What makes a good headshot photograph? - Dan Cantero Headshots
0412 522 151 dan@dancantero.com.au

We all know that a headshot photograph is really important to your online presence. But do we really know what makes a good headshot photograph? A good headshot photographer is going to be able to get the best look for you depending on what you want your photo to do for you. It may seem like the photographer is simply getting you to stand in front of the camera and then pushing a button.

The reality is that there are a lot of aspects the go into creating a good and effective photograph. In this article I’m going to show you the five main components that any good photographer will incorporate into your photo.  Neglecting any of these points may result in a photo that does not do well against your competition. We need to keep in mind that your headshot photograph is a representation of you in the digital world. It needs to convey a message that is consistent with your requirements. The requirements will be different for everyone. You may want to come across as more trusting , you may want to come across as more authorative , or you might just want to come across as more approachable. Whatever your message, your photograph will need to support it. A good corporate headshot photographer will take this information and build one or more images that convey the same message.


A good headshot photograph is the result of the following things

  • Expression
  • Posing
  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Wardrobe
  • Hair/Makeup

Expression.  We all know about first impressions and how they count. This photograph is going to make the first impression for you so you need to make sure it’s right.  You could be the friendliest person on the planet but if your photograph doesn’t look friendly you won’t get past the first stage. Expressions is one of the hardest things to capture in a photograph.  It starts by making the environment friendly and relaxed. A photographer will typically engage with you to bring these expressions out of you in a natural manner. Expressions cannot be forced. They must be natural.


Posing is something that you’re simply not going to be familiar with unless you’re a trained actor or model. The funny thing is that most of us think that we can pose. It’s really rare for someone that is not trained in posing to be able to get this right.  Because of this, your photographer will break up posing directions into small chunks they are easy to follow. I always start off with an unposed picture that we can always refer back to in order to show the difference that posing makes.


No matter what type of photography you are talking about , lighting is the common thread amongst them. It’s no different in headshot photography. Lighting needs to be designed for each individual person to emphasize certain features as well as draw attention away from others.  Lighting can make a photograph more dramatic, it can make someone look lighter, it can make imperfect skin look smoother. Contrary to popular belief, lighting (not the camera) is the only technical equipment that can make a difference in a good or bad photograph.


Composition of a photograph is something that most amateur photographers or non-photographers often miss. In these cases the individual is usually placed in the middle of the frame.  This might look good in a selfie or just a regular photo but typically it won’t work as a headshot photograph. Do you crop the head? Or do you not crop the ahead? The answer is it depends. It depends on where the photograph is going to used and how it’s going to be used. Do you need to leave room for copy? Composition of the photograph is designed with the end purpose in mind.  Does the image need to be rectangular, square, round or any other shape?


Have you ever heard “Clothes make the man”?  As much as we’d like to think that we don’t judge a book by its cover, the truth is that most often we do. Your wardrobe is not only important in conveying the right message, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t draw attention away from you. Bright colours and busy patterns and clothing may look great in real life, but this is a photograph of you. You need to be the centre of attention and you need to be the first thing that someone pays attention to when they look at your photograph. Your photographer will encourage you to bring several clothing items and pieces. You will then review these together and come up with the best combination for your shots.

Hair & Makeup

This is typically something that most people think it’s only applicable to women. Talk to anyone that’s ever been in a television studio , and they will tell you that hair and makeup is applicable to both men and women. Preparation is the key when it comes to dealing with hair.  Most of the time you want to stick with something you’ve tried before . This is not the time to be trying new things on the day of your shoot only to find out that it’s not going to work. Your photographer will be able to guide you through the preparation required so that you look great on the day of your shoot.


There are obviously more items to consider when planning a headshot photography session, but if you only work on these six items and you get them right, you are going to be a long way ahead of your competition. All this might look like a lot of work for just a photograph, but, you need to remember that this photograph represents you on the internet. Most people that see your photograph will decide in a fraction of a second if they want to work with you or engage with you based on your photograph.  Knowing this should motivate you to put as much effort as possible into getting it right.  Don’t believe that headhost are important?  Have a read of what LinkedIn say about it HERE.

Dan Cantero