9 Suggestions for Taking Better Headshots

If you are attempting to build your own platform, you need photos—of yourself. Why? Because people want to connect with people not merely brands, products, or causes.

A Photographer Taking a Picture of You - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/wibs24, Image #6003063

The right photo can help establish credibility, build trust, and promote engagement. These are at the heart of connecting in the world of social media and essential if you ever hope to sell someone on what you have to offer.

The key is in getting the right headshot. This is not about creating a Photoshopped, glamour photo (gag). It is about capturing the real, authentic you—just as the people who know you best experience you.

So how do you get a headshot for your product, website, or other marketing materials? Here are nine suggestions.

  1. Hire a professional. Don’t simply ask a family member or friend to snap a few quick pictures. And don’t settle for Olan Mills or some portrait factory. Instead, search the web for “photography headshot [your city].” Review online portfolios and ask for recommendations from your local camera shop. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars.
  2. Negotiate for all rights. Make sure you do this on the front-end. You don’t want to pay a licensing fee every time you use the photo in a different context. Some high-end photographers will not agree to this. If so, keep looking. Photographers are plentiful, and you will readily find one who will work with you.
  3. Don’t shoot in a studio. I know some will disagree with this, but few things look more sterile than a studio. Instead, shoot the photos on your turf, in familiar surroundings. This is so much more interesting and adds more of your personality to the final result.
  4. Wear something appropriate. The focus should be on your face, not your clothes. By “appropriate,” I mean something not dated and not too trendy. I always ask myself, “what can I wear that I won’t be embarrassed by ten years from now?” You might even want to make a few wardrobe changes during the shoot.
  5. Take lots of photos. You are not looking for a posed photo. You want something more natural, where your personality is fully expressed. The more photos you take, the more likely you will find ones that work. A good photographer can take a couple of hundred photos (sometimes more) in an hour.
  6. Look into the lens. You want to make a personal connection. This is really no different than meeting someone for the first time—look directly into their eyes. The eyes truly are “the window to the soul.” One exception is photos of you speaking or performing. However, these aren’t technically headshots.
  7. Smile—with your whole face. I’m not talking about one of those big, cheesy, smiles where you force yourself to hold the smile about two seconds longer than you are comfortable. I’m talking about a natural smile with your mouth and your eyes. You want to look likable. This is more important than looking professional—whatever that is.
  8. Crop the photo tightly. We don’t need to see your whole body or even your upper torso. We want to focus on your face. While you’re at it, ask the photographer to blur the background slightly (photographers call this “bokeh”). This will emphasize your face even more.
  9. Pick one main photo. Use this on your products, your website, and as an avatar on all your social media profiles. You want a consistent brand impression. You can also pick a few alternatives, so that your strategic partners have a few options. I do this on a special Promotional Materials page. One someone needs a photo, I direct them there.

These are not absolute rules; they are merely suggestions. You can violate these so long as you are doing it for a specific purpose.

Finally, it is a good idea to get your headshots re-done every few years. Nothing is quite as jarring as meeting someone who looks ten years older than their photograph.

Question: Do you have a good headshot? If not, what do you need to do first? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002878625568 Sherri Lynne Stone

    I hate having pictures taken of me. I never like them. Do you think I could use a dental X-ray? I have a really nice panoramic view of my smile!  :) 

    Thank you for the advice. I never thought about taking so many photos. I guess it might take that many to capture just what you’re looking for. I’m going to be guest posting monthly on a blog soon and they want a picture, so I guess I need to bite the bullet and just do it.  UGH! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, just do it. If you take enough photos, I’ll bet you find one you like.

    • http://www.philippknoll.com Philipp Knoll

      People I photograph tell me the same thing up from almost each time – “I never look good on photos”. Afterwards they love the images and look better than ever (that s without working in photoshop) in about 95% of the cases.

      You should not only go for a professional photographer but also make some distinctions in that field. Most “old-school” photographers create image that would have impressed people 20 or 30 years ago. Today the audience is used to a fresher, more modern and more open style. Find a young professional with a more artistic than technical approach to taking images. And most importantly choose someone that you instantly feel good about. If you feel thrilled to be working with this or that person than it is the right choice.

      Prepare some samples of what you are looking or to show the photographer.

