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Headshot Guide: Getting Your Perfect Shot

Professional headshots

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No matter what line of work you’re in, you need a great headshot – one that is authentically you and helps you stand out from the crowd…whether you’re a professional or corporate executive at Dow or Dow Corning, a doctor, lawyer, consultant, business owner, realtor, journalist, a musician, or many more.

These days, your headshot is the first impression you make in the virtual world.  Using a good headshot on the most popular social and industry networks can be vitally important.  Potentially, first impressions of you are being made on line more than 2x as often as first impressions in person.

Rather than leaving this critical first impression up for chance, keeping your headshot current and flattering is a powerful tool.

Types of Headshot Sessions at Morley Portraiture

We have three types of sessions:

  1. Personalized Headshot Session.  This is our premium session.  We take extra time and shoot more images, and we can schedule for wardrobe changes and assistance with make-up.  You will also come back for a preview session with me to select the your favorite head shot.  These sessions are best if your image needs to be printed, or if you need multiple headshots (such as with and without glasses).
  2. Headshot Fridays & Specials.  I occasionally run specials where you can obtain an electronic headshot to update your social media and online profiles.  Sessions take about 30-40 minutes, and we’ll select your favorite image before you leave.  Your retouched image will be sized for digital and emailed to you.  Watch our Specials Page.  You can easily fit these sessions in over lunch or a mid-day break from work.
  3. Team Headshot Sessions.  Often an entire business or organization needs updated head shots for their website and marketing materials.  They may also need one or more group shots.  These are custom sessions designed for your needs, and can be done in the studio or on location.

How Often Should I get a New Headshot?

I get this question frequently, and here is my best advice:

Your image should always be kept up-to-date with the genuine you.  If your appearance changes with maturity, a new hair cut or color, significant shifts in your weight, or other changes, it’s time for a new headshot.

Everyone changes slightly year to year, so most people can benefit from an updated headshot at least every 2 years.  Though an annual refresh is a good idea, depending on your profession and how much you appear in the public eye.

On the extreme side, I used to live in Los Angeles, and a popular realtor in the area had a new headshot several times per year.  When you saw her face, you knew it was current.  She was a stylish woman, and every headshot had a wardrobe change.   I was always impressed with her diligence in this area, and it made a difference in her business.

Four Elements of a Great Headshot

  1. Personality – Your headshot should capture your unique personality.
  2. Persuasive – You need a high quality image that is consistent with your industry, aspirations, and who you are.
  3. Probable –  A “natural” comfortable image is best.   After someone sees your head shot, they should not feel you look completely different in person.
  4. Professional – Your image should look professional and refined.  It takes both skill and talent to get the proper lighting, positioning, and and focus for a great image without it looking overly processed.  Additionally, expert color correction and subtle retouching, as needed.  Professional head shots honor the best you.

Achieving all of this is both an art and a science, as I mentioned in this previous blog post featuring the headshot I took of Andrew Liveris for a commemorative Greek Postage Stamp.

Before Your Session, Select an Image Style

Selecting the right style of headshot for your profession and your personality is essential.   This may take a little research and scanning for samples in advance of your session.  There are all kinds of different headshot styles.  Look at the backgrounds, the positioning, the lighting, the coloring, and the overall personalities of a variety of headshots before deciding what you like best.

Kathy’s Tip:  Look for role models and samples in your industry of successful people. For example:

  • If you are trying to climb the corporate ladder, look at the headshots of executives in your company and those in the Fortunate 100, the Fortune 500, or at respected companies in your industry.
  • If you’re a business owner, look at your competition.  You’ll want you and your team to stand out.  Also consider the backdrop of your headshot.  Your image should attract both your ideal customer and potential new partners to your business.
  • If you’re an artist, check out other artists in your field for creative ideas you like.  Your style and personality should shine.

When you have a personalized headshot session scheduled with me, I love it when you have done your homework and you can email me images you like in advance of our session, so we’re both prepared with a common understanding of your desired outcome.

If you have no idea what will work best for you, don’t worry!  Just come to the session.  I have a lot of experience, and can help you out based on past clients and on the wide variety of industries and types of headshots I’ve done.

