A business headshot, also referred to as a corporate headshot, is a photograph that shows the face of a person.
The goal of the business headshot is to convey professionalism. This is often accomplished through specific posing, setting, facial expression, and clothing.
A business headshot is a type of professional headshot.
Here are 22 tips that I recommend based on my experience photographing headshots for business clients.
22 Business Headshot Tips
1. Match it to Your Brand
The first tip when it comes to business headshots is to match the headshot to the subject’s brand.
Just like companies, we as individuals have our own “brand,” or what we are known for.
For example, are you the CEO of the company and seen as authoritative, powerful, and trustworthy? Are you the HR in a company and seen as approachable and friendly?
You want the image to match your brand of you as an individual. This is done through photo composition, the setting, the outfit you wear, your facial expression, etc. We will be covering all of these in the next tips.
It’s important as a business headshot photographer to understand this and identify your subject’s brand as soon as possible so you can plan accordingly.
2. Consider Where the Photo Will be Used
The second tip is to consider where the photo will be used.
For example, will the photo be used for a LinkedIn profile picture? A Facebook picture? On the company website?
The reason you need to know this as a business headshot photographer is that this will help you plan out the photo orientation, background, lighting setup, and color.
For example, if all the images on the company website will have a white background, then it’s important to know this before shooting the business headshot on a black background.
Also, if they use it on LinkedIn and you choose a vertical orientation that is hard to crop for LinkedIn, then it may provide issues where it “chops off” parts of their face.
3. Use Proper Lighting
The third tip when it comes to business headshots, and just like any other photograph, is to use proper lighting.
Or do you want to use natural lighting?
Before diving into the photo shoot, it’s important to know what lighting setup and lighting type you want to have.
4. Keep the Backdrop Simple
The fourth tip is to keep the backdrop/background simple.
Since this is a headshot, the focus should be on the subject, therefore you don’t want a busy background that will detract the viewer’s eye away from the model/subject.
The backdrop you choose also plays an important role in how the final photo looks.
The background options range from white backgrounds, black backgrounds, and other various colors, to an office setting that is blurred out.
The choice is yours, but also remember to back the backdrop/background to the subject’s brand, as mentioned in tip 1.
For example, having a black backdrop may promote a more moody/serious image instead of a white background. What look are you going for?
5. Choose a Natural Environment
On the note of keeping a simple background/backdrop, is the 5th tip for choosing a natural environment.
If you choose a background/backdrop that is not a simple colored background and want to use a natural setting, then it’s essential to choose a location where the subject is comfortable.
For example, this could be the subject’s office or another location where they feel comfortable.
Capturing images where they actually work can help them seem authentic to their brand and will help them feel more relaxed, which will help when it comes time to photograph.
6. Dress to Impress
The 6th tip for business headshots is to dress to impress.
What Should You Wear For a Professional Headshot?
If you take a business headshot, you will want to dress as if you are meeting a new client.
This will help you stay on brand.
This means keeping things simple and not wearing something that you normally wouldn’t wear.
Wearing something you are familiar with, will help you stay comfortable and more relaxed during the shoot, which is always a plus for better-looking corporate headshots.
7. Keep Hairstyle and Makeup Simple and Professional
The 7th tip for corporate/professional headshots is to keep the hairstyle and makeup simple and professional.
When it comes to makeup and hairstyles, there is a saying that goes “Simple is best.”
It’s best not to layer on tons of makeup or the layers of foundation may show up negatively in photos.
Once again, similar to what you should wear in a business headshot, you will want to do your makeup how you usually do it in your day-to-day office activities — to stay on brand and look natural.
How Should You Do Your Hair for a Professional Headshot?
Similar to what to wear and makeup, you will want to keep it simple.
Choose a hairstyle that you are comfortable with and is simple. Imagine you are meeting an important client, how would you do your hair? Go for that look.
It’s important not to try out any new fancy hairstyles, especially those that go upwards — they may be cropped in a photo or hard to capture within the frame.
For guys, it’s recommended that you get a haircut at least a few days before the photo shoot and not the day before.
This will give you more time to look more natural in your new haircut, and it will give you time to make any adjustments in case you don’t like your haircut.
8. Good Posture
The 8th tip for business headshots is to remain in good posture.