      Let the photographer direct you. It is almost like the director of a movie. If you are not getting directions there is something wrong – unless you are a pro model already. A good photographer will understand what you are looking for, will understand what parts of you to stress and which to “hide” to make you look great while still realistic in an image and he won’t let go until you’ve got that one image.

      Trust me, after finding the right person to work with you’ll love having your picture taken. It can be a pleasant experience as it will allow you to discover sides of you you have not know before.

      And here is a tip: Don’t simply Google for a pro photographer. Go to where photographers hang out online and make contact there. A good place to start is http://www.modelmayhem.com (don’t be offended by some of the obscene images to be found there). I know out of experience that you can find amazing talent on this platform – photographers that have been published in all sorts of magazines. And you can get a great deal at times.

      Sorry for the length of this comment – hope it helps!

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Great comment, Philipp. I totally agree with avoiding old-school photographers. This is really great advice. Thanks!

        • http://www.philippknoll.com Philipp Knoll

          Thank you, Michael. Really appreciate your feedback and am glad this is such an amazing platform to contribute to.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            Cool story!

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Having a photographer that can capture the “real” you is so important, especially for speakers or trainers that will be seen by an audience. You need to find a photographer that can capture the fun and emotion of your speaking style.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002878625568 Sherri Lynne Stone

        Thank you for the recommendations. I will be taking the plunge soon and will be keeping this information to refer back to as I choose someone. 

  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    Yes, I have had a couple of sessions over the past three years and they have produced some excellent headshots. Initially I felt like I was wasting my money on pictures…it made me feel prideful that I thought I needed pics of myself to put on my blog. Then I realized exactly what you said was true. People engage and bond with you more when they can put a face with a name. Good quality headshots are worth every penny you spend on them.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I used to think it was prideful, too. Then I realized God gave me a face for a reason. He could have made us incorporeal spirits (no bodies, no flesh), but he didn’t. Our faces, and our bodies, are an important part of who we are. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Pictures are one of the best parts of your blog, Michael. Your photos draw us in to your family, business, and local area. Black and white photos work well with your theme. The picture of you and Gail in front of Merridees is a great example of an encompassing photo and adds a lot of interest to your site. Whoever the photographer was, they did a great job.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, John. I appreciate that. I actually use a young female photographer who is a travel photographer for a large ministry. She is used to capturing people—especially children—in exotic locations.

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

    Explain your intent to the photographer: I learned this the hard way, after a session with a (thankfully) lower budget photographer, first. I did not explain that I sought a genuine photo of myself, in a very friendly and approachable manner. I wound up with a bunch of unrealistic “cheesy” shots. I then turned to a professional photographer who was outstanding (and much more expensive, but worth every penny). I explained how important it was to appear as myself and approachable. I believe the end result was much better. Great tips Michael. I wish I’d seen this before my first session!

    • http://www.melaniebolke.com Melanie Bolke

      Your avatar photo here looks great!

      • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

        Awww… shucks. Thanks Melanie – likewise.

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

    Leah, I struggled with this too – that sense of vanity. Then I realized it’s actually not about you at all. It’s about your readers and providing the best (most realistic) visual representation of yourself online. You make a great point that I believe many of Michael’s readers will struggle with! Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

      Ben, you are right. God has given me (and you and others) a message He wants shared. We need to be diligent to do whatever we can to make sure we connect with the most people with whom we can share that message. Headshots are a huge part of that. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Finally, it is a good idea to get your headshots re-done every few years.
    Nothing is quite as jarring as meeting someone who looks ten years older than
    their photograph.

    For women, it is a good idea to get your headshots re-done every time every time you change your hair color. Except for meeting someone who looks ten yours older than their photograph, nothing is quite as jarring as meeting a brunette when a blonde was expected. 

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      haha! That’s an awesome comment!

  • Tony Dye

    Funny (ironic): I’d scheduled with a friend to take some headshots TODAY. I guess now I’ll have to rethink that! May still do it, to get ideas, but (darn it) you are absolutely right. Thanks,

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    Taking headshots is something I should probably do at some point, but where my brand is at right now, I’m not sure I need them, or can justify them financially.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Just remember, you have to make an investment to go to the next level. I’m not seeing you should do this yet, but I see a lot of people get stuck, because they won’t make an investment in their career. The secret is to invest but not get too far ahead of yourself.

      • http://www.philippknoll.com Philipp Knoll

        Michael – this reply is great advice. If you haven’t done so already put that thought in a post “How to invest the smart way without getting too far ahead of yourself”.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Great suggestion, Philipp. I will consider this.

        • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

          I’d like to hear about this, too.  This is something I struggle with.  Sometimes, if you get ahead of yourself in your investment, then your investment just sits around getting old, and never really gets used.

    • http://www.needleforthechristianbubble.com Joe Lalonde

      Finances can be a pain when it comes to starting your brand. Have you looked at any creative ways to help pay for or lessen the expense of the headshots? Here are a couple of things that you might be able to do to lessen the financial cost:

      1. Offer to swap services with the photographer. Maybe you could design a website, write an advertisement, or offer some other service in exchange for the photograph

      2. See if the photographer has a discount or referral program. If you bring in more business to him, he may be willing to work on the price.

      • http://twitter.com/KellyCombs Kelly Combs

        I love this idea Joe. Another option, if you have a high traffic website, is to offer to credit & link to them.  But I love the idea of bartering and trading services.

        • http://www.needleforthechristianbubble.com Joe Lalonde

          I’m glad you liked my ideas Kelly! I feel like we miss out on a lot since we’ve stopped bartering and trading services. People would be amazed at what you can get if you barter a bit.

          Your option is a great idea also. That’s something I had not thought of but it might work out great for someone.

          • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

            Makes your taxes at the end of the year interesting, too :)

          • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

            Great point to bring up. I had never thought of that issue.

          • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

            The government has got to get their “fair share” of everything, even in bartering and trading.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        Great ideas!

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          Thanks! Glad you liked them.

  • Kathy Robbins

    Thank you for this post. Great advice!

  • http://checkmatesystem.com Mary

    The camera hates me!  Is there such a thing as a photographer who understands how to work with someone who isn’t photogenic?  I would honestly prefer my blog having a physical window into my house letting people see the real deal than a picture!  I have very few that I like but many that are truly awful!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Here’s a radical idea: everyone is photogenic. Why? Because God made you how you are. The trick is two find a photographer who can capture your personality, not merely how you look. It is possible!

      • Anonymous

        That was a great response.  I’m probably going to plagiarize that in the future.  ;-)

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon


        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

          You can evernote it!

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        That’s a good idea!

    • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

      Mary, you may not FEEL photogenic, but it is not all about being photogenic. It is about letting people put a face and name together. I hate having my picture taken. Hate it, but I know it is necessary for me to have good headshots for my ministry website and Bible study. People engage more when they can see what you look like. Really, right now you are just a name to me. I’d love to see a face so I can know a bit more about Mary!!

    • http://www.needleforthechristianbubble.com Joe Lalonde

      Mary, I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way. All you need is one or two photos that capture your essence. If you find a photographer who works well and takes lots of pictures, you’re sure to come out with at least one or two that would work.

    • http://twitter.com/KellyCombs Kelly Combs

      Mary, try to think about what it is, exactly, that you like about the photos you like, and don’t like about the others, and try to “recapture” the things you like in the new photos.  Is it the clothing, hair style or the tilt of your head?  Were you laughing at something that was honestly funny or posing your smile?  If you really think about it, I’ll bet you can get some shots you love.  Good luck!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great article, Michael. Hiring a professional is well worth the money. My speaker friend, Sheryl Roush, did an educational session about this a few years back. Her point was to be captured doing fun and exciting activities. She hired a great photographer and they did action shots both in the studio and around town. The pictures came out great and were unlike any others that I have seen. 

    Along with headshots, she captured full body shots at different angles that worked great on her speaker one-sheets. She would put the body shot full length on her letter size one sheet with the text opposite. It was very effective and really showed off her dynamic style. The last thing a meeting planner wants to do is hire a boring speaker. These one-sheets were a testament to how much fun the audience was going to have. Her media page is http://goals4u.us/qy5BhK

    If you don’t have the time or money to hire a photographer and need a quick headshot for a social media site or blog, you can get a pretty good one with the following technique.

    1. Take your digital camera and mount it on a tripod. Even the new pocket sized cameras have a tripod mount. You want the camera completely still.

    2. Find a plain wall at home that is well lit with diffused sunlight. A room with an adjustable mini blind is perfect so you can get the lighting just right.

    3. Aim the camera at the wall on the tripod at head height. Adjust the zoom so that you frame yourself torso up.

    4. Set the camera with a 10 second delay. Push the shutter and stand in front of the wall. Turn your flash off, and only use sunlight with other room lights for fill.

