Female Executive Headshot smiling

Tips for Photos

How to prepare to get the best results out of your professional photo session

Everything about your session will be strategic! We don’t rely on luck around here, we plan for success. Let’s think about what you want your headshot to do for you and work together to make it happen. Use these tips for photos that you’ll love!

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Tips for Photos: Wardrobe

When it comes to wardrobe for portraits proper fit is key! Wrinkles are created by improperly fitted clothing, whether too big, too small or just not the right shape for you. Finding clothes that fit you the way they’re meant to will mean you look polished. Plus you’ll feel great, resulting in that fiercely confident expression. Wrinkles can be minimized in retouching, but often not fully corrected in a realistic looking way. Getting it right in real life is the best way to ensure you look your best.

Structured clothing also adds polish by reducing bulges and giving strong shoulders that enhance your posture. Clothing pieces with structure will also reduce the likeliness of messy or crooked seams, which add an air of sophistication.

The goal of your wardrobe is to highlight you,
not distract from you.

Solids or subtle patterns are usually the best choice for your headshots.

This same reasoning is why dark colours are usually the best choice. A lighter colour can be worn under a dark blazer, as it will create an arrow towards your face. However, it should be a neutral so it doesn’t cast an unflattering colour onto your neck. Bare shoulders or bright shoulders draw the eye away from your face, so they are not recommended.


Complimentary accessories are the only ones recommended, not statement accessories. The purpose of the headshot is to highlight you, not your accessory…UNLESS that accessory is part of your intentional messaging! A red shirt on the United Way Board and Staff brings cohesiveness to their group photos and sends subliminal reminders that it may be fundraising season whenever the viewer sees a red top on anyone afterwards! Statement earrings for an artisanal jewelry maker are perfect match. If there’s something you feel you need to I include to enhance your messaging then break the rules!

Indigenous business woman with accessory, this for photos accessories

Tips for Photos: Skin


Hydrating is probably the single most important thing to consider when preparing for headshots. The further in advance you start the better! Everyone worries about a breakout, but that is actually a pretty simple photoshop fix. The real issues start to occur when your skin is dry.

Dehydrated skin flakes, shows creases, looks red or blotchy, feels uncomfortable, and doesn’t lay a great base for makeup. This means the more we can hydrate our skin the better we’ll look and feel! Don’t think this refers to skin alone though. Hydrated lips are happy lips, and your eyes will be less baggy and sparkle brighter if they’re more hydrated.

The solution? Add some extra water to your routine the week of your session, limit some of your dehydrating delicacies for a couple of days before your sessions, and make sure to moisturize! Take care of your skin inside and out this week (extend the glow by keeping up the habit).

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If you have a makeup artist you work with regularly, who knows your face and does it like you love then THAT is the best person to do your makeup for your headshot session. In some cases, that person might actually be you and that is 100% okay!

My mantra about makeup for headshots is to be you on a good day, not a gala night!

Ready for more tips on preparing for headshots? Check out the more tips on how to prepare for your headshot session that dive deep into makeup woes and reasoning!

Tips for Photos: Hair

Making dramatic changes right before your session is not recommended. It is important to get a new headshot anytime you have a drastic change in appearance, but don’t do it the same day or following day. If you’ve had your hair coloured your scalp may be stained or irritated and it’s not at its best. Little pieces of hair stick to the face during haircuts. This means tiny pieces may be in your ears, on your neck and in your clothing. Let’s make sure there’s at least one shower between dramatic hair change appointments and your headshot session. One week is the minimum recommended time between dramatic hair changes and your headshot session. Let’s give yourself a chance to get used to it and ensure it’s a look you like and will keep for a bit.

Do I need to hire a Pro for the day of?

Hairstyling by a professional prior to your session is great, but not essential if you like how you do your own hair. Remember, we want this to be a reflection of the real you, so it shouldn’t be a style you’ve never worked before, or never will again.

Don’t tuck your hair! Ears are one of those elements that can distract from faces. If you have hair long enough to cover your ears I will most likely advise you not to tuck your hair behind them. Have you ever heard anyone say their ears were their best feature? Me neither, so let’s not make them the star of the show. This also means ponytails and undo styles are not recommended.

Facial Hair

Facial Hair is just as important as any other hair when it comes to headshots! Not only intentional facial hair, but UNINTENTIONAL facial hair! In the days leading up to your session it’s a great idea to take a close up look to remove any unwanted stragglers. These hide in your nose, eyebrows, ears, on your chin, or do a clean shave with sharp lines.

Hair Concerns

Are you concerned over thinning hair or a receding hairline? Makeup artists have a great trick for minimizing the look of thinning hair in real life. Pat a little eyeshadow matching your hair (or contour powder) onto your scalp. This is especially helpful where your part is seen because that’s where thinned hair is most noticeable. As a retoucher I will do this while polishing up your image so you don’t need to use makeup. Definitely fee free to use that tip at your next in person networking event though! Receding hairlines call for targeted lighting, so that will be taken care of in how the lighting in your image is shaped. We don’t want to focus light at the top of your head, but instead will highlight your face. Hair is just an accessory, and not required for a great headshot.

