Business portrait of Forward Madison FC coach Carl Craig

10 QUICK TIPS ON HOW TO PREPARE AND LOOK BETTER IN BUSINESS HEADSHOTS AND PORTRAITS

PREPARING FOR YOUR BUSINESS HEADSHOT AND PORTRAIT SESSION

After nearly a decade of working with people and photographing business headshots and portraits, I’ve found that I need to tell my clients many of the same things to prepare them for their sessions. So here is a quick break down of the topics I feel will benefit my photography clients and help them to prepare better for in studio headshot or portrait photo session


YOUR BRAND AND AUDIENCE

1. KNOW WHO YOUR CLIENT IS.

First things first, think on your intended audience.

Who are the groups and individuals you want to appeal to? Who is your dream client? How will they receive the message of your business headshot?

Knowing answers to those questions will help you present your personal brand. Read my blog post about the differences between headshots and portraits here.

Portrait of wealth advisor Andy Burish from UBS Madison, WI
Business portrait of UBS wealth advisor Andy Burish.

2. KNOW WHO YOU ARE. KNOW YOUR STORY.

Next, let’s talk about who you are presenting yourself as.

What is it you want to express about yourself to your audience? What do you want them to see when they look at your headshot or portrait?

Your business headshot or portrait should be able to immediately tell a potential client or employer what to expect when working with you.

It can be helpful to think of a list of characteristics you want to convey, such as “Approachable, Friendly, And Trustworthy”, or “Powerful, Competent, and Determined”.

Business headshot of personal coach David McKercher
Business portrait of personal coach.
Business portrait of UW professor Sandra Adell
Business portrait of UW professor.
Business portrait of Sandy Botcher, managing partner at Northwestern Mutual Madison, WI
Business portrait of financial executive.

3. PLAN ON WHERE YOU WANT TO USE FINAL PHOTOGRAPHS.

Think where the photo will be seen. Is it for a social media platform? Business website? Does it need to match an existing headshot or portrait color scheme?

Planning it all in advance will help us together to make choices about orientation (vertical vs. horizontal vs. square), background (clean vs. environmental), lighting setup, etc.

Dramatic close-up portrait of hospital patient
Dramatic black and white portrait of a cancer survivor for Black River Falls Memorial Hospital advertising campaign.

4. BUILD A MOOD BOARD AND SHARE IT WITH PHOTOGRAPHER.

If we clearly know what we’re going for, other’s no need for a mood board. But for something nonstandard, a mood board can be a great way to keep you and myself on the same page, and to keep expectations for the visual direction in check.

It doesn’t have to be a finely curated Pinterest board. An email with screenshots, low-res photos, or links to examples will work just fine.

portrait of a jet pilot in professional photography studio Madison WI
Portrait of Air Force pilot Mark Greene.
Editorial portrait of UW Health nurse Aniqueka Scott.

YOUR BUSINESS HEADSHOT APPEARANCE

5. YOUR CLOTHING MATTERS.

When choosing clothes for your headshot, the most important aspects are comfort, repair, and fit.

Notice how the outfit makes you feel.  Do you feel happy with this version of yourself? Do you feel constricted or have to stand perfectly still to keep everything in place?

If something’s off, it’s likely a sign to choose something else.

Whether it’s a contemporary casual look or a suit and tie, it should be appropriate to your brand and something you would wear to meet a new client.

Look out for visible wear and tear on your clothes, as well as signs that something doesn’t fit quite right. Little details like hole, buttons stretching, or excessive bunched fabric can ruin the first impression that you’re trying to make.

In other words, keep it comfortable, clean and current.

When it comes to colors, I recommend staying away from busy patterns, logos, and very bright colors. If you have trouble deciding, bring options and we will figure it out together. When bringing options, try to thing in broad terms. As an example, black and dark navy shirts are dark shirts. So if you’re looking for more variety, grab something on lighter side instead. If concerned about how colors will interact, check out check some color palette board on Pinterest and see what works and what doesn’t.

Keep in mind, that changing room in my studio might have minimal accessories such as lint roller (for pet hair and small speckles), hair spray, brushes, clippers, etc. but its not guaranteed. Please make sure to bring your own toiletry/makeup!

Environmental business portrait of African-American woman
Environmental business portrait of American sociologist Cora Bagley Marrett.

6. HAIR AND MAKEUP.

First things first- you know your skin and hair better than I do. If you think you can handle it yourself, go for it.

However, if you think you’ll need help and if hair and makeup is important to your business image, please hire a professional makeup artist.

