How to Look Confident and Competent in Your Online Head Shot

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Look Confident and Competent in Your Head Shot

Creepy but true: The people you want to do business with lightly cyberstalk you before a meeting or interview. They’ll Google you, check your social media profiles, and review your company website. In all that content, they’re bound to come across your head shot, which must speak to your professional presence when you can’t. (Hint: Your head shot should always be current and flattering!) People will form an impression of you based on your picture, and if they choose to meet you in person, any differences between Picture You and In-Person You will leave a bad taste in their mouths. So consistency is key, and following these tips to take the perfect head shot every time.

What to Wear

Pick a typical outfit you would wear in your role, in the color that best enhances your eyes and skin tone, in a year-round look that doesn’t scream “winter” or “summer.” Also think about the message you want to communicate about your personal brand. Are you creative or laid back? Maybe wear a simple suede or leather jacket instead of a traditional blazer. Just remember to keep it simple! You want the focus to be on you, not on a loud tie, a print blouse, or a bold accessory—and certainly not on wrinkles or lint!

Ladies, pay particular attention to the fit of your shirt. Avoid anything too baggy or too loose; opt for a fitted blouse or dress that complements your figure. If you’re going with a button-down shirt, make sure none of the buttons gape when the shirt is fully buttoned.

If you typically wear glasses, wear them in your photo shoot. Professional portraits should positively represent who you are in your everyday life, and your photographer will ensure you get a glare-free photo.

Hair and Nails

Consider a haircut or tan. If you plan to get your hair trimmed, do it about a week before the shoot to allow it to grow past that “just cut” look. And plan your tan after your haircut to avoid obvious tan lines along your hairline.

Your hands may end up in some of our shots, so get a manicure for your nails. Women should choose a neutral, skin-tone polish or a clear coat, so as not to distract from your face. Men are good with a clean trim.

Skin and Makeup

A matte finish to your face will always provide the best shot. Oil absorbing sheets and translucent powder are powerful ways for both men and women to tame shiny skin. (See my recommendations for some great mattifying products to use right before your shoot!)

Ensure your skin is in good shape by getting a good night’s sleep. Also abstain from alcoholic drinks (sorry!) for the two days before your shoot, as alcohol can make skin flushed and blotchy, give you baggy eyes, and diminish the quality of your rest.

Women, a natural face of makeup is best. You want your makeup to be like it would be on a normal day—just a little bit more to bring out your features.

Men, five o’clock shadow can’t be Photoshopped easily, so shave right before you leave for a shoot. Use a cooling gel or aftershave to help with skin irritation.

Sit to Look Slimmer

Since most head shots are from the shoulders and above, you want to angle your body so that you are not directly facing the camera. You can also tilt your head a bit, which can be tricky as it can create a sexy or feminine appeal. So ladies, use caution as you do not want to communicate the wrong message. Men, no head tilting for your pose!

You can avoid an unsightly double-chin effect by keeping your chin up. And no hunchbacks! Sitting up straight will project a confident and capable professional.

Exhale and Smile

Tips for that natural, genuine smile:

  • Take a deep breath and smile as you exhale, ensuring your jaw is unclenched so your face is relaxed. Closed-lip smiles are not recommended—you will look disingenuous.
  • Don’t force your smile. It will look awkward in the images and your cheeks will be sore after the shoot. A good tip is to leave a little space between your teeth when smiling, enough to put the tip of your pinky in between. Your smile will look more genuine.
  • Follow the photographer’s direction, even if it feels a little silly. They are professionals who know the best posing and the best way to shape your face!
  • Relax! Photography sessions should be fun. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down. You can even think of a funny moment and then look at the camera, which will provide the natural smile you want to capture.
  • Squint, squint, squint! Squinting your eyes just a little will help the shots look more confident and natural. The deer-in-headlights look is pretty horrible.


Don’t hesitate to practice smiling in a mirror to find the smile you like best for you. It’s also a good idea to test run your hair, makeup, and clothing before the shoot to find the look that best captures your unique personal brand. Now you’re ready for your closeup!

Post a current and flattering head shot that matches your sparkling professional presence every time!

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