What makes a good head shot?

Before I launched my Facebook page for Socialexis, I sent the link to my sister and my best friend, asking them to look it over. Both came back with the same criticism: I needed a more professional photo.

I knew they were right. Not only did I need one to promote my new business, I also needed a professional head shot for this blog and hopefully, at some point, to promote my book.

Andrea of Servidone Studios sets up a backdrop.

But I hate getting my head shot taken. I never like how they come out! People often tell me I’m photogenic, but apparently that doesn’t apply to posed photos, because I find something wrong with every one: my smile looks fake, my arms look fat, my hair looks greasy. I thought about using my photo from my days as a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, but it was several years old and, let’s face it, I never loved it anyhow.

So I called a photographer friend, Andrea of Servidone Studios, who was nice enough to truck her equipment, including a large white backdrop, to my house. While she took what seemed like hundreds of shots, she gave me some tips on how to take a good head shot.

Andrea’s tips:

Wear a brightly colored shirt. White doesn’t do well with a flash, and it can wash you out if you’ve got light skin. Black causes problems too; it is slimming, but doesn’t show up well on camera. You’ll see below that I followed Andrea’s advice and wore a bright blue shirt. Red or green or any other bright color works, too.

Avoid patterns. A solid shirt is best, rather than one with a busy pattern. “It’s about you,” Andrea said. Don’t let your shirt steal the show.

Ladies, pick a v-neck or cardigan. Unless you work in finance, collared shorts can look stuffy. Wear a shirt that shows some neck. But only a little bit of neck! Modest is good, too.

Don’t sit facing the camera. Instead, sit with your body to one side. Leave your feet planted and turn your upper body and head to face the camera.

Tilt your chin down. And look up at the camera. This feels kind of awkward, but it works well for the photo. And that’s what we really care about, right?

Shoot from above. Ask your photographer to stand on a chair and take the photograph while looking down at you. It’s more flattering than a photo at eye level. Now this is what we really care about!

Sit up straighter than you think you need to. Pull your shoulders back. Whenever I think I’m sitting up straight, I still look like I’m slouching in the photo. I have to sit up so straight that it’s uncomfortable to appear as though I have even decent posture. Andrea helped me with this, reminding me to pull my shoulders back before each shot.

Hire a professional. This is my tip, not Andrea’s. Professionals take better photos than your friend or your mom. They know how to play with the lighting, the angle, your pose and all the other details that make a photo look professional rather than, well, the shot I was originally using for my Socialexis page (which I still don’t think was that bad).

And if you live in Boston — or nearby cities, since she travels for work — hire Andrea! She shoots weddings, too. She’ll help you feel comfortable, make the shoot fun, and most importantly, produce awesome photos.

A few of Andrea’s photos from our shoot:

What do you think? How important is it to have a professional-looking photo for your blog? Or for your business’ Facebook page?

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19 Responses

  1. B eautiful pictures Alexis! I like the one on top the best, against the trees, most fitting for your message of travel and outdoors. Thanks for the photo tips too-very helpful

    Kathy
    http://krpooler.wordpress.com

  2. Great tips, Alexis. And it’s nice to meet you. I followed a tweet by Jody Hedlund to find your fabulous blog. What a wonderful story you are telling about following your dreams and taking big risk to do so. I look forward to exploring your site. Good luck with the book!

    Heather

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  4. The photos are lovely and so is the subject of them. I agree, professional photos are best for this kind of thing. I didn’t do it for my book or my blog, but your launching a new career, so it’s important.
    Karen

  5. Oh, I really like the third photo!

  6. Great tips, as always!

    I’d also note that it is good to have several head shots available, especially if you publish a lot on line because you don’t want to have to use the same picture over and over again if you can help it 🙂

  7. Great pix! I like the one with the trees best.

  8. I really like the one in the trees too, and great bright blue top!

    I agree that a great picture is incredibly important. I know I subliminally judge a blog even by the headshot. My pet peeves are shots that look cheesy or too professional, like the writer takes herself too seriously. I know, I’m picky, but I think I agree with you that getting it right is important!

  9. I like the outdoor shot.

  10. Augh, head shots! *screams* I know they’re necessary, and I LOVE to look at other people’s profile pics. But actually taking them can be a nightmare sometimes. This was a really fun post. 😀

  11. Great tips! I’ve been stashing away photos of singers and celebs as I see poses I love.

    What are your thoughts about not looking straight at the camera (boys seem to do this a lot)?

    Ditto on the outdoor shot.

    http://www.thesurvivalmama.blogspot.com

  12. you look FAB and i like the one with the trees best

  13. Great tips. Thanks!!

  14. I like the middle one best. Shows the personality that comes across in your posts. Really, tho, my favorite is the one from high school that you posted a few days later. Full of spunk

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