Not only will good posture help the photo composition, but it will allow you to appear more professional.
Good posture exudes confidence and professionalism.
Keeping the subject in good posture is a responsibility for the photographer but it’s important for the subject/model to remember as well.
It’s important not to go overboard and look stiff, simply sit up straight and put your shoulder back while remaining relaxed.
Sit as if you were having an in-person interview. That’s a good little way to remember it that I like to tell people.
9. Stay Loose
The 9th tip is to stay loose.
This may sound simple but it can be easy to forget, especially if you are the subject and you are uncomfortable with having your picture taken.
It’s important for the photographer to keep the subject feeling relaxed and loose, which may be accomplished through conversation, which we’ll discuss later (no pun intended).
Feeling loose and relaxed will show in the image through a natural smile and personality.
This will result in a better photo overall, and it will allow your brand to come through the image more naturally.
10. Think About Props
The 10th tip is to think about props.
Props may or may not be necessary for your business headshot, but it’s good to think about them.
For example, include a computer, desk, or camera in the image if it helps convey your subject’s brand more effectively.
If you are going to include props as a photographer, it’s important to understand the brand of the subject as well as the goal of the photo as mentioned in tips #1 and #2.
For example, if the business headshot is of a CEO going on the company website, you may not need any props, and an image of his/her face will suffice.
But let’s say you are taking a business headshot of another photographer for their website, then maybe including the prop of their camera may help better align with their brand and the message they are trying to convey!
If you can’t decide to include props, try taking a photo with and without them!
This way, you and the subject can decide later whether including or excluding props was a good idea.
11. Hand Mirror
The 11th tip is to keep a hand mirror around.
This tip ties into making the subject feel comfortable and relaxed.
By keeping a hand mirror nearby, the subject can give final checkups to ensure their hair, makeup, and clothing look how they want them to.
By knowing what they look like, they will feel more relaxed and comfortable during the shoot instead of wondering or hoping that their hair looks a certain way, or that they don’t have a shiny spot on their forehead.
12. Drink Lots of Water
The 12th tip for business headshots is for the subject.
This tip is to drink lots of water the day before and the day of.
Drinking enough water will keep your skin looking healthy.
13. Avoid Lots of Salt the Night Before
Like drinking enough water, you will want to avoid a lot of salt the day before your photoshoot.
Having a lot of salt in a meal can cause your face to appear bloated due to water retention.
As you can imagine, this is not good for photo shoots.
14. Get Enough Sleep
The 14th tip for professional headshots is to get enough sleep.
To have a fresh-looking face that looks alert and interested, it’s important that the subject gets enough sleep before the photoshoot.
Getting enough sleep will ensure no harsh bags under the eyes, and the overall skin will look healthier.
15. Hire a Professional
The 15th tip is for the subjects or people looking for a business headshot.
It is crucial that you hire a professional for your photo.
A professional will be able to turn your vision into a reality.
It’s best to invest in a professional photographer to have a professional-looking photo.
You can have your friend snap a photo on their phone; however, you will tell that it is not a professional image.
Having a professional-looking image will help with your overall brand image and appearance.
The 16th tip is for photographers to make their subjects feel more at ease.
The tip is to converse with your subjects to make them feel more comfortable with you.
It’s important to remember that getting your photo taken can be a nervous experience, especially if you aren’t feeling confident in your appearance and you are in front of a stranger.
It’s important to keep the atmosphere light and tension-free by opening up a dialogue between you and your subject.
Make sure to keep the conversation light as if you were talking to a friend.
Walk them through your steps and how you operate. Provide encouragement to your subject, letting them know that they are doing great — this will provide them confidence and reassurance.
17. Glasses or No Glasses
The 17th tip is to decide whether the subject will go with glasses or no glasses.
If the subject is a glasses user and everyone in the office always sees them wearing glasses, it may be good to have them in the photo to maintain their brand.
If they are a glasses wearer and they opt not to wear glasses in the photo, make sure that there is no red mark on their nose from the glasses that will show up in the photo!
18. Watch the Camera’s Height
The 18th tip for business headshots is to pay attention to the camera height.
You will want to ensure the camera height is nose, eye level, or just a bit above eye level.
