Headshots: Tips for a Successful Session

As an Atlanta portrait photographer, I take a fair amount of headshots. Most are for entrepreneurs or small business owners, others are for corporate executives. I have done a wide-range of these sessions, with some taken in my studio using a grey, or white backdrop, and others outdoors for a more environmental look.

Regardless of the portrait style you choose, I have a few basic tips to help you look your best. I’ve also partnered with my wonderful hair and makeup artist, Brielle Brenner, who shares some of her go-to beauty tips for a successful portrait.

1. Know The Look You’re Going For

Are you a creative? Do you need formal corporate headshots? It matters!

Knowing what look you need is #1 to a successful headshot session. Clients have different needs. I have had a range of requests, but understanding what you need going into the session is top priority. I had a female professional working in a predominantly male field who needed a more serious-looking headshot – she did not want to smile too much. I have worked with authors that needed a certain look for their headshots for the jacket sleeve of their books. I have also worked with fun creatives in need of something more casual. Oftentimes, I have clients bring two looks: one more, or less, formal than the other.

We’ll work together to understand your look, and get beautiful results.

2. Look Like Yourself on a Good Day

For women, hiring a beauty professional makes a big DIFFERENCE! If that’s not an option, keep hair and makeup natural.
– Beauty tips courtesy of Atlanta makeup artist, Brielle Brenner

If you are hiring a makeup artist like Brielle for your portrait session, you will get a prep email from her with all the information you need to know before your session. The main things to keep in mind are you want to arrive with your skin clean and moisturized and your hair clean and completely dry. This will enable the her to start right away and accomplish any hair and makeup style easily without having to remove residual makeup, etc.

If you are opting out of adding makeup and hair to your session and prefer to do your own, the best things you can do to prep for your portrait session is to focus on skincare and skin hydration a few weeks before by using your skincare regimen more diligently, as well as making sure your brows are recently waxed or threaded. For skincare, consider adding in a hydrating mask like Origins Drink Up Mask or a hydrating serum like Drunk Elephant’s B Hydra Serum.

You want to make sure your foundation is a perfect match, and you want to choose one that has more coverage than a tinted moisturized for your photos. A foundation to try would be Nars Sheer Glow. It is a beautiful foundation for photos, has great coverage but still looks like skin, it’s one Brielle uses on most of her clients.

For hair, keep it simple with a light beach wave using a 1-inch curling iron and a texturizing spray (after curling) like Oribe Apres Beach Spray, or refine your everyday style with a simple accessory and some medium hold hairspray like Redken Fashion Work 12 in order to avoid any flyaways.

Don’t forget your nails! The best thing for photos is to keep them a neutral color and have them recently manicured, and manicured nails can make you love the photo even more.

These seemingly small details will help your pictures look elevated and finished, especially when doing your own hair and makeup.

3. Choosing Your Outfit

Do: Wear what makes you feel confident
Don’t: Wear a style you’ve never worn before
just because you saw it in a magazine!

Generally speaking, wear what you feel confident wearing – what makes you feel your best. I am happy to answer any questions or look at wardrobe you’ve picked out – we’ll talk through any questions.

Dress for your look! Refer to Tip #1 above and stay true to the look you want to convey.

Go with solid colors. Generally speaking, you’ll want to skip the busy prints and writing on shirts and go with solid colors. Keep the focus on YOU with a simple pattern or solid color.

Wear a shirt (or dress) with sleeves to create a continuous line from neck down. Sleeveless tops exaggerate a color break between skin and clothes that can look awkward in head shots.

Textures and layers look great on camera. Think jackets, sweaters, cardigans, and vests over tops. There are many possibilities here, just keep your neckline open and stay true to you.

Select color(s) that will compliment your hair and skin tone. Avoid colors that blend into your skin tone or match your hair resulting in a bland, washed out photo. Create contrast between your natural coloring and your shirt to draw attention to you face for a memorable headshot.