Tips for Taking Your Own Headshots

I recently published an article, Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Marketing Photos. I talked about taking photos for your marketing materials. A number of advisors asked me if someone could take their own headshots.

You can take your own headshots, but you need to be prepared and aware to get the most professional photos you can. I always recommend hiring a professional if at all possible, but if you are going to take your own photos there are things you need to consider.

Look your best

I mentioned it in my previous article but I have to say it again: The details matter. Make sure you have put thought into what you are going to wear and how it will translate in a picture – makeup, jewelry, and haircut. Every little detail will forever be captured in your photo, so make sure it is right.


Think about what will be behind you in your photo. You don’t want it to be too busy or cluttered. If you are taking the photos indoors, take it in front of a solid-colored wall. Consider the lighting. It is always best to use as much natural light as you can find. A large window near you, but not directly behind you, is ideal. Avoid taking your photos under the typical overhead fluorescent lights that are found in offices. They will give you stark highlights and harsh shadows.

You can take your photos outside — just make sure that you are fully aware of what is going on behind you that may possibly show in the background. You also want to make sure that you are not in direct sunlight. Not only will it make you squint; it can also make you look washed out. Finding a spot with great indirect light or taking the photo on an overcast day is best.

Photo resolution

Your photo must be in high resolution. This will give you the most versatility when trying to use your picture in different ways. Typically photos are printed at 300 dpi. When used on a screen, having high-resolution photos will ensure that they can be used in a variety of situations — such as on a blog, in a profile picture, in your e-newsletter and on your website — without having to worry about them looking fuzzy or pixilated.

DPI (dots per inch) refers to the printing of an image. When it comes to taking pictures with your cell phone (see below), think in terms of megapixels (MP). Check your phone’s megapixel count by looking at the user’s manual or doing a simple search online to be sure. A higher megapixel count will give you crisper images. Anything higher than 8MP should be fine. Front-facing cameras will have a lower megapixel count than a camera on the back of the phone. Change the settings to high resolution. While the photos will take up more storage space, they will be higher quality. Don’t use the on-camera zoom. This will result in a fuzzy picture. Always take the picture with some white space around the subject and then do your cropping while you are editing.

Is a cell phone picture good enough?

With today’s technology and cellphones, yes. Depending on the phone, the quality of the pictures will vary. Test it out and see if you are happy with the results. Use the HDR mode. HDR combines several exposures to create a single picture with more detail and better tone and color than non-HDR mode. See if your phone can lock its focus. Sometimes phones will try to adjust the focus as the camera moves, and this can cause images to become unfocused and fuzzy.

Make sure you have a way to hold the phone perfectly steady. You can purchase a small tripod or a simple stand for your phone. This will help reduce camera shake.

What kind of camera should you use?

I can’t answer this one. There are thousands of choices for cameras in a range of prices. It comes down to the different features of the camera, especially the lenses. You pay a professional for not only their top-of-the-line equipment, but also their experience and expertise. If you are taking your headshots, use the best camera available. Experiment with different cameras you have and see which one gives you the picture with which you are most satisfied.

Give yourself options

Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Try different poses, move your hands into different positions, and try different facial expressions. You never know what you are going to like until you try it. The bonus to taking your own headshots is that you are not on someone else’s timeline. Take advantage of that and try a bunch of different things. Try are a big smile, a smirk, and a slightly serious face. Each one of these expressions will give the photo a different feel.

One great and simple tip is to change the position in which you hold your head. Tilt it at a slight angle and be sure to hold your chin up. It may feel a little awkward at first, but it produces a more flattering photo.

The logistics

Now that you have the details all worked out, you need to figure out how you are going to take these photos. It is best if you enlist the help of a friend. It is much easier for a person to be able to see what is captured within the frame rather than you guessing what is going on while the timer is going off.

If you don’t have anyone who can help, you can always use a tripod and the self-timer function on your camera. Just be sure that you practice. The camera needs to be steady and set at eye level. This will also be when you find out if there are any problems with your background or lighting, so you can adjust if you need to. The big bonus to using the self-timer is you can take all the time you need without feeling uncomfortable in front of anyone.


Once you have a few photo options that you like, the process doesn’t stop. You will need to do at least some standard editing. Think about contrast, sharpness, and brightness. Each one of these adjustments will ensure that your headshot looks crisp. Stay away from most automatic enhancements and filters, as they tend to overcorrect and will make your photos look very unnatural and unprofessional.

With these tips, you should be well on your way to DIY-ing your professional headshots. No one will be any the wiser.

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About the Author

Crystal Lee Butler, MBA is a creative marketer and results-oriented business consultant with over a decade of experience collaborating with independent advisers. At Crystal Marketing Solutions, she delivers exceptional insights for financial professionals enabling them to create a consistent marketing presence so they can focus on the things that matter most to them.