Avoid the creative angles for more creative portraits other than business/professional portraits.
If the camera is too low, you may expose a nasty double chin or make someone’s face appear larger than usual.
If the camera is too high, you may make them look like their head is small.
Pay attention to your camera level and make sure it looks like you are looking directly at the subject from eye level.
19. Smile or No Smile
The 19th tip is to smile or not to smile.
In our photos, people often tell us to smile, but what if we aren’t comfortable smiling?
When taking a business headshot, don’t just tell them to smile, first, ask them if they prefer to smile. Then, ask them if they prefer a lip-shut or lip-open smile.
Not everyone is comfortable when smiling! Remember, you want the photo to remain on brand, and if that person isn’t much of a “smiler,” then you wouldn’t want to force them in the photo.
I’ve found that telling people to smile in a photo creates a fake-looking smile — you can tell by the way the smile doesn’t translate into the eyes.
It’s best to try to make them smile by telling a joke or telling them to think of something that makes them laugh. I’ve always found that self-deprecating humor always makes them put on a little smirk.
20. Don’t Rush
The 20th tip for business headshots is not to rush.
This is for the photographers.
When taking a business headshot, you may feel the need to rush, especially if you are taking photos for the whole company. However, it’s important to take it easy.
Just remember easy is fast, and fast is easy.
If you try to rush the photos, not only can the subject sense that, which may cause them to feel uneasy, but you may ignore or forget the tips we have listed in this guide.
For each subject, take a deep breath and take your time. You can take your time without going slow.
Make sure the lighting is right, the subject has a good pose, you are taking the time to converse with them, and you have given them a mirror to look at themselves.
21. Take Multiple Shots
The 21st tip is to take multiple shots.
You will want to have plenty of options to choose from as opposed to having only a few select photos.
It’s best to take multiple shots of one pose from slightly different angles; remember to watch the height, as we mentioned.
It’s also good to take multiple shots because in some images, you may have your subject blinking, or it may be out of focus. Oftentimes, it’s hard to tell until you see the images in post-production.
You don’t want to have the “money” photo and only realize later that it wasn’t in focus (been there, done that).
Also, as mentioned, if you want to try including props, glasses on and off, or other items we have discussed, try different shots with each, and then the subject can pick what they like!
22. Get A New Headshot At Least Once a Year
The 22nd tip is to get a new business headshot at least once a year.
As mentioned in our very first tip, a business headshot is essential for one’s professional brand, which is especially true in this digital age we are living in.
Often, every year, your brand can change just a bit; you may change jobs, you may be promoted, etc.
With those changes come new looks.
It’s important to capture your new brand.
To further explore the subject of business headshot/business portrait tips, we also recommend this video by Karl Taylor:
Should I smile in my business headshot?
If you’re looking to project a friendly, approachable image, then a smile can be a good idea. Smiling can help create a positive first impression and make you look more personable. On the other hand, if you’re looking to project a more serious, professional image, then a neutral expression or a slight smile may be more appropriate.
What color should you avoid for a business headshot?
Opt for solid, neutral colors like navy, gray, black, or white. These colors are classic and timeless, and they won’t distract from your face or the purpose of the headshot.
How do you look thinner in business headshots?
Stand up straight and pull your shoulders back, angle your body slightly away from the camera, avoid clothing that is too tight or too loose, choose clothing that flatters your body type, use a professional photographer who knows how to use lighting and camera angles to create flattering images, avoid shooting headshots from a low angle, and lastly, consider getting your hair and makeup done professionally.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on business headshots and learned something new.
Business headshots are becoming more and more popular each year and there are countless new techniques and tools that you can use.
I mean, they even have AI platforms now that will help you get a professional headshot.
All-in-all, in order to have a professional personal brand, I recommend everybody get a professional business headshot.
Good luck and have fun!
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer servicing the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. He specializes in portraits of individuals, couples, groups and headshots. Nate Torres is also a photography writer and content creator and educates other photographers on portrait photography, composition, editing, gear, and business. You can find his content on his personal website, social media, and YouTube Channel, as well as on blogs such as Fstoppers, Photofocus, and Imaginated. Being a former SEO consultant, Nate also teaches other photographers how to use SEO to grow their own photography business on his educational blog, Shutter SEO.