How do I Prepare for my Headshot?


So you’ve booked a session. Awesome! I can’t wait for us to make the best headshot you’ve ever had. We’re going to team up and create some amazing images. With that in mind, I’ve created this guide to help you prepare for our session.

1.     Trust. First, and of utmost importance is the understanding that we are a team. I’m going to position you in ways that you’ve likely not been positioned before for a photograph. This isn’t a school picture we’re shooting. Trust is key. Most people aren’t happy with the pictures they've had taken of themselves, but they continue to “pose” in the same ways every time they step in front of a camera. I find this counter-intuitive. You know the saying about doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result. Right? I shoot for my portfolio. I know what shots will look good in my portfolio and get me more work. These are the same shots that will get you work or hired or make the best impression on your customers. You booked me and to me, that means we are a team. We are in this together to make the best images of you that have ever been taken. There’s sound logic behind that as well. I would gain nothing by making you look unattractive. I lose potential future business from other customers and you would certainly never book me again. Of course, there are going to be a lot of shots that don’t make the cut. If I’m doing my job right you’ll see more than a few shots of you laughing, with your eyes closed, making a silly face or some other less-than-attractive picture. Don’t worry. These will be deleted. They are just bricks along the path toward getting a natural emotive look. Not the typical fake, held-too-long smile that many people are used to.

2.     Rest. Many people think that this should be first. But that trust thing is key. But, the evening before your headshot session should be as stress-free as possible. Get to bed a little early. The extra rest will translate into better approachability.

3.     Skin. This should start right now. Drink plenty of water. Your skin (and your photographer) will thank you. Take care of your skin. We’ve all seen, and most of us have experienced, improper hydration. Your skin becomes dry and tight and begins to flake. Use lip balm in the days leading up to your headshot for the same reason. Go easy on the tanning. If you don’t tan already, now is not the time to start. Protect your skin from the sun and wind. While you may prefer a darker shade of skin to pasty white, no one looks good in sunburn (or windburn) red.

4.     Jewelry. With very few exceptions, I prefer to shoot you with no jewelry. As I see it, the emphasis should be on your face, not what you are wearing or your taste in earrings. It’s a subtle thing. You probably didn’t even notice that you noticed it. But this session is about you.

5.     Clothes. Rule of thumb here: Wear what makes you comfortable. Rule of the other thumb: Bring a second outfit (even to the express session where you are getting one look) that you feel comfortable wearing. If you feel comfortable, you’ll feel better. That translates into a more confident look. OK. A word on comfort… Your Hawaiian print shirt or blouse might be the most comfortable thing you own. But, don’t. Please. Same goes for busy prints. We are trying to emphasize the true you. Your face.

6.     Makeup. The word of the day is conservative. Do your makeup as if you were going for a job interview.

In closing, the best advice I’ve seen to help you prepare for your headshot comes from one of my mentors, Louisville headshot photographer Ben Marcum. This applies whether you are just getting into the job market, a well-established professional or a performing-arts professional. It might sound simple but dress for the job you want.

Daniel Elias