How to Create Awesome Headshots

How to Create Awesome Headshots

How to Create Awesome Headshots

One of the most essential elements to a great company website are awesome company headshots. When I see a website or pitch deck with bad or inconsistent headshots, I cringe. It’s sloppy and not professional, and it carries over to the way people perceive your brand. It’s not worth damaging a professional reputation with amateur headshots. You need headshots with consistent style, expression, wardrobe, location and photographic quality so your team looks pulled together.

Many of our clients get new headshots when they work with us, whether it’s a team of 3 or 60. That’s because headshots are important components of the larger branding picture. When you’re trying to sell who you are as a company in today’s media-driven business world, you need great images of your people. After all, your people are the face of the company.

So no more excuses. It’s time to ditch the iPhone selfies, the dated shots with stonewash blue backgrounds, and pictures taken by co-workers against a brick wall. This post explains what you need to know about getting the shots your company needs to bring out the diversity of each individual in a way that is congruent with your company’s overall brand.

Here are 6 tips to remember when planning your next company photoshoot:

1. Work with professionals.

If you work with a branding agency, let them direct and guide your company headshots to align with the vision and style of your brand. They will select the right photographer and help you establish headshot standards for your company. These standards will set the foundation for all future shoots, and ensure consistency as you bring on new employees over time. If you don’t have a branding partner, make sure to hire a professional photographer who knows how to work with people. No, not a friend of a friend with a camera. Someone with real chops who will act like a film director to guide your posing and expressions on set. You don’t want an amateur behind the lens.

2. Establish wardrobe standards.

Everyone on your team should wear something that creates a cohesive branded look. Your wardrobe decisions should reflect your company’s everyday work attire. If you’re a casual crew of jean-wearing folks, don’t overdress and tell everyone to wear suits and ties. Establish wardrobe standards for ladies and gents so the team is on the same page about how to dress for the shoot. Create a wardrobe style guide with tips and examples of what to wear and send it out to all employees at least 2 weeks before the shoot to allow time for personal shopping. To get shots that both you and your team members adore, stress the importance of well-fitting clothing. Our clients love when there is a stylist on set to help with pinning clothes that are too big and advising on clothing choices. Be sure to tell everyone to stay away from crazy or distracting patterns like stripes, flowers, and big geometric graphics — they detract from your face and can cause the photo to become outdated more quickly.

3. Establish a standard facial expression.

Whatever your company’s personality is should be reflected in your facial expressions. If your company is fun and outgoing, ask for big, happy smiles or playful expressions that bring out each individual’s personality. If you’re a going for a more serious or pensive look, try a closed-mouth smile with a softer gaze that looks calm and relaxed. It is very helpful for your employees to know what their expression should be on camera. Your photographer will work with each person to find their “best side,” guide their expression according to the overall goal, and capture a look that’s unique to each person.

4. Create background and lighting guidelines.

Background standards and a finely tuned lighting setup make it easy to add new employees without disrupting consistency. When choosing a location, go with a background that will appear the same over time so that new employee headshots match with the rest. Great options for outdoor shots are on city streets, in front of cool buildings and architecture, and in local parks. If you’re growing fast and headshots for new people need to be taken regularly, you should only take them outside if you live in a climate where seasons don’t have much of an impact. Otherwise, the bare winter trees in Kara’s background won’t match the green ones in Lori’s. If you can’t count on the seasons to create a consistent outdoor background, headshots can be taken in a certain spot inside your office or coworking space near windows, statement walls, or exposed brick. Indoor environmental shots put your people in their element. However, if you have a remote team, you may be better off doing a studio session using colored background paper on white, black, light grey, dark grey, teal, pink or any other color of your pleasure. This is the easiest type of headshot to replicate. Establishing background and lighting standards now will help future photographers adhere to this standard moving forward.

