A professional head shot should project confidence, not glamour, but these tips will help you put the right face forward.


By Susan Huston

Special to the Star-Telegram

Many people often cite public speaking as their greatest fear.  However, there is another fear even the vest public speakers can have.  I call it photophobia: the fear of having your picture taken professionally.

I am not talking about a snapshot for your Facebook page or even your online dating profile, but a head shot from mid-chest up used as a professional image to accompany your resume or other work-related material.

The No. 1 rule is: You want to look like yourself in your business head shot-not like Heidi, Gwyneth or Angelina on the cover of Vogue.

The photo needs to be a current image of yourself.  As painful as you may think that is, there are tricks to looking like a younger, thinner and more glamorous version of you-without an army of makeup artist and hairstylist.

While I am not a photographer, I was on the other side of the camera for many years as a model.  I know the fears people have, and as an aging model, the fear only increases.  Here are 10 tips to help you get that great professional head shot.


1. Sit up straight and lean forward a bit from your waist. That little lean stretches your neck and smooths out some of those double chins and creeping lines that start to follow us every place we go as we get older.  Also, lift your chin slightly so that you look more confident. (This also helps with the double chin.) Using this trick, those features you dislike can disappear.

2. Practice in front of a mirror. Don’t worry so much about your smile (it’s supposed to come naturally). Rather, practice twisting and turning your head to find the angle that shows off your  best facial features.  Remember the pose so that you can fall into it naturally when you get in front of the camera.  When you lift and tilt your face a bit, the harsh lighting the photographer often uses will make shadows disappear naturally.  You want to be confident when you step in front of the camera and practice makes perfect.

3. Pay attention to your body. Even if your photo is just a head shot, put your hand on your hip to keep your arms from pressing against your body. This trick give you slimmer looking arms in the photo.  Practice a few poses to find the best way to turn your body.

4. Smile. Sometimes it’s hard to smile naturally in front of a camera, so try an old acting trick to bring out your inner smile. Think of something funny or pleasant, or of someone who makes you happy.  You are trying to get a smile that brings a sparkle to your eye.  You can even close your eyes for a second before opening them slowly to help achieve that.  Just be sure you work with the photographer and let him or her know what you are doing.

5. Be confident. You want your photo to project confidence and this is always easier if you feel like you look your best.  You will feel your best by being comfortable in the clothing your wear in the photo. Know your own body type so that you choose a style that is you and that fits and flatters your image.

6. Keep your wardrobe simple. Stay away from loud prints and distracting colors.  Instead, wear a solid color that looks great with your skin tone.  Don’t wear black or white-both colors can look harsh in front of the camera. As an alternative, try navy. This is a slimming choice too. Check out the color you decide to use against a white wall. That’s the backdrop photographers often use, so doing this will show you if the color you have chosen is your best option.  As a general rule, avoid too many accessories. The focus should be on your face, not your jewelry or wild clothing.

7. Watch your diet-sort of. If you are worried about your weight, stay away from water-retaining foods with lots of sodium to avoid that dreaded bloat.  Cutting back on carbs for a few days can’t hurt, either.

8. Don’t overdo or under do makeup. Keep your makeup natural-looking.  However, this does not mean to skip it altogether.  Use foundation to cover blemishes, and use powder only in the t-zone.  If you have fine lines, the powder will automatically cling to and emphasize them. The photographer’s light will bring out the shine, so you will need to use some powder- but just in the right places.

Stay away from frosted eye shadows and blush if you are over 30. The lights on set will pick up the shine and enlarge those areas. Remember, light and shiny colors make things appear larger.  Dark colors recede and make things look smaller.  Look for matte shadows and blusher without flecks of shine.  Practice using matter shades, because blending them will take time and practice.

Lip gloss makes your lip shine, which reflect light and will make your lips look larger. Instead, go for natural lip color.  To find your best color, pull down your lip and look at the inside of it- that is the color you want to match. Use that matte color first, then, depending on whether your lips are large or small, use a slight touch of lip gloss.  Unless you are under 30, avoid a bright red lip. That darker color often appear harsher in a photo. Also avoid lip colors with brown tones; they will make your teeth look dull.

9. Speaking of teeth: Take the time to use whitening toothpaste or get your teeth professionally whitened before the shoot.  Your smile will be the main focus of your photo.

10. Listen to your photographer. Talk with the photographer before, during and after the shoot.  He or she is the expert and can see what you cannot see as the model.  If you are comfortable with the photographer before you step in front of the camera, you will almost always get a more natural photo.  Remember: The photographer wants you to look great too.

Susan Huston is a freelance writer and stylist and the owner of Susan Huston Fashion Concepts, www.susanhuston.com