Aug 18, 2017 | By: Irene Abdou Photography, LLC, DC Head Shot Photographer
Search the internet for expert advice on personal branding, marketing, and job searching, and you'll find hundreds of articles on why you need a professional headshot. So some of you might find yourself wondering if your current headshot is professional "enough." Here are 7 reasons your headshot looks unprofessional.
1. The lighting in your headshot is bad.
If the lighting in your headshots is poorly done, your headshot will look unprofessional, plain and simple. Overexposure (the headshot is too bright), underexposure, (the headshot is too dark), flat lighting (where the lighting is diffuse without highlights and shadows), on-camera lighting (making you look like a deer in the headlights), lack of separation between you and the background, and raccoon eyes (where your eyes are too dark, often because the light source is too high) are all examples of poor lighting.
In contrast, good lighting shapes your face and provides depth and dimension, making your headshot look three-dimensional, so that you stand out from the background.
In addition, improper lighting for your facial features and body type can make you look “plumper” than you are, whereas lighting that is well done is slimming. Light can also either emphasize or hide double chins!
Outdoor, natural light is not necessarily better than indoor or studio light. They each have their place, and the decision to go for outdoor headshots versus indoor or studio headshots is a matter of taste and the look you’re going for. Regardless of setting, you need a professional headshot photographer who is an expert at sculpting light and who knows how to avoid the lighting pitfalls mentioned above.
pose in your headshot looks unnatural or is unflattering for your face or body type.
In general, you should look natural, comfortable, relaxed, and confident in your professional headshot. (Unless you’re a killer attorney, you probably should also look friendly and approachable.) If your pose looks unnatural, you’ll also give the impression of being stiff, nervous, and lacking confidence, a definite no-no for professional headshots. In addition, a good pose for you is dependent on your body type and facial features. Even though it’s a head shot, your upper body position will still show, and your lower body position and arms will impact the look of your upper body.
For example, if you stand with your body and shoulders both directly facing the camera (so both shoulders are the same distance from the camera), your headshot will show your full weight. If you’d like to look slimmer, then you should turn your body away from the camera, lean forward, and pop your hip away from the camera. Likewise, turning your head partly to the side, in combination with light coming from the correct side angle, will make your face look slimmer in your headshots.
Unless you’re a professional model, it’s hard for most people to pose themselves without a mirror for guidance. Let your professional headshot photographer be your mirror! Search for a professional photographer who will notice little details and provide you with the posing guidance you need.
forehead, cheeks, nose, and/or chin are unattractively shiny in your headshot.
Many of us have oily skin that reflects light, resulting in unattractive shiny spots that most commonly show up on foreheads, cheeks, noses, and chins. A professional makeup artist can help, and you can also use blotting papers. Despite our best efforts, though, shine may be a part of your headshots. Never fear, though; shine is something that your professional headshot photographershould be able to remove or tone down through retouching.
head and body are improperly positioned in your headshot.
A rookie mistake is to take a photo in which your head is positioned smack in the middle of the photo. Don’t do it! That will result in too much space between the top of your head and the top of the image. That space isn’t important. Fill it with what is important… which is you!
Your eyes should be vertically positioned around 1/3 of the way down the image, and in the middle of the image horizontally. It’s ok to have a little more space on the side of the image that you’re facing, such that you look into the image instead of out of it. (So if your head is turned to the right, then your eyes can either be in the horizontal middle or a little left of center.
You might also think that a headshot is… well… a head shot, and therefore you should zoom in and show mostly just your head. But consider where you’ll be displaying your headshot, such as on LinkedIn or as your Facebook profile photo, both of which force crop to square. Google Plus force crops to a circle. If your original headshot is too zoomed in, then cropping to a square or circle won’t look good. It’s often better to show more body in your image so that you can use your headshot in either a rectangular, square, or circular setting. (Did that never occur to you before? It’s for reasons like this that you’ll want to use a professional headshot photographer if you care about making a great first impression.)
background isn’t blurred (enough) in your headshot.
Unless the image is very zoomed out, or unless there isn’t much distance between you and the background, then the background should be blurred to some extent, such that you – the subject of the headshot – stand out. In-studio, if the background isn’t sufficiently blurred, then you may see wrinkles in the backdrop. On-location, backgrounds can be busy and messy, and blurring the background eliminates the busy-ness while retaining interesting textures and colors. A surefire sign of a “professional” photographer who isn’t very professional is a portfolio full of images with sharp backgrounds.
skintones are the wrong color in your headshot.
Need I say it? If your skintones are too orange, red, green, or purple, then you need another headshot, as well as a different photographer. Orange skintones in particular are common in dark-skinned people, and your professional photographer should be able to color-correct to ensure that you look like you. If you’re naturally very pale or a little red, and you don’t like it, then your professional photographer should also be able to add some warmth to your skintones or reduce the redness in your headshot.
the above, your headshot still looks like you
did it yourself.
I took a scroll through LinkedIn. Maybe one of the following headshots was yours?
Was your headshot originally a picture of you with your friends, who you cropped out of the picture? Was your headshot taken on a playground or in a bar? Is your significant other, child, or pet in the photo with you? Are you doing yoga or weightlifting? Are you blurry? Do you look too sexy for your headshot to be a professional headshot? Are there reflections in your glasses? Are you wearing sunglasses in your headshots?
Notwithstanding any of the pitfalls I’ve already discussed in detail, if, for any other reason, your headshot still looks like you did it yourself, then it looks unprofessional.
Show prospective employers and clients that you care with high-quality, professional headshots.
Your headshots make your first impressions, and poorly done or unprofessional-looking headshots show prospective employers and clients that you don’t really care to gain their business.
So what's the verdict? Does your headshot look unprofessional?