Five Tips for a Headshot that Stands Out

By: Bridget Castellini   Attended the Happy Hour? Get your headshot  here.

By: Bridget Castellini

Attended the Happy Hour? Get your headshot here.

In the long-since past age where business cards were stored in well-worn Rolodexes by the dozens, a first impression usually meant a face-to-face meeting accompanied by a firm handshake and an exchange of pleasantries and introductions. Today, with social media, Google, and an internet that never truly forgets a first impression is formed long before the handshake.

In PR, we know the importance of first impressions. Headshots—the ubiquitous portraits that accompany bylined articles, headline LinkedIn profiles and accompany bio pages—are an important part of establishing great impressions. That’s why when we hosted a happy hour in July with Cincinnati PRSA, we wanted to help our fellow PR pros out with new headshots to help them make great impressions and keep their face fresh on the minds of clients and colleagues. If you were at the happy hour you can download your headshots here.

For those that couldn’t make it, we wanted to provide a few tips and tricks we’ve heard from photographers over the year. Whether you use these for yourself or for your clients, we hope they help you get the best photo for the best impressions. Here are five tips.

Relax, Relax, Relax

Janine Spang, a local photographer (who provided the headshots at our happy hour), encourages her clients to relax. “Body language is everything,” she says. “If you are nervous or self-conscious, it will show.” According to Janine, it can help to practice your smile in the mirror at home so you know what look you want to portray as well as telling yourself to enjoy the process, even if it’s something you absolutely don’t want to do.

Use a Photographer that Makes You Comfortable

The photographer you use plays a huge role in the quality of your headshot. If you are uncomfortable, chances are that will reflect in the pictures. The face has 43 muscles that are largely controlled without you realizing it so it’s important that you feel at ease throughout the process.

Most headshots don’t take long—often five minutes or less—but it’s still enough time for a bad photographer to sour your mood. Talk to your photographer before making an appointment to get a feel for their personality. The best photographers understand that customer service skills are as important as good lighting.

Be Creative, Yet Appropriate for Your Audience

Headshots are an opportunity to reflect your personality (and personal brand), but you also should remember those that will be looking at the pictures and forming opinions that will shape your relationships. Wearing funky glasses and a loud tie, while holding a puppy and jumping on a trampoline might communicate that you’re a fun person—but it might also make an executive at a large organization decide that you aren’t professional or serious enough to work with their organization.

It’s a balancing act and the amount of leeway you have depends on the industry. If you work in the financial sector the expectation of dress and demeanor is a lot stricter than if you’re working for a zoo. To keep up with different audiences, you could choose to have different headshots for different situations. 

Hydrate and Sleep Well

Like it or not, first impressions are often based on looks and even the nicest among us will unconsciously form opinions based on how you look. Because of this, it’s a good idea to look your best for professional photos. This by no means is an instruction to resort to drastic measures to change your appearance, but simple things can make you look your best.

The skin on our face doesn’t lie, and if you’re dehydrated or exhausted, it can show, no matter how big you smile. A photographer once counseled me to drink an extra glass of water (or two) and try to get as much sleep as possible on the night before the photoshoot. Fine lines and pores in your face enlarge if your body isn’t adequately hydrated, and lack of sleep will darken circles under your eyes. Thankfully, there’s always the magic of Photoshop.


Your photographer is there to help you get photos you’ll love. It’s important that you outline your expectations to your photographer in an honest way. Discuss background and scenery choices and make sure you decide on something you truly love. During the shoot, speak up if you don’t understand a direction the photographer gives you or if a certain pose is uncomfortable.

… and repeat

Even if you follow every tip above and get a photo you absolutely love, don’t take that headshot and engrave it in stone. No matter how great your picture is (or how much you dislike being in front of a camera), you really should repeat the process every few years. As we age and change careers, it’s important to keep headshots up-to-date. The effort to represent yourself well and make great impressions never truly ends.