    5. Try different poses, expressions, and smiles. Look at other people’s headshots and find poses and expressions that work. Experiment and have fun.

    6. Pick the best shots and edit, crop, and retouch as necessary with a low cost photo program.

    Taking digital shots at home with a tripod using diffused lighting can produce good results. Turning the flash off gets rid of annoying shadows, glare and the dreaded red-eye. If you need a picture quick, this may work for you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for this thorough, do-it-yourself explanation. I probably should have mentioned in the post, but I really believe in natural light. I try to avoid using a flash if at all possible (and it is almost always possible). The new generation of SLR cameras can work well in really low light. The results make you look much more natural.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        I agree, Michael. The new generation of low light cameras are amazing. Natural light makes such a difference in color balance, shadows, and skin tone. Turning off the auto flash on many of the new cameras results in much better pictures.

      • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

        Dittos on natural light. I own a Canon Rebel T2i and I hardly ever turn on the flash. Sometimes even in low light, the pics turn out much nicer.

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        Michael, I hear that you’re quite handy with a camera yourself.  Have you done any posts on this recently?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          No, I am afraid I haven’t. Thanks.

  • http://www.melaniebolke.com Melanie Bolke

    I had new headshots taken recently and have updated my website and social media avatar with them. I hired a professional who snapped lots of photos – both in her studio as well as outdoors. The ones I’m the happiest with and use most frequently are the ones taken outside. She did use the blurred background effect you mentioned, which really does add a lot to the photo.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Excellent. I like outdoors photos, because I love the natural light.

  • http://www.juliebarnhill.com Julie Barnhill

    True, dat, Mr. Hyatt. In 2000, I learned the expensive lesson regarding the necessity of acquiring an “all rights” agreement.  In 2006, after a session with a well-known and well-touted Nashville Photographic Miracle Worker (i.e. “He can even make S0 & So look good!”), I learned a lesson or two on humility, Photoshop, and admitting when ones face just won’t cooperate with said Miracle Worker.  And keeping the “jarring factor” to a minimum is a fabulous piece of advice; there’s no better compliment to hear from a audience member and/or reader of book who’s checked out your author pic than,”I’d know you anywhere, you look just like your photo.”  

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      Julie, you are a funny woman. I so relate to your comment!

  • Anonymous

    Although I take lots of photos, I’m uncomfortable being in them. I do tend to have a photo taken when I get a new haircut so that I can remember how the stylist fixed it. Last year my husband was snapping the “new haircut photo” for me and I decided to try to get a headshot (we women know you’ve got to make the most of a good hair day). I coached him on where to stand and focus (the eyes) and he did it. I use it everywhere, both in color and black and white.

  • http://www.accuconference.com Maranda Gibson

    So that bedazzled jacket had I had in the back of the closet would be a bad idea? :) 

    I’ve also heard a lot of photographers suggest that the subject bring their favorite music along on their players or in CD form. It helps to get that natural feeling smile on the photograph.  I’ve been learning a lot about angles too, what direction the camera should be and how I should turn my head. 

    Another suggestions is to have pictures made as you change. For example, losing a good amount of weight changes the way you appear and the picture is so that someone would recognize you if you were out and about. 10 or 20 lbs can make a huge difference. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, this is a good point, although it is easier if you have slimmed down rather than put on a few pounds.

  • http://www.stilettosandgrace.com Angela White

    These are ALL ideal suggestions. I’ve had headshots done three times now, and these suggestions are gold. (Do you HEAR this people? GOLD, I say!!!)  I would like to throw one in, though, because there are many of us who truly can’t (I don’t often get paid for the “work” I do.) pay a few hundred dollars. I’m blessed to have some dear friends who are professional photographers. They also believe in what I’m doing and have stepped in to do this for me. I don’t recommend not (Double negative sentence!) paying a man the wages he is worth, BUT when someone who is good at what they do offers to do it to invest in what you’re doing, take them up on it!!! I love my current headshot. It’s me, so people know who they’re getting.

    • http://www.needleforthechristianbubble.com Joe Lalonde

      Another suggestion for getting professional work done on a budget: Offer your services to the photographer. He may need your services and a swap could be ideal.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Barter is another possibility. Thanks.

