How to take a good headshot

Posted: Friday May 28 2021

By: Katie Mallinson

How to take a good headshot

A good, clear headshot is useful for media purposes, including social accounts, and the team at Scriba is often asked by journalists to provide these – particularly for spokespeople of organisations, for example when contributing to authored ‘thought leader’ material. Nowadays, most smartphones have excellent in-built cameras, which are more than capable of this task – with a little guidance.

It is possible to take a headshot of yourself, using your phone’s flipped camera selfie mode – or you can ask a colleague to point and shoot! This guide is written with selfie-takers in mind, but the same points apply if a volunteer is behind the lens.

If you are taking the image yourself, use a selfie stick if you have one, or your camera’s delay timer. On an iPhone, the timer is a clock symbol at the top of your screen. Tap this and you will get the option to delay the shot by 3 or 10 seconds, after pressing the button. This will allow you to straighten your arm, moving the camera further from your face, and position yourself in the frame.

What to wear, how to look

Be yourself – but your ‘work self’. You’ll want to look smart and business-like, not as if you are on a night out. If in doubt, try a collared shirt, which can look a little more formal than an unstructured neckline. If you work onsite or in uniform, the image can by all means reflect this – but make sure we can see your face without the obstruction by safety goggles or a hard hat, for example. If you wear glasses, try to make sure there is not too much reflection on the lenses.

Think about background

Find a plain, preferably white or pale, wall to stand a little way in front of, not directly up against. Ideally you should be in good daylight, though not bright sunshine which creates a lot of contrast. Outdoor headshots can work well, perhaps with greenery in the background. Make sure the wall, trees or bushes fill the frame behind you. Remember if there is something distracting right at the edge of the image, you can crop it a little.

Lighting and filters

It is much easier to take a good shot in natural light than under electric light. Try to make sure the sun is in front of you. If it is behind you, your face may be in shadow. If the options for where to stand are limited, try tapping your face on the screen. The camera’s exposure will recalculate to brighten your face, therefore helping with this issue.

Your phone camera may have a portrait mode. On a recent iPhone, this is at the bottom of your screen where you choose between photo, video, etc. Within that mode, you can choose the lighting – we recommend ‘natural’ or ‘studio’. Portrait will offer you a flattering shot with a slightly blurred background, which can look very professional.

If you are familiar with filters, a light one is fine if you prefer the image when processed in this way, but steer clear of heavier saturation of colour, or black and white effects, as the result may not be suitable for all purposes.

Positioning yourself and the camera

A headshot should include your shoulders as well as your head. Angling yourself with your shoulders facing slightly away from your camera, and looking back towards it, will offer a softer and more flattering result than standing square-on, sports line-up style. Holding your camera level with your face will work well, as will a very slightly raised position. Your camera lens is at the top of your phone so you’ll need to look there, not at yourself on the screen, as you smile.

Take your time and have a few attempts. It’s good to have some various options – smiley shots and more serious ones. Check the result to see whether you are happy with it – and zoom in to make sure the image is properly sharp and focused before concluding your photo session.

Providing portrait or landscape options

It is always useful to have a landscape (wide) option as well as portrait (tall) for a headshot. You can use all the same principles as above to achieve this. If you are feeling creative, however, a landscape photo gives you more scope to add something interesting. For example, you could take a picture outside your building with company signage in the background, or in front of something that gives a flavour of what you do at work – whether that’s quantity surveying or textile coloration.

Congratulations! You are now ready to email, text or WhatsApp your headshot to Scriba!