Headshot Do’s and Don’ts

Are you in need of a professional headshot but not sure where to start? Look no further! This list will help you create a professional headshot that will make you look your best.
Whether you are an actor, musician, or business professional, a good headshot is a must. A professional headshot should be high quality and show your personality. But there are many things to consider when getting your headshot taken.
When you are looking for a job, the first impression you make is with your resume. But, what about the second impression? Many people forget about their headshot until it’s too late. A professional headshot can make or break your chance of landing a job.
smiling older woman wears bright pink


Here is a list of the do’s and don’ts of professional headshots

Why you need a professional headshot and what to avoid. A potential client or business will look you up online when you’re looking to connect with them.  If all they see is a grainy, out-of-focus photo of your cousin’s wedding, you won’t make the best first impression. A professional headshot will help you stand out from the crowd and show that you take your professionalism seriously.
The first impression you make is the most important. A resume and a well-written cover letter may get you an interview, but a professional headshot will clinch the deal. Many people think that a snapshot from their last vacation is good enough, but it’s not. A professional headshot communicates to the viewer that you are serious about your role. It also shows that you have taken the time to put your best foot forward.

Do aim for –

A headshot is a photograph of someone’s face. It’s usually used for things like online profiles, business cards, and resumes. Your headshot should show your best side. It should be taken in a studio or somewhere with good lighting.


Don’t try to –

Selfies are all the rage these days. Everyone and their mother is taking them. But there’s one big problem with selfies – they’re often not very good. That’s because taking a good selfie is a lot harder than it seems.

One way to make sure your professional headshots always look great is to not take them yourself. Instead, hire a professional headshot photographer to take them for you.
actor folds arms and smiles

Clothing: What to wear and what not to wear in your professional headshot.

When you have your professional headshot taken, the outfit you choose to wear is important. You want to look polished and put-together, and you want to wear colours that will make you look good in the photograph.
3 days before we meet, lay out three ironed and laundered outfits on your bed. Look for clothes that make you feel confident and comfortable. Next, put them on and find a location with good lighting to check your outfits. A bright, well-lit room will make you feel confident and help you look your best. Look in the mirror. Fold your arms. Do a ‘sit test’. Are there any bulges or creases that distract? Do you like what you see?
During my headshot photoshoots, I provide a mirror for my clients to check their outfits and hair before we take your professional headshots. As soon as you arrive, hang your outfits on my studio clothing rail, so that they wouldn’t crease. Here are a few tips:

Don’t wear:

  • A busy pattern can be distracting in a headshot, so it’s best to avoid it. 
  • Tight clothing – you want to look comfortable and confident, not squeezed in 
  • Anything that might distract from your face – big earrings, necklaces, etc. 
  • Don’t take clothes straight from their wrappers and expect to wear them 
  • Creased clothes

Do wear:

  • Choose something solid or with a simple pattern. 
  • Make sure the clothes fit well and that you feel comfortable in them. 
  • Wear nude underwear 
  • Tailored outfits that follow the body line 
  • Bright colours can be eye-catching and make you stand out 
  • Muted tones can help you appear more professional

If you’re not sure what to wear, I can visit your home and choose outfits from your existing wardrobe. I also provide a 12 page ‘Style Guide’ explaining what outfits to wear.

Related: What to wear client guide

mature old woman smiles

Pose: How to pose for your professional headshot.

In order to get the most out of your professional headshot, you’ll need to pose for it in a way that showcases your best features. Here are a few tips on how to do that:


  • Start by standing or sitting up straight with your shoulders back. This will help give you a confident and professional look. 
  • If you’re shooting in a studio, try leaning against a solid surface to help support your body. See the photo below for how to do this.
  • Put the weight lightly on your front foot and lean ever so slightly towards the camera 
  • Chat with the photographer to generate genuine smiles.


