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  • Writer's pictureSarah Tulej

How to prepare for your headshot session

Updated: May 6

If you're like 99% of my clients, you might be feeling a little nervous before your headshots photoshoot. And you will have questions!

To put your mind at ease, here are the most frequently asked questions I get from my clients before their headshots session.

What even is a headshot?

Traditionally, a headshot is a head and shoulders photo. I play a bit loosely with the term on my photoshoots, preferring to show more of you and the surrounding context - really more of a three quarter length shot. I find that this gives people more options - they can crop the photo to use as a LinkedIn profile photo for example, and use a wider shot for their website.

Headshots sometimes sound a bit corporate or actor-y - for the purpose of this article, when I talk about headshots I'm talking about a portrait clearly showing your face that you can use for all sorts of purposes online, to increase your professional visibility.

What’s the purpose of the photo?

Is it for a new offer for your business, a general LinkedIn update, or for online dating (seriously!). That’s going to take you to the next question which is, who is your audience?

Think about how you want to portray yourself, in particular, which aspects of your personality you want to convey.

This could be - “a trustworthy expert with a sense of fun,” or “an outspoken leader that thinks outside the box.” This is going to be really helpful when it comes to choosing what to wear and how to pose for your photos.

What to wear?

One of the top questions I get is what to wear.

🐛 You do you. Your clothes / jewellery / tattoos say a lot about you. So let's photograph it. No smartening up or self-editing required.

💃 Wear what you feel good in and have a good try on in the run up.

🧵 Think about what you'd wear if you were hanging out with the people you intend to see these photos (if you were being your authentic self)

Oh, also - befriend your iron.

Seriously though, I'm a big believer in expressing your personality through what you wear.

Long gone are the days where people are expected to dress up in a suit (thank God, my skirt suit days were not my finest fashion era). Ok, some poor folk still need to don the pinstripes, but not the creative changemakers I love to work with.

Black woman with cropped grey hair and fuschia top in front of a weeping willow tree
Mediator, Yolanda Jansen

Clothing do's and don'ts

I hesitate to give specific fashion tips because THERE ARE NO RULES.

However, there are some tips I offer that you may find useful:

  • Block colours work really well as they make an impact in the photo without being distracting

  • Black tends to look flat in photos so avoid head to toe black so you don't 'disappear.'

  • I"ll say it again - make sure clothes are well ironed if needed

  • You can vary your shots by bringing something easy to slip on - e.g. a jacket or scarf (although there is no time for a full costume change on a taster session)

  • Try not to go for something overly summery or wintery - if you plan to use shots all year round (although it’s not much of a big deal in my opinion)

A note on makeup: if you feel good in it, go for it. If not, no problem, don't bother. I do think if you have pale lips, a bit of colour can make you look healthier. But that can also be achieved by biting your lip a few times (Victorian era pro-tip).

What about the weather?

Trust me - I will be keeping a close eye on the weather on the day of your shoot.

Cloudy day - no problem. It's good in fact, offering diffuse, even and flattering light.

Wind - we can handle it - hair is the main thing to keep an eye on.

Rain - a bit is ok, just bring an umbrella for between shots.

Anything more extreme weather-wise then we might be restricted but there’s generally shelter to be found that can still provide great setting for photos.

If it’s a total write-off, I’ll do my best to reschedule, otherwise you’ll get a full refund.

What happens in the run up to the shoot?

Once you book a headshots shoot with me, I'll send you an email with questions to think about in advance so I know what you're hoping to get out of it. Usually these are the things I ask:

  1. What aspects of your personality or what mood do you want to convey?

  2. Do you want a more neutral or colourful background for your photos?

  3. Is there anything I should know to make you feel comfortable on the shoot? (any insecurities, or things that I can do to make the experience easier)

  4. Sometimes I apply light retouching to photos (e.g. smoothing skin, brightening eyes, whitening teeth) if my clients want it. Is this something you'd like me to do for your shots?

It's really important to me that the photos are really aligned with who you are and what you want to convey. Also, LOTS of people have things they feel insecure about (teeth, hair, posture, ability to pose - you name it). I take those into account so that you can relax, knowing we won't let any hang-ups get in the way of you getting some great photos.

White woman with brown hair, glasses and red lipstick in a green jacket in front of a rusted metal wall
Architect, Cecilia Dobos

What happens when I turn up?

It’s best to arrive at least 5 minutes early at the meeting point we agree so that we don’t lose any shooting time. I am going to give you a very warm welcome, have a short chat to break the ice. Then we'll briefly go over your preferences based on the questions I sent you prior to the shoot (see above).

The shoot will be a bit of a walking safari with lots of chatting when you're not being photographed. The vibe will be very relaxed: I will constantly be trying to put you at ease, make you laugh and give you lots of direction so at no point will you be left feeling awkward.

My goal is to get natural, relaxed shots where you look calm, confident, and *yourself* (on a good day!).

Very often people tell me how enjoyable and relaxed (and painless!) the experience was, as well as a confidence boost, and go away feeling excited to see the results.

White man with brown hair and moustache with white shirt and navy jacket in front of colourful mural
Investment director, Gavin Winbanks

What if I feel super nervous / can’t pose?

You and the rest of us! One of my main jobs on the day is to tell you how to pose, whether to look at the camera, whether to smile or not - as much or as little as you need. I’ll give you loads of encouragement and positive feedback so that the shoot will feel fun and relaxed. At no point will you be left feeling awkward, wondering what to do!

If you like to feel extra-prepared, pay attention in the run up to the shoot to your 'natural' poses - i.e. how you sit or stand when you're relaxed. This will mean your photos look authentic and not 'posed.' For some of us that might look like leaning on a wall, or standing with a hand on the hip or arms folded. Or 'curled up like a pretzel' as one of my clients described her seated pose...

Likewise, practice a few facial expressions in the mirror if you like - but it's definitely not obligatory!

Latina woman with long dark hair and glasses in an aqua coloured jumper in front of primary colour mosaic wall and railings
Service designer, Alex Villacis

What happens after the shoot?

After swe say goodbye, I will select the absolute best images of you to edit, and adjust the light and colours so they're popping. If we've agreed it in advance, I'll also do some light retouching, such as smoothing skin or whitening teeth.

Once I've finished editing I create an online gallery of with a range of images (see an example in the image below) and send them to you so you can choose your favourite shots, usually within a week of your shoot.

Depending on the headshots package you book, you'll have a certain number of photos you can choose, and there is always the option to upgrade and purchase additional photos.

Photos of a black woman with short curly hair in various locations in East London
Example of an online gallery where you'll view and select your images

Want to try a headshot taster session?

Once or twice a year I offer headshot taster sessions - my most affordable package and perfect for people wanting to try headshot photography for the first time or if you need a top up of your photos.

For all the info and to join the waiting list for the next round of taster sessions, click here.

Any more questions?

I'm here to help. Drop me a hello to ask me anything. You can find my different packages and prices here.

Need some inspiration on the many ways you can use the photos once you have them? Grab my free guide: 13 game-changing ways to use brand photos to grow your business.

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