Flyaways are another concern frequently mentioned when talking about hair for headshots. You can also run a fabric softener sheet over your hair in the direction it flows just like a brush (or pat if you have tight curls) to lessen the static. This is especially helpful in winter, and there will be softener sheets in the studio for your use just in case. Dry shampoo is well known for taking away greasy shine, and providing volume, but it’s also effective for reducing flyaways!

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Tips for Photos: Expression

Don’t over practice your headshot expression! You can practice a little bit in the mirror, but please don’t come in set on the expression you’ve practiced. The angle the camera sees is not the same as the angle you see in the mirror. Also, I will be trying my best to give you prompt that encourage fluid movement, as static expressions tend not to emit feelings of authenticity. We don’t want any deer in the headlights. Your headshot expression tells the story of your personality, so fake and practiced is not okay.

“I’m nervous! I hate having my picture taken”Almost Everyone 


You’re not the first person who is nervous! I quite literally joke with almost everyone about how they’re the first person to ever tell me they don’t love having their picture taken. The truth is the vast majority of people share that sentiment! My goal is to change this of course, or at least minimize the dread long enough to give confident eyes, because we’re going to have fun! 

Be intentional with your message. While I don’t recommend you have a headshot expression set in stone, I do suggest you having an idea of the use and messaging you want to send with the image, these will be key in crafting your expression cues.

How do I know what my expression will say?

Crystal has studied the subtleties of body language extensively, and will coach you through this process. One of the ways we catch authentic expressions in your headshot session is that your session is more than you standing in front of a camera. Your passion shows through in your images when it’s on the tip of your tongue and the forefront of your mind. There may also be some trickery if you’re still looking nervous. 

Tips for Photos: Lighting

Different lighting during your headshot session gives us the power to create artistically and send intentional messages through the images. It can create a subtle pop of black jackets off black backdrops, fill lines on faces, detract from receding hairlines or create dramatic glow. For this reason lighting is specifically crafted for each person. We may need to do a bit work together to nail that ideal combination of expression and perfect lighting.

A fun and friendly image will have different lighting needs than an image that is professional or authoritative. When we are creating a range of looks for you with different purposes it is likely there will be rearranging of lighting during your session.

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Strategic Design

In order to choose the best lighting for your portrait there needs to be a conversation about your goals. Are you worried about a little weight you wish you’d lost before your headshot session? Or are you concerned about wrinkles or acne? Do you have 2 eyes that are drastically different sized? A receding hair line? A prominent mole? How about a crooked nose you don’t want accentuated? I want you to feel as confident and comfortable as possible. Knowing these fear means I can explain to you how we’ll downplay anything you’re self conscious about and really showcase those phenomenal features you love about yourself. 

Each perceived flaw has a different lighting and/or posing solution to minimize how noticeable it is. We are all our own harshest critics and I often love these unique features that provide so much character, so please don’t keep your concerns a secret. On the other hand, if you have a killer jaw line or striking eye colour and you want that highlighted make sure you mention that too! What do you love about yourself? Let’s play that up! 

Your wardrobe and backdrop choice will also affect the lighting we may need in order to be intentional about the messaging your image will send. We may use setups that you may not want images from. The goal is not for you to have a lot of images, it is for you to have a few really excellent pictures.

Tips for photos backdrop, tips for photos expression

Tips for Photos: Backdrop

Every part of an image should be intentionally crafted for your strategic messaging. Different backdrop colours can give your audience a different feel or impressions about you, therefore we will make this choice based on the targeted intention of your message. It’s colour science! Your audiences brain will make subconscious assumptions about you based on the colour you wear, and the colours surrounding you, so let’s be aware of this messaging. Is this for your company? Maybe we even want to use one of the brand colours.

Entrepreneur headshot strategic messaging, tips for photos backdrop, tips for photos wardrobe

How will your image be used?

Let’s consider what the main uses for your image are. 

A clean white backdrop is a popular choice to look seamless on a webpage. Board members often get asked specifically to supply a headshot on a white backdrops as well.

Do you want to stand out on LinkedIn, or another social media platform? Choose a black or a bold colour backdrop. Most people play it safe with their profiles and use white, light grey, or a pale natural scenery for their backdrop. Be a visual disrupter to stand out! When it comes to images on social media you never want to follow the curve. Get noticed by showcasing your personality with a sharp contrast to the rest of the faces in those tiny bubbles.

Tips for Photos: Is one image enough?

If you have a specific need then one image will be perfectly crafted to meet that need. However, one image can’t do everything for you without you feeling like you’re compromising. For example, if you need an image for your board commitments, you will want a different image to showcase your personality and impact on LinkedIn. 

Did you know that more than 2/3 people are consuming their social media on their cell phones? It’s important that your head is taking up as much of that circle as possible.

The Team at Headshots Matter has also compiled a ton of advice on tips for photos! Click on the icon to read more.

Headshot Photography Expert