  • Fake your smile, you need it to reach your eyes. 
  • Over arch or stretch your neck. 
  • Hold your hands in a fist or claw as this conveys tension and stress. 
  • Avoid crossing your ankles as this sends out an ‘I’m uncomfortable’ message. 
  • Avoid eye contact with the camera, it can make you feel self-conscious and awkward.
As a headshot photographer, I offer full-service sessions. I guide you on the proper way to stand, what to do with your hands, and where to look. I explain why this helps enhance your confidence and approachability. Once you are ready, I will guide you through your pose again so you look your best.
After seeing how much your portraits have improved, you are eager to continue the session and start to feel excited.
coportate man in jacket

Location: Where to take your professional headshot.

When you need a professional headshot, where do you go?
Some people may choose to go to a photography studio, while others may choose to take their headshots in their office or outdoors. There are pros and cons to both choices. If you’re looking for a professional headshot that will make you look your best, here are some tips on where to go.


  • Look for a studio that has experience shooting headshots 
  • Check that the photographer has good reviews online. See my 5-star reviews here
  • Be sure to ask if they have any recommendations for what type of clothing and makeup to wear. 
  • Discuss what a solid background reflects your brand colours.


  • Use busy or distracting backgrounds
  • Try and take your own headshots 
  • Ask friends or families with bridge cameras
  • Use colours or locations that you like but don’t reflect your brand’s core values
photo of author on their farm

Background: What kind of background to choose for your professional headshot?

When it comes to photography, the backdrop of the photo can make or break the picture. A good backdrop can add interest and depth to a photo, while a bad backdrop can make a photo look amateurish. There are many different types of backdrops available, but the most popular type is the coloured backdrop. Coloured backdrops come in a variety of colours, so choosing the right one can be tricky. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right coloured photography backdrop.
At the start of every session, I plan what colours to use with my client. I do the research for them and see what brand values and colour schemes their business uses. I also dig deep into their ideal client and use colour schemes that tap into their client’s vision.
  1. Grey – LinkedIn profiles, Spotlight portfolios, traditional industries (finance, mortgage, agents, advisors), suits everyone, pleasing skin tones
  2. Fine art – creative profiles (writers, artists, performers), adds depth, provides a classic feel, flattering skin tones
  3. Baby blue – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, bio pages, magazine spreads, relaxed and informal, extremely flattering 
  4. Your place of work – In the photo above Abby had written a novel based on a farm. So I took her author photographs on her family farm.
Related: Outdoor headshot specials here The LinkedIn headshots below were taken during my headshot specials as were for a CEO of a well-known charity Age UK. The brief was to create warm, welcoming and open photographs without being too staged or fake.

CEO for Age Uk Isle of Wight

Props: What props to use in your professional headshot.

When you’re having your professional headshot taken, I prefer not to use props as it distracts from your face. A headshot is from the collar bone upwards, adding a prop into the frame will compete with your features.
During my headshot sessions, I offer the choice of expanding the session to portraits that showcase your personality or relationships. This is the perfect time to include props. Here are a few ideas:
If you’re a business professional, consider using a prop that represents your field. For example, if you’re a doctor, bring a stethoscope; if you’re an actor, bring a script. This will help personalize your photo and show off your profession.
Another option is to use props that showcase your personality. If you love golf, bring a golf club; if you’re into fitness, bring along some weights or sneakers. This will help the viewer see the real you, not only your professional side.
Whatever props you choose, make sure they are clean and in good condition.
smiling writer holds pen to face

In conclusion, having a professional headshot is important for many reasons. It can help you stand out from the competition, make a great first impression, and show your personality. But, it’s important to avoid certain pitfalls, such as using outdated photos, adding filters or being too posed. By following the tips above, you can ensure that you have a great headshot that will help you achieve your goals.


Contact Amanda Herbert Photography on +44 (0)7719316609 or use the email below. Being Isle of Wight-based, I often conduct professional headshots outdoors around Ryde and in my Seaview home studio. Get in touch now.


Please contact the Isle of Wight Studio on +44 (0)1983 617383

or Mandy on +44 (0)7719316609 email info@amandaherbert.com or use the contact form below


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