Title: “5 Common Mistakes in a Headshot Photograph and How to Avoid Them” - Dan Cantero Headshots
0412 522 151 dan@dancantero.com.au


When it comes to professional and social media, branding, a headshot photograph is more than just a simple photo. It’s a powerful tool that’s going to help you to make the very best first impression possible. Whether you are targeting LinkedIn, a corporate website, or an active portfolio, a good headshot can speak volumes about your professionalism and personality before others meet you face-to-face. However, capturing the headshot photograph that accurately encapsulates your personality, whilst making a professional impression, isn’t easy to do. There are some common pitfalls when producing a headshot photograph that can undermine the impact you are trying to create. This can lead to missed opportunities and a negative personal brand. From poor lighting and distracting backgrounds to fake expressions and inappropriate clothing, these mistakes can take away from the your, natural appeal. The key is to recognise, and to try to avoid these common mistakes. In this article, I’ll go into the five most common mistakes that I see with headshot photographs, and I’ll provide easy to follow advice on how to avoid these mistakes. Make sure to take these points into account when getting your next headshot, so you can elevate online presence and make a stronger first impression.

Mistake 1: Ignoring Lighting Conditions

Overly Harsh Light: Avoid using overly harsh lighting. This could result in some unflattering shadows on the face. Harsh lighting is also going to emphasise imperfections in the skin, such as pimples, wrinkles, etc. Instead, try to find a soft light source. A large window on an overcast day is perfect.

Ignoring the Direction of Light: Light coming at you from the wrong direction can led to un-natural shadows that exaggerate certain parts of your face. As a general rule, have the light coming at you just above you and from the side. This is referred to as rembrandt lighting where the light comes in at 45 degrees from above you and to the side.

Ignoring the Background Light: A bright background can make you look washed out and lacking contrast. Remember that the photograph is not about the background. It’s a photograph about you. In a good headshot photograph, you should be the first thing that people look at so your background shouldn’t be brighter than you.

Use Reflectors: If the lighting is too bright on one side of your face, try to reflect light back to the darker side. You can easily do this using anything with a flat white object. Photographers will often use a white piece of cardboard to bounce light when needed but even a simple sheet of paper can work wonders.

Mistake 2: Overcomplicating the Background

This is the most common mistake that I see people make. For some reason, people think that it is really important to have a beautiful backdrop as part of the photograph. They are ignoring the fact that the subject of the photograph is the person in it.Whilst a beautiful backdrop is great when taking a holiday photo, it is not the right approach for a professional headshot photo. Ideally, you should have a plain background as your backdrop. A simple clean wall will work perfectly. If you feel that you need to have a backdrop that conveys more context, you could try taking the photograph at a place of work such as an office space. If you go for this approach, ensure that the background is slightly blurry so that it is less distracting from you.

Mistake 3: Inappropriate Wardrobe Choices

This is another common mistake that I see people make. A professional headshot photograph should look professional. Wrinkled or inappropriate clothing can take away all of your credibility. Your headshot photograph will represent everything about you and the way that you conduct yourself. If people see you wearing something that looks a bit sloppy, it may result in a negative impression of you. One piece of advice that I give all of my clients is that they should wear something that they would wear to a job interview. At the very least, you should aim for smart casual. Also ensure that your clothing is clean and free from lint. Check my article on what to wear for a headshot photoshoot if you are unsure.

Mistake 4: Forced Poses and Expressions

This is probably the most challenging component when getting a professional headshot photograph. Most people Do not know how to post. Even worse. of people think that they know what looks good on camera. This combination leads to some really unnatural looking expressions. Regardless of whether somebody knows you or not, they will be able to tell whether you are faking a smile or not by looking at your photo. My advice would be to practise in front of a mirror so that you can see what looks good. When it comes time to take in the photograph. Take more shots than you think you need. You can then have a larger selection of images to choose from which will help you pick the right one. If you are asking a friend to take the photo for you, tell them to take multiple shots even when you are not posing. For most people, the best shots are the ones when they are not posing.

Mistake 5: Ignoring retouching

Neglecting post processing is a big mistake. Most people are not photo rechargers. There are, however, plenty of applications that can help you to edit your photograph. From removing blemishes and pimples, to applying the correct crop to your image, photo retouching can lift the overall quality of the photograph. If you are familiar with photo retouching software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, I suggest you use them to do the editing. If you’re not familiar with any photo editing applications, I would recommend using a service such as FIVER to find a photo retoucher that can do the work for you. A good retoucher will be able to lift the quality of your photograph to a much higher level. Don’t neglect this step!