Headshots Photographer in Toronto - David Chang Photography

Tips for Successful Professional Headshots

I am a Professional Headshot Photographer in Toronto, with a studio in the downtown Distillery District.  My experience, having shot thousands of Headshots for Corporate or Business websites and professional LinkedIn profiles suggests these are the key considerations for success:

  • Grooming/Makeup
  • Wardrobe
  • Posing
  • Expressions
  • Backgrounds
  • Proofs and Selecting
  • Editing and Retouching

Your final Professional Headshot photo will be a collaborative effort with the photographer.  These are general guidelines for a LinkedIn or Corporate style headshot that you may find helpful. For all sessions, communication is key.  Your goals and expectations should be known prior to the session. I strongly suggest a photographer who will show you your photos during the shoot. Seeing the photos on a computer monitor during the shoot is ideal.  This will allow you to make changes in the event the shoot is not working for you.  


If are comfortable doing your own makeup, you can save time and money doing it yourself.  Just be sure your photographer is skilled in retouching to assist with any issues. However, a good makeup artist can give you a Look that you cannot achieve yourself, and the experience will likely provide you with tips to do your everyday makeup.  Although more expensive, an in-studio makeup session allows you to relax in preparation for the shoot.  You avoid the hassle of making multiple appointments and having to rush if the salon, or you are running late.  Also, if there are any issues, changes can be made without stress. I find that Sephora and department store makeup applications tend to be heavier as they try to emphasize products.  It is harder to remove and tone down the application as opposed to adding to it.  If the photographer books the makeup artist for your headshot session, don’t be afraid to express any concerns during and after the application.

In preparation for the shoot, a week or days before, I suggest a significant effort to moisturize your skin and lips (emphasis on the lips).  If you are doing your own, bring a selection of your makeup for any adjustments, especially a couple of extra lipstick colours, with at least one in the light to neutral range.


Generally, men do not require makeup unless you have specific skin issues. Retouching with Photoshop can remove all blemishes, shaving cuts, and uneven skin tone.  But, do moisturize your skin heavily on a daily basis a week before the shoot, particularly your lips.  If warranted bring hair product and a brush or comb.


Hair can have a substantial impact on your headshot.  If you are not having it done in the studio you can arrange for a blowout the day of or a day before.  Bring a brush and hair product to the shoot with you.  Heat applied to your hair, from blow drying or iron will give it shine and minimize frizz.  Be sure your photographer can remove the frizz along the edges of the hair in post production retouching.  You can get away with some roots showing with photoshop editing, but encourage you to get colouring before the shoot.


Your clothes matter! The more your Brand relies on your image the more effort you should put into your wardrobe for the shoot.   Generally, darker and medium shades shoot better than light, but a light shirt under a dark blazer will always work.  Small patterns are fine, bigger patterns can be a distraction.  There are no rules, something that is not generally recommended may be entirely suited to your Brand.  Best practice here is to bring more so that you have options.  If the headshot is for the company website then simply follow the company guidelines and/or Brand.  Consider getting shots with your tie and off for men, then you have options.  In fact, if you can shoot more looks, you will always have different options for Branding. Branding is who you are, who you want to be and how you want to be perceived.   Your clothes will always define how you will be perceived.

Women have many more options.  Clothes with clean lines are ideal, but I always suggest you bring options.  I shoot my headshots at about chest level so bottoms usually do not matter.  Don’t be afraid to take chances.  Your photographer can take test shots for review.


Your photographer should guide you with posing. Even though you are just shooing a headshot, your posture matters. I prefer to shoot my clients standing.  This provides for better posture and clothing is less of an issue.  You will want to spread your feet apart for stability, shoulders back, chin down and out, which may feel awkward, but this is where the photographer will adjust your pose and up your comfort level.  


The best advice here is to make sure you are comfortable and up your energy level. Smiles are usually a must, but everyone has a different level of smile that suits them.  I tend to explore a full smile with teeth to a subtle smile just visible in the eyes. Get photos with a range of expressions.  Subtle changes in your smile, or no smile, will make a significant difference. Be sure your expression is on Brand.


A neutral background – white, grey to black – is used by most studio photographers.  This type of background is ideal as it allows for isolating your image from the background and compositing a new background of choice.  The right background that is on Brand and compliments you will give your headshots a modern look.  Be sure your photographer has a range of backgrounds for you to choose from if you are compositing. 


There is no cost to taking more photos and therefore, no reason to count shots during the session.  With proper coaching, each shot should be slightly different in pose and expression.  You should be able to quickly cull a small group of preferred photos from your full set.  Get opinions from family, colleagues and friends. Select the shot that represents your Brand.


This is where the magic happens.  Expert retouching of your headshot can make you look younger, thinner and more attractive. The skill is being able to enhance but leave you looking authentic. Retouching is where you incorporate photography into the design of your Brand. Look for a photographer with expertise and competence here so you do not end up with a snapshot.


If you need more clarity on what a Headshot is compared to a portrait, here is a short blog on What is a Headshot? Your Headshot matters and should be part of your Branding strategy.  With some effort you can to get a great Headshot you can incorporate it into your digital marketing and elevate the Brand to be highly memorable.

Additional Resource: If you’d like to know more about headshot photography & headshots vs portraits in detail, do check out Pixpa guide on headshot photography.

David Chang

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