  • http://www.needleforthechristianbubble.com Joe Lalonde

    I do not have a good, current headshot. I need to look into getting a couple done as I’ve just launched my new website(http://www.jmlalonde.com). The first step I needed to do was get my website launched, which I just did. Now, I need to get with a photographer and get a couple of great shots done.

  • http://www.mattandjesskelley.blogspot.com/ Jessica Miller Kelley

    As a magazine/website editor, I often work with publicists to promote their clients, and lack of a decent headshot is both a frustration to me and a turnoff in the decision to feature this person. Last week I even got something where the author’s photograph included in the pitch was not just a snapshot but taken in a car–she had a seatbelt on! That was an immediate pass. (And shame on the publicist for allowing that to be sent out.)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Like it or not, people judge a book by its cover and you by your headshot! I wish I had said that in the post.

  • http://www.hope101.net Lori Tracy Boruff

    I have this picture in my mind of a photoshoot outdoors with natural shots like walking, twirling, leaning against the tree…just a free spirit. But in reality, I don’t relax because I don’t take good pictures.  I think it’s my fear that ruins the picture. Well, I’m going to go for it, face my fear and wear the best face I have thanking God for making me an “unrepeatable miracle.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is the beauty of taking LOTS of photos. At some point, you forget the camera is there and start having fun.

  • Anonymous

    It’s worth finding a professional photographer and building a good relationship with him or her.  I’m about to go through another round of pictures.  It’s a great experience. I would just add, be willing to pay the cost of a great photographer. The brand is you and if you’re cheap it will show in the shots. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Amen and amen.

  • http://www.hope101.net Lori Tracy Boruff

    I have this picture in my mind of a photoshoot outdoors with natural shots like walking, twirling, leaning against the tree…just a free spirit. But in reality, I don’t relax because I don’t take good pictures.  I think it’s my fear that ruins the picture. Well, I’m going to go for it, face my fear and wear the best face I have thanking God for making me an “unrepeatable miracle.”

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

    I did this exact same things about two years ago, the profile picture you see here taken by a professional in my living room. He also took pics of my family and my wife, went the whole 9 yards, and signed over all rights. He knew full well that I intended to use the pics for promos, labels, etc., and his price was reasonable (under $1k).

    I agree, it’s a must when you want to get serious about your platform.

  • http://gowinphotography.com Michael Gowin

    Michael–you swiped my headline!

    Nine Tips for a Great Business Headshot

    Your suggestions are good, though, for those seeking images for their personal brands. 

    As a photographer and a marketer, I believe there’s value in a good, well-lit studio headshot. Since so many people use a “natural light” portrait or a poorly lit headshot made with a small digicam, a strong studio headshot (i.e., not Olan Mills) made by a proficient photographer becomes one more tool to help a person differentiate themselves. And, in this case, being different is good.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Those are great suggestions! Thanks for linking.

  • Lola J. Lee Beno

    I goes it goes without saying that if you wear glasses and tend to keep these on for photoshoots (especially when you can only see clearly within 3 inches from your nose), make sure your glasses are in good shape and lenses are as free of blemish as possible.  My eyeglasses are about 2 years overdue to be replaced; I’ll need to buy new pairs before I get professional photos done (this is a possibility of that in the future). 

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      I read a post within the last few months on Pioneer Woman Photography about taking pictures of subjects with glasses. http://thepioneerwoman.com/photography/2011/04/photographing-people-in-glasses/

  • http://twitter.com/jamespinnick7 James Pinnick

    Funny story- A buddy of mine was the one that was taking my photos a few weeks ago for my book proposal. His wife was gone to work and my girlfriend was at work. He is not a professional. Kind of a weird situation with him snapping “model” photos of me. It was pretty funny!
    He took 80 and I didn’t like any of them! I finally chose one. But it was important enough to drop my ego and just get it done, no matter how awkward it was. Nice work on your blog. I read more often now.

    James Pinnick
    The Last Seven Pages

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, James.

  • http://jonathanpearson.net/ Jonathan Pearson

    All great suggestions. Thanks for the advice.

  • Mballai

    I’m greatly saddened by your suggestion about all rights given your background as an author and publisher. Photographers can give an individual sufficient rights without losing claim to retain ownership or a high price tag. You wouldn’t give all rights away on your books. Why then do you think a photographer should do so? I’ve worked as both a photographer and an author and I’m completely baffled by such advice.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This kind of transaction only happens voluntarily. No one is holding a gun to the photographers head. They can negotiate whatever they want. It’s really no different than hiring a writer to do a work-made-for-hire for a magazine article or even a book.