5. Determine a Crop Standard.

One of the best ways to uphold a consistent appearance across each photo is to determine a crop standard. Photos taken from the chest up work well for social media profiles because they can be cropped into a tight, face-featuring square. If you’re taking these photos to be featured on your website, in presentations, marketing materials or in a company portfolio, you have a bit more flexibility. Headshots taken from the waist up radiate an approachable look, and full body photos can appear quite sharp when posed correctly.

6. Hire a hair and makeup artist.

To ace professional headshots, we encourage our clients to have a professional hair and makeup artist on set for both men and women. It’s important to add definition to your features, and to add more makeup than usual without looking overdone. Both guys and gals should come to the shoot makeup-free and with clean hair. Don’t worry, the guys won’t look like they’re wearing makeup — for them, it’s mostly just translucent powder to ensure shine-free skin. 

Here are some general tips and best practices to share with your team:

Everyone

  1. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel and look great.
  2. Bring 2-3 changes of clothing to have choices on set.
  3. Clothes should be neatly pressed and should look new or like new (make sure there’s a steamer on set).
  4. Avoid busy patterns, bold graphics, and distracting stripes.
  5. Cream, beige, pastels, peach or yellow colors typically don’t work well on camera.
  6. Don’t cut or dye your hair right before the shoot. A new haircut looks its best after a week, and freshly colored hair can look too vibrant and unnatural on camera.
  7. Do not try or use any new product on your hair, face or body the days before your shoot in case you have a bad reaction to the product.
  8. If you want to whiten your teeth before your session, start as early as possible and use a natural whitening method, or have your teeth whitened by your dentist.

Ladies

  1. The standard corporate look is a suit jacket and blouse.
  2. For a no-jacket casual look, bring solid colored blouses or collared shirts that are darker than your skin tone. Keep patterns to a minimum.
  3. A white blouse by itself isn’t recommended unless you plan to wear it under something.
  4. Don’t wear sleeveless tops or dresses unless worn under a jacket or sweater. Bare arms can be distracting.
  5. Avoid shiny and sheer fabrics.
  6. Keep jewelry simple – small is better.
  7. Avoid statement jewelry that would distract from your face or that looks dated or too trendy. The picture is about your face, not the jewelry.

Gents

  1. The standard corporate look is a suit jacket, dress shirt and tie.
  2. A casual business look can be an open jacket and shirt, collared shirt under a thin sweater, or button-down shirt with rolled cuffs.
  3. Short sleeves are typically not recommended for guys, even for casual looks. Exception to the rule are branded company polos or tshirts.
  4. Wear solid colored shirts or small patterns that are darker than your skin tone.
  5. A white dress shirt by itself doesn’t work well on camera unless you plan to wear it underneath a jacket or sweater.
  6. Bring a v-neck undershirt or no undershirt at all so it doesn’t show.
  7. Make sure your jackets and shirts fit you properly. Not too tight. Not to big. A poor fitting jacket or shirt will be obvious in the photos especially around the neck and shoulders.
  8. Don’t wear shiny ties or fabrics.
  9. The best rule of thumb for facial hair is to commit to your look- either a beard, mustache, or nothing at all. Anything scruffy or stubbly in between is not advisable. If you have a beard, trim it evenly so it’s nicely groomed. If you’re going clean-shaven, get a good shave the morning of your headshot.

After you’ve checked all of these pre-photoshoot to-do’s off your list, you’ll be ready to take professional company headshots that make your employees and your brand look amazing. You may want to get really creative and break some best-practice rules for headshots. We’re all for breaking rules. Just make sure the results are better off for it. Most importantly – have fun with this. It’s a great way to get your team bonding!

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Categories: Business, Clients, Culture

  • Great list! I’ve thought of many of these aspects before but I’ve never seen such a comprehensive list. Then again, I took you first and easiest piece of advice. I had an art director and professional photographer. I just showed up and tried to look “handsome.”

    Idea: Consider putting this into a head shot quiz and posting on relevant social media.

    Thank you!

    Be On-Purpose!
    Kevin

    • Great feedback Kevin! We should definitely consider creating a quiz. 🙂

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