Headshot Photography Tips: How to Get a Killer Shot Every Time

headshot photography tips

The world’s first ever portrait photograph was by Robert Cornelius. As it was of himself it was also the first ever selfie. This headshot was taken in 1839.

It’s not always easy to take a flattering and captivating headshot. Read on for some headshot photography tips that will help you make sure you get a killer image every time.

Headshot Photography Tips

Taking photographs is not just about the technical aspects of the camera. You need to consider lighting, composition, and the subject.

As a headshot photographer, you also have a subject that can interact with you. The relationship you establish with the subject can make a huge difference to the end product. Their expression, even just their eyes, can say so much about how the session went.

It’s not documentary photography. The image could be for a business website viewed by potential clients. It might be for an acting portfolio or resume.

Whatever the purpose, the image has to deliver a result. It might need to suggest credibility or likability. Getting it right takes skill and persistence.


Understanding the brief is the first step to taking headshots. Talk to the client about what they want the headshot for. Discuss their expectations.

If the headshot is for a business purpose discuss the type of business and its culture. Is it serious or fun? Should you be going for clinical and corporate or colorful and creative?

Clothing Options

This might be a good time to talk about clothing options. Better to come to the photography session with the right clothes than have to improvise at the last minute. Have them bring some alternatives in case the first option doesn’t work.

Suggest neutral colors so as not to distract from the face. Something plain with solid colors is better than patterns. Remind them to have clothes ironed and bring them hung to avoid on-camera creases.

It’s All About the Eyes

Your subjects eyes should be the focus for both the camera and you. Make good eye contact and make sure you achieve a strong connection with their eyes. It’s their eyes that will draw the viewer of the photograph in.

The eyes communicate emotion and also reveal a lack of integrity. A fake smile is always shown by the eyes. Relax your client and be playful to get some genuine expression in the eyes.

Relaxation Exercises

Doing some relaxation exercises at the start of the session can help. Ask your client to make a funny face and stick their tongue out. Do it with them.

Do this a few times and take some test photographs to test the light. It will help remove tension from their face and help develop a relaxed atmosphere too. Even a serious corporate looking headshot is better with a confident and relaxed client.

Background and Lighting

Light evenly for corporate and acting work. Have the client turn the body 45 degrees away from the camera and towards the light. Ask them to look right down the lens.

Don’t have the background nearer enough for the client to cast a shadow. Even location shoots should have the background well away from the client so you get good separation.

It’s a Team Effort

Go ahead and take photographs using these headshot photography tips. Do it with the client. Let them see the work in progress and they can work with you to get a great result.

To learn more about achieving great photos, click here.

Published by

Jonathan Mookes

Matt is a long-time graphics and design professional, his current research is 3D imaging and video development using bleeding edge technology!

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