Check out our headshot gallery for ideas.

What to Wear

I almost ALWAYS get this question.  Both men and women are nervous about what to wear for their headshot, and women have additional concerns about hair and makeup.

Kathy’s Tip:  If you have done your homework to Select a Style (above), you already know what style of clothing will work best for your profession.   Next, wear a color that brings out your best you.  What is that color everyone always says you look great in?  Wear it.   Here are some other tips:

Tips for Men:

  • Dress Shirts –  White or Colored?  If you’re climbing the corporate ladder, most executives wear a white or lightly colored shirt, such as light blue.  Solid or Patterned?  Solid always work well.  If you choose a strip or check, make sure it reflects your desired outcome, personality and style of dress.
  • Suits – Blue, Navy, Gray?  I recommend a solid or subtle texture in the color that looks best on you.  Avoid trendy styles and patterns unless they accurately reflect your desired outcome, personality and image.
  • Ties – Wear a subtle tie in a color that looks great on you.   Large patterns may be trendy, and out-date your image too quickly, as well as distract from your face.
  • Polos, Sweaters, & Other Shirts:   Consider your preferred style of  shirt/sweater.  Think about what your customers and partners are likely to see you wearing and what flatters you.
  • What about company logo shirts?   Again, what are your customers and professional network most likely to see you wearing?  If you have logo attire that you wear 80% of the time, then one of your more professional pieces may be ideal to wear for your headshot.

Tips for Women:

    • Make-Up –   There is no need to over-do your makeup for the session.  Wear your natural, professional, every-day look.  Lips are important, and I suggest bringing a flattering lipstick shade along.  Lip gloss is also a necessity.  I always have lip gloss on hand in the studio, but you may prefer to bring your own.
    • Jewelry – Consider the jewelry you most often wear, and down-play it just a bit.   You don’t want your jewelry to be the center of attention in the photograph – YOU should be!  While statement necklaces are gorgeous, they may not be work well for your image.  However, if you have a necklace you would love to wear, bring it to the session.  We can try it out, and assess it together.
    • Hair –  Again, wear it naturally – the way you wear it 90% of the time.  Take an extra 5-10 minutes to style it for our session, so it is your best version of the real you.  During the session, I will work with you if you have long hair to lay it in the most flattering way for each photo position.
    • Suits – If desired in your profession, yes!  Just like for the men, avoid too much pattern and wear a color that looks fantastic on you.
    • Collared Shirts –   Collared shirts can be difficult to work with in a photo.  They must sit perfectly to avoid distracting from your image.  If you are wearing a suit that already has a collar, consider wearing a beautiful colored shell underneath, instead of a collared shirt.  Or, at least bring both options to your session.
    • Tops & Sweaters –   Wear something that flatters your unique neckline.  Some women look best in v-necks, others look best in high crew necks.  Some look best with a open neck that shows off their de’collete’, while others may look great in a turtleneck.
    • Solids are Best – Again, wear a color or combination that looks fantastic on you!  White or black tends to wash out a lot of women, but might be perfect for you.  Prints and patterns can distract from your image, and you may also get tired of the image before you actually need another headshot.
    • Undecided about what to wear?  Bring 2-3 options, and I can help you make the best selection.

General Tips

  • Get a good night sleep.  You won’t be happy with tired eyes in your headshot.  Your eyes should be bright and sparkle.
  • Stay with your normal routine.  Right before a headshot is not the time to experiment with new cleansers, hair products, hair styles, or make-up  that can lead to surprises and unexpected results.
  • If you are inexperienced with make-up, let us know.  It takes extra time, but we can help you with a natural face.  We provide this service for our Senior Picture clients on a regular basis.


If you’re nervous for your headshot session with me, don’t worry!  Feel free to contact me ahead of time and ask your questions.   Most people get anxiety about headshots, but I guarantee you will be relieved at how painless it will be to get the perfect shot.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Kathy Morley

That would be wonderful! I will email you, or you can always contact me at 989-839-9180, too. Thank you Christine! ~Kathy

Christine Greve

Would love to schedule my first professional headshot with you!