What makes a headshot truly exceptional? It’s not just about having a photogenic face or a fancy camera. It’s a combination of several key elements that work together harmoniously to create an image that captures attention and leaves a lasting impression.
Here are some of the most notable elements I have come across after shooting thousands of headshots.
A vibrant and enthusiastic appearance
People want to work with others that have a positive mood and energy. Having a blank or disinterested look, on the other hand, is going to completely work against you. Not every headshot has to have the largest smile but every headshot should project genuine enthusiasm or connection. Being mindful of facial expressions and having someone coach and guide you on them are key. Adjusting those facial expressions with varying amounts of competence, confidence, and approachability will further tailor it to your line of work and the place you are in your career path.
Uncomplicated body language
Great headshots have simple and direct body language. Start by keeping things natural and relaxed. Avoid crossing your arms, which can create a barrier between you and the viewer. Hammed-up headshots with unconvincing crossed arms and/or aggressive turns of the face or body send signals of being disingenuous. Instead, aim for a pose that looks relaxed and authentic.. Or better yet, let a headshot specialist guide you.
Great eye contact
All great headshots have solid eye contact that reinforces trust. Being able to look someone directly in the eye builds trust – the cornerstone of all business transactions. To obtain this in a headshot you should always be looking directly into the lens of the camera. Looking in any other direction will leave the viewer feeling disconnected and that you are aloof or not willing to pay any attention to them.
Garments are just a visual prop for your line of work. Great headshots leverage them for this purpose only, not to be featured elements themselves that become distractions. As a general rule, neutral colors and solid tones are often preferred for headshots as they tend to be less distracting and more versatile. Flashy jewelry need not apply. Also, avoid busy patterns or vibrant prints that can draw attention away from your face.
Whether the background is solid, lightly patterned, indoors, or outdoors it should not compete with the face for attention. A simple background is typically characterized by its minimalistic design, lack of clutter, and absence of intricate patterns or textures. Neutral tones such as white, light gray, or muted pastels are often preferred as they provide a clean and timeless aesthetic.
These are just some of the high-level elements to consider when going for a great headshot. A passable headshot might simply document how you look whereas a great headshot might actually help you to be perceived as a leader or even help you get the job you are seeking.