  • Anonymous

    Total yes to number 1! Be prepared to pay professional prices. You’re looking to have something done that is going to sell your brand. You’re not going to get that for $25.

  • http://twitter.com/KellyCombs Kelly Combs

    I loved my headshot, until I heard a marketing guru say “Never take a phone with you hand near your face! We don’t want to see your knuckles.”  Oops!  I am having new photos taken this week, outside, and no hand shots!  Hopefully they’ll turn out great, and your tips couldn’t come at a more opportune time.  Thanks!

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    My only headshot is the one on my gravatar… it was taken by someone when we were doing worship practice! haha. I don’t really have that many pictures of solo shots.

  • Anonymous

    Like most of the commenters, I REALLY dislike photos of myself. Seems we all like photos that show us as we wish we were, rather than as we really appear. My solution is to have my husband pick from what’s left after I nix the very worst. (And yes, this snapshot of me on the beach needs to go. . . sigh)

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com pamhogeweide

    I was pleased to note that my recent photos for my updated website met most of your criteria for a headshot. It was my web guy who first said, Get a professional shot. Best advice. I had been using photos my hubby took in the backyard on a pretty day. But it’s a simple point and shoot camera and that’s what he did :Point and shoot.

    So I called on a friend who’s husband is semi-pro. He was more than willing to do it and readily offered to do it for free. I provided a nice meal and then he did his thing and wow, what a difference! He took more than 50 shots and kept coaching me to relax. He was waiting for what he calls the “sparkle,” when a person is uninhibited and their personality sparkles in their eyes and attitude. Out of all those photos, only 4 really nailed it.  But that’s more than enough for me!

    Thanks again, as always, for the generosity of your guidance and experience. I am paying attention!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Thanks for adding your testimonial to Michael’s practical advice. By the way, your blog title, “How God Messed Up My Religion,” intrigues and entices to read more.

      • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com pamhogeweide

        Come on over. The door is always open. I’ll have the coffee on. :)

        • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

          Came over and learned you write well about the writing angst. Now about that coffee, do you have CoffeeMate Cinnamon Bun in the fridge?

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    Great advice. I dislike visiting a blog or website without a face to put with the words. Nothing makes a good connection like a warm face to go with ideas.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Mike, you are a fountain of practical wisdom. You answer questions I hadn’t even posed. You’ll know I’ve applied your photo advice when my Avatar changes. Well, maybe after a few Avatar changes.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Cool. Glad to be of service!

  • http://twitter.com/tellmisty Misty Williams

    This is a really great post, Mike.  I’m one of those people who’s not photogenic … Some might say you couldn’t tell by my photograph.  THAT’S BECAUSE I HIRED A FABULOUS PHOTOGRAPHER!

    Okay, okay; don’t mean to be yelling, but it’s a point I’m really glad you emphasized, Mike … I have found a great one here in Nashville that I really love:  www.GregoryByerline.com.  He is a lighting genius, and seriously, lighting is everything.  My photo is a studio shot (I love photos on a white background, btw… they are incredibly versatile in design, “transplanting” well on everything from one sheets to social media to websites to promoter’s materials), no flash – Gregory set our shoot up with fantastic lights and reflectors.

    I actually created an article on this very thing that gives a lot of tips that I’ve learned over the years working with my clients.  Even interviewed a colleague who owns a photography studio for more tips.  I hope some of you might find this helpful: http://mystrategicmarketer.com/helpful-articles/article-capturing-your-best-shot/. A couple tips from the article:

    Play to your best side.  For most of us, the right or left side of our face will photograph better.  For me, it’s the left side.  One you’ve experimented to find your best side, make sure you angle your body about 45 degrees to take a more slimming photograph (full-on camera shots can make you look wider than you are … remember, the camera likes to add 10 pounds).

    No more fat face!  If you tend to have a “double chin” in pictures like I do, before the camera clicks, simply lift your chin way up and bring it back down.  This quick gesture helps put everything in its place.  You can also extend your neck and slightly lift your chin.  Experiment to find a natural-looking shot.

    I didn’t mention this in the article (which I shall now tweak), but make sure the camera is looking down on your face.  Gregory (and many other experienced photographers) will often stand on a block to snap the photos because not only is it slimming, the angle captures your bone structure well and emphasizes your eyes.

