5 Easy Steps to Take Your Own Headshot Photo

Many people think that it just isn’t possible to take your own headshot like the pros do.  Professional equipment and knowledge indeed produce the best results.  However, with the quality of cell phone cameras improving every day, and the cost of high-output lights at rock bottom, there’s no reason you can’t take your own headshot and make it look great.  We’ve created a list of 5 easy steps that you can use to get a headshot that looks great and doesn’t break the bank.  Let’s get started!

1. Gather Some Gear

Photography equipment can be expensive, very expensive.  Luckily you don’t need very much gear to take a great looking headshot.  Here’s a list of gear to either get or consider, before taking your headshot.

  • Lighting- The first thing on the gear list is lighting, and there is a reason that it’s #1.  No matter what anyone tells you, lighting is the most important thing in photography, more important than a camera!  Photography is derived from Greek, and means “light writing”.  By definition, it is possible to make a photograph without a camera, yet impossible to make a photograph without light.  All you need are a couple of standard table lamps and some bright, daylight LED bulbs which you might already have in your house.  You should have at least two, but three is even better!  Just make sure that all of the lights you will be using are the same temperature.  The lights temperature should be listed on the box in Kelvin.  The higher the number, the cooler the color temperature- look for something around 5600K.
  • Camera- Professional cameras are quite expensive for several reasons, but few of their features are required to take your own headshot.  The primary camera on your smartphone will work just fine, so long as it’s not more than 10 years old.
  • Backdrop– Got a wall? That will work just fine, just make sure it isn’t reflective.  A reflective backdrop may cause an unsightly glare in your photo.  If you want a different color background than your nearest available wall is- think bedsheets.  You can pick up a set for under $10 at a local store in just about any color you choose.  Speaking of color, It’s best to choose a neutral color when selecting a backdrop.  The 3 you should seriously consider are:
    • White- For a crisp, clean look.
    • Black- For a more dramatic look.
    • Gray- For a classic, middle of the road look.
  • Tripod- Prop your phone up any way you can.  A chair, a stack of books, just about anything will do as long as you can position your camera at about the height of your nose.  Of course, there are many affordable options for tripods that are great for infrequent use- like this one.
  • Lint roller- Making sure you are free from lint, hairs, and other unsightly things before taking your photo are super important.  It is always easier to fix problems before you take a photo than it is to fix them afterward. We highly recommend a good lint roller over hours editing your headshot.
  • Photo Editing App- There are plenty of great options when it comes to photo editing apps for smartphones, but our pick is Adobe Lightroom Mobile

2. Dress to Impress

When considering what to wear for your headshot, there are a few things to keep in mind.  You want your headshot to be representative of your personality, and show people who you are.  So pick an outfit that speaks to your style, and is what you typically wear during business transactions.  If you are a business executive, a graphic tee is probably not what you want to wear.  On the other hand, if you are a professional surfer, a tee shirt might be the right choice.

No matter what style of clothing you choose to wear, dark colors typically work the best in terms of placing the focus on you.  Of course, dark-colored clothes make things like dust, hairs, and just about anything you might get on you easy to see.  This is where that lint roller comes in.  Remember, it’s always easier to fix something before you take the photo than it is to fix it after.

3. Take Your Headshot

So now you’re all set and ready to take your photo.  The easiest way to do this would be to have a friend take the photo for you, but since this article is about how to take your own professional headshot, we will focus on that.  Also, we could write an entirely different article on how to take your own photo with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but since just about everyone has a phone with a camera, we will stick to that.

An important consideration when taking a photo with your phone’s camera is that your phone probably has more than one.  There is usually at least one camera on the back of your phone (opposite the screen), and another camera on the front (sometimes called the selfie camera).  Typically, the “selfie” camera is a much lower quality camera than the front is, and produces much smaller images.  So while the selfie camera might be easier to frame up your shot, the back camera will produce a better quality image.

If you have a tripod, set it up where you plan to take your photo and arrange your lights in a standard 3-point setup, as shown below.

simple photography lighting

Once your backdrop, camera, and lighting are in place, you’re ready to go! Set your phone’s camera to timer mode, jump in the shot and give your most natural expression. Now, getting your photo to look right will probably take many iterations of this, but sooner or later, you will have one that you know is just right.  Look at each shot after you take it and adjust your lighting setup as needed between shots.

4. Edit Your Headshot

Most smartphones have a simple editing suite which is native to the phone, which should work just fine.  However, if you would like more control, many great 3rd party apps will give you that control, and many of them are free!  Our pick for mobile editing is Adobe Lightroom Mobile.  Check out the video below to see just how easy it is!

5. Post Your Headshot (the right way)

Once your headshot is edited, you are almost ready to start posting it.  But don’t jump off the deep end!  Before you post your photo, you should be aware that different social media channels require different image sizes.  Sure, you can upload just about anything so long as it is within the minimum and maximum sizes, but the site will adjust your image to fit within its specified limits.  This adjustment by the site you upload to can cause unwanted distortion, making your headshot look, well, not so good.

But not to worry!  We have created a simple solution for identifying what size your images should be across all of the most popular social media channels.  Head over to our Social Media Image Size Guide where you can find all of the sizes you need for your profile photos, posts, and more!

In Conclusion

If you’ve taken your time and followed the above steps, you should have a pretty good looking headshot.  Your headshot should at least hold you over for a while until you book a pro to take one for you.  Thanks a bunch for reading, and please drop any questions you might have into the comments below!



Looking for a professional headshot in Eastern North Carolina?  Click here to book a session with Five Prime Studio!

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