5 Tactics to an Effective Headshot

The point of having an effective headshot is to get noticed and connect with the viewer. As a professional, this could be the difference between landing a new job or getting an interview. Or this might be a new connection to a potential client for a business owner.

Any portrait that makes the viewer feel something, whether good or bad, is caused by the picture. The image they see evokes some emotional response.

That doesn't mean you have to produce an intense reaction for the portrait to be compelling. Your viewer only needs to unconsciously think, “She looks friendly” or “he looks enthusiastic.”

When the result gets you noticed, you know you’re standing out and have an effective headshot.

The point of any good portrait is to get noticed and connect with the viewer. Therefore, if you want to show your audience an effective headshot, this article will help you decipher what you should give to the camera/photographer and your intention behind it. 

Know what you INTEND to communicate. 

There are many studies on first impressions and what a profile should and shouldn't have. A widespread tool backed up by a lot of science is Photofeeler.com . This app rates your profile images based on competence, likability, influence, and whether you look intelligent, trustworthy, attractive, confident, authentic, and fun. If you’re unsure what the headshot you are using is communicating, you can upload your own portrait on the Photofeeler website and see how it rates.

Example of an effective headshot.

The primary thing to understand here is that your portrait should communicate the right message within the first few milliseconds your audience views it.

"You must have the right intention and goal before you begin."

Most people trust their photographer solely to generate a good headshot for their business. All the technical details are taken care of to make them look like pro shots, not selfies. If you are unclear about your goal, you may end up with an ineffective portrait. Therefore, understanding the meaning behind your brand may be needed to give you the result you wish to accomplish.

The Importance of EYE CONTACT in an effective headshot.

One of the keys to making a connection with a viewer is through the eyes. William Shakespeare said, "The eyes are the window to your soul." He meant that you see one's inner essence by looking deep into their eyes. You also get a sense of their emotional state and how they view the world around them.  

So when you look into the camera, be authentic and direct. Envision the lens as it were the person you want to connect with, whoever that may be. Project with confidence, and own who you are, perfect and imperfect. 

The difference between eyes showing uncertainty and those showing authenticity equals a handshake with a feeble grip compared to a firm grip.

You will connect with your audience if you are relaxed while being photographed. Don't get overly critical of the details; have an intention and let your essence shine!

Headshot of a teacher.

A legit SMILE communicates, “I’m likable.”

The second thing that makes a headshot effective is the smile. A smile will accomplish one primary thing- your level of likability instantly. All the research backs this up. A smile with teeth makes you look younger, more attractive, and approachable, whether a man or a woman. 

If you want to make yourself appear likable, then definitely smile. Just make sure it's a natural smile. Most viewers will be able to tell. Showing teeth or not doesn't matter; a genuine smile comes through the eyes. If you don't see the squinty lines in the corners, then it's probably not real. Try laughing inside when you show off your pearly whites. 

Is your goal to attract more clients or viewers? 

A primary step in defining your personal brand is understanding who your ideal customer is in great detail. You should know how you want to be seen by them. However, you must also know the context in which you will use your images.

I advise everyone to have a few variations of smiles for different uses. This way, you can fit the proper expression to the audience viewing them. LinkedIn is more professional, and a small, confident smile will attract potential clients or collaborators. On the other hand, Instagram entertains an audience; a big beaming smile may be more appropriate. 

As a reminder, be clear on your brand and who you want to attract to you. Imagine if an edgy filmmaker displays a big smile on their website or Instagram. In this context, it could make them look less competent. Especially if they want others to see them as modern and edgy.  

Portrait of Mary Cravets

Consider how BOLD you could be.

Get the viewers' attention by being expressive or telling a unique story about who you are. A sci-fi author may dress as a character in one of her books. Imagine a wig maker photographed in front of a background that is a wall of wigs. Or it could be a realtor who sells only multi-million dollar homes and stands in front of a lavish mansion. 

The setting and situation, and how dramatic you want to be, are endless. To make your portrait genuinely compelling, be clear about what you want to communicate, even if it is in the moment. 

Ask your photographer if you want to add drama but need help figuring out how to begin. Say something like: "I want to do a portrait that is captivating… strong… intriguing…." They will love you because this gives them license to be creative. 

Beautiful blond with confidence.

Let’s be CANDID about your headshot.

Another way to communicate your essence is candidly. A candid portrait presents you in a real moment and displays honesty. It is an unaltered view of reality. In this case, the person is not looking at the camera. This type of portraiture shows the viewer what it would be like to work with you. Lifestyle photographs can capture you conversing and using hand gestures, laughing with someone, doing an activity, or deep thought. 

This point of view can produce highly effective headshots, especially when the image illustrates your character. 

Is this relevant to what you do? It can be if you are the primary marketer of your brand. Influencers, public speakers, or artists may use these images to tell a deeper story about who they are and their motivations for their work. 

Technical aesthetics can make a difference.

Even if you have all the elements above in a portrait, if it's poorly lit or too busy, that will affect the outcome. 

An important factor is good lighting and composition are essential. It all comes down to the photographer to capture a great headshot. An experienced photographer knows when all elements are correct, from the proper exposure to the exact position of the head.

And lastly, the correct wardrobe is also essential for an effective headshot. A purposeful outfit will give off the right vibe, flatter your face and figure, and ensure longevity in style. We always suggest choosing outfits that are timeless and classic.

Avoid full sunlight Effective headshot after.

Effective Headshot

Having the right intention of what you want to accomplish before you begin and hiring a professional photographer will generate a highly effective headshot. With good eye contact, a brilliant smile, and letting your personality shine through, you'll appear likable, approachable, capable, intelligent, or whatever you attempt to convey. 

If you need a new headshot and would like it to be effective in your outreach, book your Headshot Session today.