There are instances when you may be invited to speak at an event, participate on a panel, guest author an article or get promoted.  These events have one thing in common; they all require a good headshot of you.  A headshot is a photo, not an avatar or cartoon but a photograph of yourself from the shoulders up dressed professionally.*

If you have ever been asked to speak and don't have a high resolution headshot to provide, it is almost guaranteed that the people posting the information will turn to the popular online photo resource, "GOOGLE," to find what photos they can of you. It may not even be you, it may of you dancing on tables.  Go to Google and type in your name if you don't believe me. Then, click on the "images" category in the left of the results.  Any of these could be used for your headshot if you don't provide one. Not pretty, huh?

Choosing a photographer: 

You don't have to hire a professional photographer or go to a studio, but how often do you change your headshot? Unless you have a staff photographer, consider going to the photo services stores in the mall or even Sears where they take the photos of children.  The lighting is the key to it all.  If you don't have good lighting, no amount of PhotoShop will help you.

If you go with a local source, try to resist the urge to use your smartphone as your camera; or worse using your smartphone that you hold out in front of you as you would at a bar or baseball game mugging for Facebook.  If you're going to bother with a photo, have a high resolution photo taken that can also be used in print for press releases or magazines for editorials.  Ask yourself this question, "Would I want this photo on the cover of Time Magazine?"  Dramatic, I know, but you get the point.

What to wear:

Solid colors are safe as are large patterns that are subtle. The focus should be drawn to your eyes and smile.  Stay away from tiny patterns or stripes.  There are several colors that look great on everyone: fuscia, teal, purple, navy. Brown and gray are up for grabs.  Stay away from hues that match your own skin tone.  Give some contrast and depth to your photo.

Hair, make up and glasses:

How current are those glasses?  Will they be in style for the next few years you'll want to use this photo?  Make sure your hair is tidy and not in your eyes or with that one unruly cowlick.  Make up – go easy and natural.

The pose:

Believe it or not, there is a better pose than that of the DMV – straight on facing foward as if you are in a line-up.  Keep your hands out of your pockets.

You will take 10 pounds or more off yourself if you follow these suggestions:

  • Stand with your feet one forward, the other at a 45 degree angle two feet behind your front forward-facing foot.
  • Lean back on your back leg.
  • Turn your torso to the corner formed by your feet with your shoulders down and straight.
  • Turn your head straight ahead to match the angle of your front foot. 
  • Chin level so as not to show off a fuller neck or turkey neck.
  • Push your head forward ever so slightly to tighten up your chin and neck even more.
  • Smile a clear smile with your teeth and a slight tilt of your head to the outside of your front leg. If your right leg is forward, tilt your head slightly to the right.
  • *CLICK* – review the photo and take a few more slightly shifting your weight to see which is the most flattering. Remember to keep those eyes open, but not with the look of shock – relax.  When you smile EXHALE to truly show "relax" on your face.

Austin has graciously offered to demo "the pose" for me here:




This is not the DMV or a passport office, give it some personality, some depth.  Actually, in Oregon we are allowed to pose for photos.  I love my license photo. Consider what background color makes YOU look good.  It is doubtful that white, Navajo white or stucco is flattering to anyone.  Avoid the shots in the hallway, the side of the building in the sun or any other blank, stark wall without color.  Glass is also a bad idea.

Susan M. Finch headshot Mom_at_23 San_berdu_fair Susan M. Finch headshot Which photo would you want to come up as your headshot?  There were worse ones, but I know these will end up in the Google images index – I had to edit them a bit.  Correct answer:  1 or 4 would work fine.


*exceptions – performance artists, visual artists and other creatives that may want to have a more creative representation of their personality.