The medical residency application process can be complex and overwhelming, with a lot of moving parts, any one of which can be a weak link. One of the most crucial parts of your application is a high-quality medical residency portrait photo. The whole point of the headshot for the application is to give a visual representation of yourself that is commensurate with everything else you’re submitting as part of the application process.
In this blog, I will give you five tips to ace your ERAS residency application photo as well as show a few examples of what to avoid.
Throughout this blog, you’ll see examples of excellent headshot photographs of applicants taken from my studio. Take it as advice from a professional headshot photographer in Philadelphia. I hope these tips will help you plan for your medical residency application photoshoot.
Tip #1: Dress Professional
Business attire works best in these situations and we’ll handle it no differently than a business headshot. For guys, this most likely will mean a button-down shirt with a collar and a suit jacket. Make sure that it’s nicely fitting because you don’t want to be swimming in these clothes. You also want the collar to be nice and tight around the neck for a very clean look. You can choose to wear a tie, but make sure it’s not a very loudly patterned tie, and that it doesn’t have crazy bright colors. The same goes for the shirt and the jacket.
Females can choose to wear a jacket or not wear a jacket. But I suggest not having anything underneath that’s very low cut or revealing. Just like the guys, don’t use any loud patterns or overly bright colors for your attire, and leave any kind of animal prints out of it. Simple, mundane, solid colors always work best for a very professional look.
Tip #2: Use Quality Lighting
Good lighting is essential for ERAS headshots. If you happen to be shooting outdoors for some reason and you’re doing this yourself, stay away from the harsh midday sun. It’s gonna create hard shadows on your face, especially under your eyes, and leave them kind of dark. We want to have that connection with the eyes because that’s what’s gonna help you become more personable to whoever’s looking at your headshot to bring you in for an interview.
The same thing goes for indoor lighting—using a very hard light source like a lamp can make weird shadows on your face. Those weird shadows are going to cheapen the look and affect the look and feel you’re trying to achieve.
Tip #3: Use Simple Solid Backgrounds
The ERAS residency application photo calls for just a simple white or light gray background, but even for business headshots, you want to stick with simple solid backgrounds so that they don’t detract from the face. We want the focus to be on the facial expressions, the body language that you’re communicating, and the energy you’re giving out. If you have some kind of brick wall, buildings, or trees behind you, that’s going to completely take away from the focus of the headshot, which is you.
Tip #4. Positive Body Language
Positive body language helps you give off a direct and open personality. If you’re being brought in for an interview, you’re not gonna want body language that’s very standoffish. It gives a vibe that you’re a very direct, forthright person.
In our residency photo, we want to be standing directly in front, not hunched over, not turning too much, or kind of leaning. A simple front-facing approach works best.
Tip #5: Genuine Facial Expressions
Blank facial expression
Just like body language, there are a lot of subtleties that people can pick up from your facial expressions. People want to work with other people that look vibrant, friendly, credible, and competent. You want to impart that into your facial expressions.
What most people find helpful is practicing in front of the mirror. Look for an expression that shows you at your most endearing, at your most vibrant. If you go to an interview with a deer in headlights appearance or a wide-eyed, stiff appearance, that doesn’t look very friendly. A fake cheesy smile is not gonna come off as genuine. You wouldn’t talk to somebody like that when you’re having a conversation with them, so why would you put that on your headshot and submit it with all your other pieces that you’re putting in for application?
If I were to add Tip #6, it would be to hire a professional headshot photographer to help guide you through all the tips that I just mentioned. Professional photographers already own solid color backgrounds and flat lighting that’s gonna make you look spectacular. We also guide you around the body language and facial expressions to basically have your ERAS photo say what you want it to say. The end result will look extremely professional and polished and you can also take that same professional headshot and use it on many other platforms, like LinkedIn, throughout your career as you move forward.
As a headshot photographer in Philadelphia, I have been guiding my clients on these same concepts for years. I hope these tips will help you plan for your medical residency application photo.
If you want to reach out to me directly contact me here.
Best of luck with the application process!