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Snap a Winning Headshot, Part 1: Look in the Mirror

By Clinton Brandhagen

These days, potential clients are going to look you up online before they ever meet you. They want to see who you are, what you’ve done and where you earned your law degree.

The headshot you’re using on your website and on social media speaks volumes about how you present yourself — and your personal judgment. Legal marketer Kimberly Rice makes this great point:

“Giving people the right visual cues immediately is critical to getting their attention and gaining their trust. To use and/or post a headshot which does not reflect your ‘current look’ is to appear disingenuous or vain; neither a positive take away.”

If you want to rock your next headshot session, it’s worth doing a bit of planning and preparation to capture the image you want. So, here’s how to figure out what your headshot should convey, and some tips on how to get there.

Prepare to Show Your Professionalism

Take yourself seriously and put yourself together. Looking “professional” sounds easy — and we all know what it means. But here are a few things you should pay attention to before you show up for your photo shoot.

1. What will you wear? Don’t wait until the last minute. Try everything on at home. Look in a mirror and ask, “Does it fit? Do I really love the way it looks on me?” If not, try something else or go shopping.

Here are pointers for choosing an outfit that will help you look great on camera.

  • Is there a shirt or top you wear that seems to prompt compliments? Try it on!
  • Pick classic cuts and tailored shapes — what’s trendy now might not be next summer.
  • Tailored tops are slimming.
  • Pick colors that look good on you. Keep things darker than your skin tone. If you think it might wash you out, it probably will.
  • Suits in black, gray or navy always look classic and sophisticated.
  • Keep patterns to a minimum. They can be distracting, and when you view them online, tight patterns can appear to strobe and take on a moiré pattern on certain screens. This goes for jackets, suits, ties and shirts.
  • Iron your stuff. It can make or break a photo.
  • Beware of tank tops or camisoles with lace that read too much like lingerie.
  • Is your top see-through? Hold it up to a light and check. If so, wear an appropriate layer beneath it.
  • Do you have a pet? Use a lint roller on your clothes before you arrive at the shoot. (Sure, show me pictures of your animal friends, but let’s leave their fur at home.)

2. Don’t forget the rest of you. Hair, makeup, confidence and attitude can make a big difference. Pay attention to the details!

  • Skin. If you shave on the day of the shoot, use a fresh razor and hot water and go slow. Avoid razor burn. And if you wake up with a huge pimple, don’t mess with it! It’s much easier to Photoshop a blemish than to correct for swollen, red, irritated skin.
  • Stray hairs. Get up close with your mirror and check for stray eyebrows or unruly ear and nose hair. If you can see it, the camera can, too. If you need a facial or a wax go for it, but do it at least a week before the shoot so any irritation from the procedure has time to fade.
  • Feeling puffy? Try to drink mostly water 48 hours in advance of your shoot. As the day approaches, take it easy on the caffeine, alcohol and salty snacks.
  • Makeup. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, men and women alike will benefit from a little bit of makeup and powder in a photograph. You want your makeup to look like you’re not wearing any — fresh, light, natural, even, clean and crisp. We can afford a little drama on the eyes, but don’t go too far.
  • Teeth. Maybe spend a little time with a white strip. Brush and floss if you ate prior to the shoot, and check for lipstick.
  • Hairstyle. Don’t get a haircut the day before. You want to give it time to settle in.

Confidence in Front of the Camera

Feeling and looking confident isn’t easy when there’s a camera in your face. In Part Two, I cover how to avoid headshot anxiety and make a connection with the camera.

Illustration ©

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Clinton Brandhagen Clinton Brandhagen

Clinton Brandhagen is a professional headshot and production photographer based in New York City. ClintonBPhotography shoots headshots for lawyers, actors, executives and business professionals. Clinton’s photos have been published in Law360, New York Law Journal, The National Law Journal, American Theatre Magazine, The Washingtonian, The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post. Follow his PhotoFacts on Twitter @ClintonBPhoto.

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