5-step guide for taking a professional headshot

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By Karly Benson

There’s no worse feeling than applying for your dream job or internship and seeing a Dropbox to attach your headshot. Whether you’ve been shot many times, have old photos that haunt you or completely avoid the camera, headshots are an inescapable part of many professional opportunities. Although it may seem traumatizing to step in front of the camera and smile awkwardly, follow these tips to make the process as pleasant as possible.

Don’t show your personality whatsoever

In a professional headshot, the most important thing is that you look blandly hireable. Channel your inner blank canvas by wearing neutral tones and avoiding printed shirts, unless you want your future employer to think you’re trying to distract them from the total job hunt fatigue behind your eyes. As well, smiling with your mouth only will create a presentable yet suitably detached image that will elevate any punched up resume. Showing teeth in a headshot is like saying “I love you” on the first date; you’re getting way too intimate, too soon. While it seems nice in theory to have a mid-laughing shot capturing your goofy side, it’s important to remember that employers are hiring you to exploit your physical and emotional capabilities for their corporate aims, not your sense of humour.

Showing teeth in a headshot is like saying “I love you” on the first date

Don’t try out a new look for the first time, including hair, makeup or general aesthetics 

While headshots are anxiety inducing for some, lots of people get excited for their opportunity to shine in front of the camera. Don’t—I repeat DON’T—get ahead of yourself. No matter how excited you may be, don’t experiment with a new look in preparation for the shoot. This is not the time to try out blunt bangs with your hair; instead, go for loose curls or a naturally windswept vibe, like you always do. If you decide to wear makeup, blend your foundation meticulously and all the way down your neck. You could also opt to brave the mean employees in Sephora to ensure it’s still a good colour match. Standing in front of a high definition camera is the worst possible place to test out a new look, second only to high school prom and meeting your partner’s parents.  

Practice posing in the mirror

There’s absolutely no shame in researching your good side! Going in blind to a photoshoot is often times a recipe for failure. To prevent yourself from freezing in front of the camera, you must become closely acquainted with your bathroom mirror. Do you prefer a certain side of your face or do you like it straight on? Should you twist your shoulders to the left or to the right? How serious of an expression do you want to make? Are you presenting yourself as the person who would bring in mini cupcakes on the Friday shift after a long week or someone who is strictly business and no play whatsoever?  Do you look constipated? These are all important questions you can ask yourself and find the answers to in the comfort of your own home. If the mirror isn’t working for you, set up your phone to record yourself and your poses from a new perspective. Portrait mode could be exactly what you need to bring out your inner stock photo model. 

Hype yourself up internally

On the day of your shoot, it’s most important that you feel good. Confidence is key when it comes to having your photo taken, and confidence always comes from within. Don’t be afraid to listen to your favourite Shania Twain song in the Uber if that’s what it takes to get you in the mood. If you’re lucky enough to have a photographer that’s cheering you on and reminding you of how great you look, lean into that and listen to them! But if they’re silent—as most business photographers are—it’s time for you to become your biggest cheerleader. Picture yourself in your dream job and tell yourself that you are qualified, calm and collected over and over again. As you stare down the lens, imagine all your LinkedIn connections basking in how great you look. 

Imagine all your LinkedIn connections basking in how great you look

Keep your expectations low

Although I’m rooting for you and hope your headshots will be everything you dreamed of, it’s important to be realistic. A stagnant photo of you smiling in a suit and tie is certainly not an accurate representation of who you are, what you look like or your skill set. When you’re finally sent the Google Drive link with all the photos in them, you’re bound to feel disappointed or underwhelmed, but remember: that’s just your face, not your sparkling work ethic. Perhaps your slightly awkward crooked smile means you’re no Brad Pitt or Kendall Jenner, but do you think they could navigate Microsoft Word or display proficient leadership skills as well as you? DEFINITELY not.

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