Don’t expect me to be the fixer, as hair and makeup is not my area areas of expertise.

Below are some general recommendations for DYI hair and makeup:

  • Keep it simple: Your hairstyle should reflect your usual look, ensuring familiarity and comfort.
  • Under-eye Liner: Keep it light. Heavy under-eye liner can age you in photos.
  • Powder: Avoid heavy, all-over application. Instead, opt for a natural dewiness on your cheeks and nose.
  • Eyeshadow: Stick to neutral shades. If you wish to experiment with smoky eyes or colors, do it mid-session for variety.
  • SPF Makeup: If possible, avoid SPF-laden products as they can be too reflective under studio lights.
  • Lip Color: Choose a lip color slightly darker than your normal shade to compensate for how digital cameras capture color.
  • Eyebrows: Shape your eyebrows a few days prior to avoid redness. Fill them in to enhance your natural look.
  • Mascara: Use black mascara to accentuate your eyes, even if it’s not part of your daily routine.
  • False Eyelashes and Under-eye Liner: Avoid these as they can obscure your eyes or make them appear smaller.
  • New haircut: It’s best to avoid significant changes that might not turn out as expected.
  • Experimenting on set: Sure thing! Lets grab safe shots first and try new things afterwards.

If you need any recommendations for local hair and makeup pros, shoot me an email via my contact page and I will forward you to good people who do it well.

Please note, that changing room in my studio might have minimal accessories such as lint roller (for pet hair and small speckles), hair spray, brushes, clippers, etc. but its not guaranteed. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO BRING YOUR OWN TOILETRY/MAKEUP.

Studio portrait of two filmmakers
Team photo of filmmakers from Pulaski Films

DAY OF THE SESSION

7. FEELING YOUR BEST.

You want to look your best, so taking steps to feel your best on the day of will serve you well.

First of all, it is important for everyone involved to stay safe and healthy. So, if you are feeling ill, let’s reschedule. Rescheduling will give you time to recover and keep you from passing something on to someone else. See my photography studio policy and response to Covid-19.

Taking care of yourself beforehand, by getting plenty of rest, hydration, nutrition and exercise, will go a long way. This self-care helps not only improves your complexion, but also will help you keep your confidence and good mood. As well as easier and more productive session.

In fact, if you’re available, go ahead and schedule your shoot for the morning, when you are at your freshest and most vibrant.

Business headshot of project manager Alex Alusi
Business headshot of project manager.
Professional business headshot of life coach Donna Hart-Tervalon
Business headshot of life coach.
Business headshot of Asian american woman
Business headshot of sales director.

8. CLEARLY COMMUNICATE YOUR INSECURITIES.

Many of the people that come into my studio feel uncomfortable in front of the camera.

Often, they have feature that they don’t like on themselves or know that they have a better side. Please share any concerns you have with me.

I will use posing and lighting to downplay troublesome points and accentuate your favorite features.

Studio headshot of an accountant
Business headshot of an accountant.
Portrait of financial advisor
Business portrait of an financial advisor used in advertising campaign.

DURING THE PHOTO SESSION

9. EXPECT ME TO BE YOUR GUIDE THROUGH THE REST OF THE PHOTO SESSION.

Business headshot or portrait session is a process. Mine usually last 45-60 minutes. This gives us enough time to warm up and relax, while creating variations from which we can choose the best images.

Importantly, by taking our time, we give ourselves a chance to catch mistakes in looks, lighting, posing, and wardrobe.

In the studio, I shoot with the camera tethered to a laptop, so that we can see the high-res photos as they come in. As a result, you and I are able to communicate with each other and give feedback in real time. Ideally, you’ll leave the studio with a clear understanding of how your final images will look like.

Business portrait of Forward Madison FC coach Carl Craig
Business portrait of Forward Madison FC ex. coach Carl Craig.

10. TO SMILE OR NOT TO SMILE, THAT IS THE QUESTION…

There is no rule that says your business headshot or portrait has to feature a big gregarious smile or a steely eyed stare. It all depends on the desired mood and what you are comfortable with.

Even if you don’t want a serious look, you may feel self-conscious about an open smile. And that is totally fine! Instead of forcing a smile, let me know how you are feeling, and we will find an expression that suits your needs and leaves you feel confident.

Business headshot of Lewis Elder
Business headshot of Lewis Elder, director of growth and development at Redox.


For a free estimate or to schedule your business headshot or portrait session, call at 608-239-4199 or use this contact form.

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