10 Tips For Taking Professional Headshots

Photographing a headshot can be a very tricky thing to do. A person right in front of the camera, staring at you for positivity and your direction creates an intense environment. People usually get very critical of themselves while taking their own photos and start feeling nervous.

However, there are some measures you can take to make everything simple and easier for everyone. It is needless to say, taking professional headshots to start way before you even pick up your camera. Hence, before you buckle up and start taking photos, it is essential to know your client’s needs, set up, and some other basic aspects.

Below there are 10 aspects we have highlighted here for your guideline towards better photography.

Tips For Professional Headshots

1. Keep Separation from the Background

Here comes one of the most important aspects to consider while taking headshots. Do not let your subject get too close to the background. If you are using a studio background and if your client stands too close to it, you will find the shadow of the subject on the wall.

This is very much unprofessional. You need to avoid this even if you do an outdoor photoshoot.

2. Positioning and Lighting

If the headshots are for a business or an actor, try to keep the light bit evenly. The classics beauty lighting setup consists of two lights, one above and one below. The one which stays below works as a reflector.

Turn the subject’s body 45 degrees away from your camera and ask him to face the main lighting source. His face has to be precise towards your camera. You have to guide them to do all these things as often, the subjects look away from the camera or maybe not in the right position.

3. Sit People Down

People are more comfortable sitting down while taking photos. Just ask them to rest their hands on their thighs and maybe tell them to do something with their hands. These tasks will ensure your subjects know where they should be while the photo session is going on, and they will not move away from their designated place.

4. Do Some Adjustments

Some small changes can separate a great headshot from that of an average one. To do that, all you have to do is make some little adjustments. Just ask the subject to lean a bit forward, tilt his head a little, and put a mild yet intriguing smile.

Do not bother asking your client to make a few changes to his position and expression until you get what you are looking for in your frame.

5. Keep Talking

While you are in the middle of the session, talk to your clients to make sure they are at the right positions and if not, ask them to change their positions. Whatever it is, do not stay quiet until the session ends. Silence will not only kill the whole atmosphere but also make communication gaps, which may lead to imperfections to your photos.

6. Shoot Tethered

Shooting tethered is undoubtedly a fantastic way of getting good headshots. Take multiple shots and display those in front of your subjects. That way, they will get some ideas about what needs to be changed. This immediate feedback will help them to fix their gestures within a short time.

7. Nail Your Focus

It gets worse when you get to see your photos are out of focus while editing. Especially when the face of the subject comprises half of that image. There are few tips which will help you to make the focus right:

  • Set the shutter speed properly
  • Try focusing on the closest pair of eyes to you
  • Take a look at the backside of the camera. Spend some extra few seconds for zooming in on the photos and assure they are exactly in focus.

8. Find Their Best Angle

It may sound a bit weird, but the best angle does exist! Women happen to know about it more than that of men. It is not like everyone is aware of his best angle; still, it is better to ask if he got one.

On the other hand, if your client is not sure about his best angle, you can help him to find it. Take some photos from different angles and show those to your client so that he provides you with his preference.

9. Look for Catch-Lights!

Catch-lights are the tiny little twinkles in the eyes of the subject. It is a very little detail yet matters a lot. Those little details somewhat depict the depth and personality of the photos.

Put some efforts on creating the perfect sort of sparkles in your subject’s eyes and do it right. You need to do a little more tweaking, we assure you that is totally worth it! You can have more ideas about how to achieve catch-lights if you spend some time playing with the light around you.

10. Practice!

Practice sharpens your skills. People always want to have updated headshots. Take your gears and go out, take help from your friends and family, and take photos a lot.

Going through articles, journals, and tutorials will certainly help you to get some ideas about taking perfect headshots, but there is no alternative to practicing yourself. Play with your camera and take shots in different settings. Try to figure out which one gets you with the best result.

Similarly, make changes to your composition and do it in verities of angles. The idea is, you need to be comfortable with the setup and settings and have a clear concept about what you are doing.

Extra Tips

Whatever I explained until now is pretty much about the basics of headshot photography. If you can assure you are implementing those tips, chances are, you can come up with perfect headshots. Nonetheless, there are a few points you can consider implementing as well while performing your session.

  • Do a Pre-Session Consultation

Before starting the session, make sure you know everything about the basics of doing it and the way the images will be used. Also, get some idea about the style your clients want to take photos.

Do talk to them about it as that will help you to know more about their likings and help them to relax throughout the whole procedure. This will also allow them to make some preparations before the session starts.

  • Assist in Choosing Right Clothes

In general, neutral colors are mostly preferred for headshots as you do not want anything else to distract away from your client’s face. If it needs to be formal, let them know to bring formal attire with them. As often, men forget to bring their jackets, try to keep a spare one with yourself.

If possible, ask them to bring multiple attires so that you can have an option when one of them does not suit the shoot. Moreover, remind them to iron their clothes.

  • Starting the Session

No matter whether you are taking a headshot of a single person or a group of people, always have a chitchat with them to make them relax. It can be a 10-second confident handshake or maybe asking about their well-being. As people usually get very much tensed while taking their own photos, it really helps if you can talk about stuff in their comfort zone.

  • Make Silly Faces

For doing the lighting test, ask them to make funny faces first. This will not only make them relax but also let you do your job, and in the meantime, this will also do the work of ice breaking.

How the Subject Should Pose

Your subject does not need to have a formal pose, but assuring a decent gesture is important for the photo to look good. Hence, keep reminding him that he needs to straighten up and fix his posture.

Accordingly, giving a fresh smile while staring at the camera also looks fine in the photo. Your subject’s chin should be forward and bit down and do not let him lean up and back. However, the hardest part for anyone who wants to get his own photo is knowing what to do with his hands.

Most of us place them in an awkward position. Other than putting too much thoughts in it, simply ask him to put them on his thighs while he is being seated. At this point, try to take shots from above his eye level.


Headshot photography is comparatively an easy and fun way to get started with your portraits. You can use it as a gateway to your corporate clients. Even though it is not that hard to do, but can be very tricky at times.

Besides, knowing what you need to know, doing what needs to be done, and fulfilling your client’s requirements at the same time can be a very hard task as well.

Nevertheless, stay focused on your work and try to incorporate those headshot photography tips. Be persistent with those tricks, and you will definitely get solid clients anytime soon!

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