t apply to posed photos, because I find something wrong with every one: my smile looks fake, my arms look fat, my hair looks greasy. I thought about using my photo from my days as a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, but it was several years old and, let’s face it, I never loved it anyhow.

So I called a photographer friend, Andrea of Servidone Studios, who was nice enough to truck her equipment, including a large white backdrop, to my house. While she took what seemed like hundreds of shots, she gave me some tips on how to take a good head shot.

Andrea’s tips:

Wear a brightly colored shirt. White doesn’t do well with a flash, and it can wash you out if you’ve got light skin. Black causes problems too; it is slimming, but doesn’t show up well on camera. You’ll see below that I followed Andrea’s advice and wore a bright blue shirt. Red or green or any other bright color works, too.

Avoid patterns. A solid shirt is best, rather than one with a busy pattern. “It’s about you,” Andrea said. Don’t let your shirt steal the show.

Ladies, pick a v-neck or cardigan. Unless you work in finance, collared shorts can look stuffy. Wear a shirt that shows some neck. But only a little bit of neck! Modest is good, too.

Don’t sit facing the camera. Instead, sit with your body to one side. Leave your feet planted and turn your upper body and head to face the camera.

Tilt your chin down. And look up at the camera. This feels kind of awkward, but it works well for the photo. And that’s what we really care about, right?

Shoot from above. Ask your photographer to stand on a chair and take the photograph while looking down at you. It’s more flattering than a photo at eye level. Now this is what we really care about!

Sit up straighter than you think you need to. Pull your shoulders back. Whenever I think I’m sitting up straight, I still look like I’m slouching in the photo. I have to sit up so straight that it’s uncomfortable to appear as though I have even decent posture. Andrea helped me with this, reminding me to pull my shoulders back before each shot.

Hire a professional. This is my tip, not Andrea’s. Professionals take better photos than your friend or your mom. They know how to play with the lighting, the angle, your pose and all the other details that make a photo look professional rather than, well, the shot I was originally using for my Socialexis page (which I still don’t think was that bad).

And if you live in Boston — or nearby cities, since she travels for work — hire Andrea! She shoots weddings, too. She’ll help you feel comfortable, make the shoot fun, and most importantly, produce awesome photos.

A few of Andrea’s photos from our shoot:

What do you think? How important is it to have a professional-looking photo for your blog? Or for your business’ Facebook page?

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