    You make a couple of really important points here – cropping tight on your face (so important when you’re uploading your headshot various places on the web … the favicon created is small as it is; if you’re not tighly-cropped, it may be hard to even make out your face), and using the same shot everywhere online.  If you’re using different photos, you’re missing a great opportunity for people to “recognize” you in different channels.  Very important branding tip.

    Another great post, Mike. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Misty. Really great comments! I appreciate it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1234691150 Anonymous

    I don’t think I much appreciate the discounting of older people out of hand.  Nor is a studio necessarily a bad thing. An experienced photographer who knows how to light doesn’t need to take 200 shots to get a good one.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, but as the subject, you may need to take 200 shots to relax and manifest your true personality!

  • http://twitter.com/johnlambert John Lambert

    I have trouble choosing which photo to use, maybe I should crowd source like you did on your book cover.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It really is fun to get everyone’s input. “All of us are smarted than some of us.”

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Thanks for the lessons, Mike. I feel like a cine star after  I read this post.

  • http://www.caitlinmuir.com Caitlin Muir

    I’ve been blessed with having a lot of friends who are photographers –  those who shoot professionally and those who shot for art and personal pleasure. Being comfortable with your photographer is key to good photos. It’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Hire someone with skills that you get along with. Find someone who will make you laugh and your eyes sparkle. 

  • Carla Gade

    I had my head shots done this summer. My recommendation – do NOT get your hair done the week before. I had a major catastrophe and had to go back to get a repair and I was leaving in a few days to travel. My first stop on the trip was with my professional photographer cousin. It all worked out beautifully, and I must say that it does pay to hire a pro. I am so unphotogenic and she captured my personality so well. I think it helped that she knows me. It also helps to wear clothing that you are comfortable in. We used backdrops that coordinate with my website and reflect me without distracting from the photo (they were blurred). Also, the finishes used were stunning. I suggest looking at the same favorite pics with various finishes/grains (whatever they are called, sepia, etc.). Yes, and don’t forget to make your eyes smile!

  • http://twitter.com/1WeeSpark OneWeeSpark

    When you are attempting to change a problem, and you are building a platform around an issue, should you still have a good head shot available? 

    I’m not wanting to make the solution about me, but I’m the one doing the dirty work (no pun this time!). I just don’t want to make it seem like I’m doing this work for personal gain. Thanks!

  • http://AlphaDogTheBook.com WingGirlKim

    Number 10, relax your jaw. Smile, than put a little space between your upper and lower teeth. That’s a trick I learned from Paul Sunday, photographer.

  • Peter Dunn

    Michael, I love your posts – and pour over them frequently – but all I could think of with this post was Andy Rooney!! :)

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  • http://twitter.com/romanalo Ro Manalo

    Great tips, thanks! Although for printed CVs, more appropriate to have a photo shot in a studio, right?

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  • http://www.thelintonstudio.com/ Brad

    As a headshot photographer I agree with all of these except #3, but I understand the point.  My counterpoint is that there is some wonderful studio work being done these days that looks anything but sterile or cheesy.

  • http://www.thelintonstudio.com/ Dallas Headshots

    I missed rule #9 the first time, that’s a great one that is never talked about.  Branding is so important.  As an addendum to this rule, I crowd source my family and friends to find out which photo is their favorite.  As a headshot photographer I am constantly amazed at the photos my clients pick out as their favorite.  Let’s just say I don’t always agree!  Often times others will see things in the photo that you do not, so get feedback before going with your main selection.

  • http://twitter.com/TheMarvCastillo Marv Castillo

    I never watch the lens :( is hard for me lol

  • http://twitter.com/mcnairwilson mcnair wilson

    Great, simple, clear, IMPORTANT tips, Michael. A theatre company I was a part of shot new a headshot for everyone (40-50 full time performers) EVERY year. We shot 50-100 frames (at least two outfits) then assisted each person in selecting the shot that best conveyed their spirit and really looked like them. I’ve lost count of the number of speakers I have interacted with at conventions that I do not recognize in person because their headshot 5 -10 years old.

    When you no longer look like your headshot, shoot a new one!

    For those who do NOT like having their picture taken, try this: I’ve  heard from others that this was effective. Have someone off camera for whom their only task is keeping things light. Get the subject to laugh. Tell the photographer that this person is camera averse so they can shoot LOTS of frames. (“We’re just do a lighting test.”) Somewhere in all the laughter and banter their will be several friendly, relaxed, natural frames to choose from.

