Put Away The Selfie Stick and Go Pro With A Headshot

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Selfie, (sĕl’-fē) noun: A candid photograph that one has taken of oneself, usually from a smartphone. Pics are typically poorly framed and way too close because your arms are just too short (and using selfie sticks is embarrassing).

Headshot, (hed’-SHŏt) noun: A photograph, generally of a person’s head, which connotes professionalism and competence and definitely does NOT show you making a duck-face.

While you might post something on Facebook about how Benedict Cumberbatch is “hot-but-not-in-your-standard-male-model-kinda-hot-way”, you probably wouldn’t broadcast it on your LinkedIn page. So why would you use your Facebook profile pic as your professional avatar?

You’ve worked hard to identify and build your personal brand. You spent hours upon hours developing a business plan. Don’t sabotage all that effort by skipping over a task that can be done in less than an hour.

The reason many people skip professional photos is cost. But with a few tips you can take a headshot that’s both flattering and business-like. Here’s how:

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Location, Location, Location

The most common problem with self-taken photos is poor lighting. Images that are too dark will appear grainy. Using a flash as your main light creates harsh shadows or blown-out highlights. The most important factor when picking a suitable location from which to take head shots? Sunlight.

If you’re lucky enough to have a wall opposite a window, that’s your best choice. Don’t shoot with the window behind you. You want the sunlight to illuminate your face —not the back of your head.

Are buildings blocking the sun? Don’t worry, just grab as many lamps as you can get your hands on. Remove the lampshades and arrange them in semicircle in front of you to mimic great light.

Avoid patterns

If you’ve got a solid color wall to work with, you’re halfway to having a great picture. Try and avoid backgrounds that have busy patterns. If it’s absolutely impossible to find a monochrome background, you might be able to flub it with some strategic photo-manipulation software (see below).

Similarly, this is not the time to show off that crazy, fresh-off-the runway look. While you don’t have to swathe yourself in all-black, you want to avoid bold stripes, dots or other repetitive designs.

Dress For Your Brand

Despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to dress like an investment banker in order to look professional. Keep in mind that the whole point of your headshot is to further your brand or product. If your brand is targeted towards the casual athlete, donning a power suit won’t bring to mind amateur sports. If you’re launching your hand-made jewelry line, then wear one of your pieces.

That being said, there’s seldom a reason to rock a ironic Menudo t-shirt in your professional headshot. And if your brand calls for a business suit, by all means wear one.

Set Up The Camera

If you have a tripod or Gorillapod, now is the time to whip it out. However, you don’t have one, there’s no need to go out and buy one. Simply find a steady surface like a bureau or bookshelf on which to mount your camera.

The best angles to take the photos from are either dead-on level with your face, or ever-so-slightly above. Absolutely avoid taking shots from below unless you’re a big fan of looking like you’re in a slasher flick from the ’80’s.

If your camera doesn’t have a self-timer you can find plenty of apps online. Give yourself plenty of time to get into position.

Work it!

Now that you’ve considered your background, outfit and camera angle, it’s time to get clicking. Try multiple poses and positions.Try angling your body to the right or left. Give a little smile with your mouth closed,  then go ahead and flash your pearly whites. Add flash on some photos. Take more photos than you think you will need.

Retouch If Needed

You don’t need expensive software to fix an imperfection or straighten a slightly crooked angle. There are plenty of free alternatives to Photoshop. Photoshop does offer the most options for retouching images, so if you’re already proficient with the program, you can always download the free 30-day trial.

What can touch ups fix? Stray hairs, small blemishes, crooked angles and red-eye are all things that can be remedied.

If your best shot comes with a distracting pattern in the background. use the Blur function to de-focus it. The fuzzier the background appears, the less distracting it will be.

Once you’ve created a few photos you like, show them to a colleague. Ask your colleague what each photo says about you. The shot that projects your brand’s style is more important than the one you think is most flattering.

A top-notch photo is one of the easiest things you can use to craft your image. So give it your best shot (pun intended!) and save that gorgeous prom pic for Facebook.

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