How to Take a Headshot
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read

If you are a professional in the entertainment industry, you are essentially a salesperson, and the product you are selling is yourself. Consider your headshot your personal logo. From social media to your email signature to your resume, your headshot will likely be the first thing others in the industry see when considering you for a job. This is your first opportunity to make a lasting and positive impression on your target audience.

To take a great headshot of yourself without spending the money to hire a professional photographer, you may need to learn the basics of how to take great photos first. Once you have the basics down, check out our guide below to help you through the process.

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Getting Ready to Take Your Professional Headshot

The first thing to consider when taking your own headshot is your general appearance. You want to look professional, but depending on your exact field and the types of agencies you are sending your headshot to, there can be a great deal of variation on what is expected. For example, a stand-up comic probably shouldn’t have an intensely stoic shot of themselves.

When preparing yourself to take your headshot, remember that less is more. A headshot is about capturing your essence and your personality through your face. Stick to basics and neutrals for your clothing to make sure that you and your personality can shine through. Keep any visual noise in the photo to a minimum by skipping lots of accessories or jewellery.

Professional Headshot

Choosing a Location and Creating the Best Lighting for a Great Headshot

When choosing a location for your headshot, remember that most headshots are taken close-up, and the background should be slightly obscured. In other words, don’t stress too much about finding a beautiful location because the focus of these photos will be on you and your face. That being said, try to choose a background that is not very busy- a simple, uncluttered background is ideal.

Ideally, you will have a brightly lit location. with plenty of natural indirect lighting. Make sure the light is not directly behind you. If you decide to shoot outside, avoid overly harsh midday light and go try to shoot for the “golden hour,” just before the sun rises or sets.

When shooting indoors, position yourself near a large window or open door for that subtle natural lighting. If this isn’t an option, you may need to invest in additional lighting, which we will detail below.

Choosing a Location and Creating the Best Lighting for a Great Headshot

Obviously, you'll need a camera. This could be a DSLR or your iPhone. If you are taking your headshots yourself, you will also need a tripod and a remote (never take a headshot selfie-style.) Ideally, you will want to get a friend to help you. A second set of eyes is always a good idea, and having an assistant to help you take your headshot photos can make a huge difference in how your photos come out.

Good lighting: As detailed above, natural lighting is preferred, but if you don't have access or time to access an appropriate outdoor space, you may need to invest in additional lighting. This can be as simple as clip-on lamps, easily available for purchase online. Make sure to set them up facing away from you, using reflectors to diffuse the light, which will otherwise create harsh unwanted shadows.

Best Lighting for a Great Headshot

Time: Give yourself plenty of time to take your great professional headshots. It’s worth doing a good job and getting it right. Remember, these photos may be your first impression on potential employers, clients, and future colleagues.

How to Pose Yourself to Take a Great Headshot

A good headshot will be taken at a slight angle, so don’t face forward directly into the camera. You may have heard the phrase “know your angles,” and this is great advice when posing for a headshot. Know how to angle your face toward the camera for the most flattering shot. Practice in the mirror ahead of time. The key is to try to position your face and body in such a way that the photo will emphasize your best features.

Pose Yourself to Take a Great Headshot

Try to stay relaxed. If you are uncomfortable or feeling rigid in your body during your photoshoot, it will come across in your photo. This is where having a friend behind the camera can come in handy. Have your friend tell a story that will make you laugh while they are taking your photo. You may not want to use a photo of yourself mid-laugh as your headshot, but the pictures that are captured before and after your laugh can make for candid-feeling and genuine portraits.

How to Take Your Best Headshot with Your Phone

Depending on what kind of phone you have, you can take excellent professional-looking headshots without a professional camera. iPhones now come with a built-in Portrait-feature, which makes taking these shots simple and easy. You still need to consider your angles and create a good lighting situation, but this in-phone feature does much of the work for you.

If you have an older iPhone or an Android phone, we recommend shooting in HDR (High-dynamic-range). HDR takes three photos in three different exposures and blends them for an ideally exposed photo.

To ensure quality headshots on your phone, never manually zoom and instead, if you have someone to help you, have them move closer or further away to capture the right framing.

How to Take Your Best Headshot with Your DSLR

Using a digital single-lens reflex or mirrorless camera to take your headshot is ideal. This will ensure that you have the best, most high-quality photo. Once you have your lighting and your background situated, choose a lens with a focal length of around 50mm, to ensure you can focus on the subject (you) without too much of the background coming into play.

When taking a headshot, it is best to set your camera to a wide aperture (around f/2.8-f/5.6). This will create a shallow depth of field, subtly blurring your background and turning all of the focus on your face.

Best Headshot with Your DSLR

Taking your own professional headshot can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Hopefully this article will help you be able to confidently:

  • Set up a great lighting situation for taking photos of yourself
  • Pose yourself for your headshot
  • Use the best combination of focal length and aperture on your DSLR for portraits
  • Be able to take a great professional headshot even on your phone

If you still feel shaky or unsure about any of the technical aspects of your photo shoot, consider taking a class or workshop on Daisie to hone these skills.