    Finally: shoot wide, crop tight. There will be occasions for a good photo that is NOT a tight headshot. Author photos on the back of books are often wider shots placing you in an environment that humanizes you. My most recent headshot is a tighter version of the fuller shot I use on my blog, and the back of my new book, have a look http://www.TeaWithMcNair.com.

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  • kushalashok

    I have been using the same headshot  for too long. This post has inspired me to get a new one. Thanks

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  • Jeff

    Those are some good ideas . I am actually in the process of choosing a good pic for my Twitter page and found your list of ideas and read through them. My account has no pic and I have very few followers. When I saw that pic at the top of this page, I got a good idea for my pic instantly and it won’t cost me anything . My Twitter pic is going to be a ‘random’ shot that a close friend of mine took of me while I was on my job when I wasn’t looking at him. I just wanted to pass on something you might want to add to the list as some people don’t have 100s of dollars to spend on pro photos! Thanks again for the idea!

  • http://twitter.com/khalil5172 Khalilur Rahman

    Better Headshoot is an ultimate necessary elements of getting more people attention to have more twitter followers. But, reality is – most of the people are not like to follow all the real algorithm of photograph. Thanks for great sharing.

  • Amy B

    “blur the background slightly”? This is called using a shallow depth of field, and if the photographer you choose is at all decent, this will be a given for head shots. It’s not really blurring the background. It’s just using a wider aperture to focus on the face instead of all the distractions around the subject.

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    The insight you shared at Dan Miller’s Innovate about what makes an authentic smile was so powerful. Understanding that one concept made the entire conference for me. Simple, but powerful concept. Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Wow. Awesome, Kent. I really threw it in as an after thought!

      • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

        Good afterthought. It was a unique and extremely helpful insight. Thanks!

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    Started using a better headshot recently. Both Sally Hogshead and you helped me think through this…

    This post and hearing you speak about headshots at Dan Miller’s event made me think through the picture I was using. It was okay, but I felt it wasn’t the image I wanted to portray. Your insight, especially about the eyes, was spot on.

    I also read Sally’s book “What Others See In YOU” and figuring out my anthem, which helped me know better what I wanted my face to ‘say.”

    Bottom line, your practical points and her ideas about knowing your anthem really worked together as a 1-2 punch.


    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Kent. I’m so glad!

  • http://www.thehomemadecreative.com/ Alena Belleque

    The image you see to the left (artistic, and yes I’m nursing my baby) is very much “me”, and I managed to take it myself with Instagram on a Samsung tablet. It’s currently my photo on all platforms (except maybe LinkedIn, I don’t remember offhand), and I love it…but it’s not “me” anymore, in the details (ie: nursing), it’s not a true headshot, and I’m not engaging anyone (eye contact).

    Unfortunately, the thing I need to fix this is MONEY. Always is, right? I own a DSLR and a tripod, so I’m going to attempt to capture a self-portrait that will work until I can afford to hire someone. I’m a photographer myself, so assuming I have the patience to try until I get a shot I love, I am confident it will work just fine for a while. But there really is nothing to compare to having a professionally actually behind the camera!

  • foursixtwo

    What do you do if you truly don’t take good photographs when you smile? I had a headshot session today and followed most of these tips, but honestly they came out *awful.* The photographer was great, she took so many pictures of me and really spent a lot of time trying to get to know me and get everything right. She did lots of different poses and a few different settings, etc. But…they’re all just so terrible.

    When I smile genuinely, my eyes close and my teeth are too large and I get quadruple chins and an odd generally lopsided appearance. This makes for a terrible picture. It has always been so, but in my wedding pictures and family pictures and so forth, there’s always something else going on to distract from how funny my face looks. No such luck with headshots. There’s nowhere to hide.

    I take a much, much nicer looking headshot when I’m not smiling. However, everyone on the planet says if you’re not smiling in your headshot, you may as well not even bother. People don’t like the severe look.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      First, you are not alone in feeling this way. BUT, you are the not the best judge of your photos. I have the same problem. I would encourage you to ask a family member or friend you can trust to tell you the truth. Thanks.

  • diamondave

    on #9 it should be When someone needs a photo, I direct them there. not, One someone needs a photo, I direct them there. just an fyi