top of page


The ERAS Headshot Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Your headshot plays an important role in making a strong first impression for your Medical Residency application. With expert headshot photographer Austen Hunter, who has captured thousands of professionals and creatives, this comprehensive guide will unveil the secrets to achieving a captivating and memorable headshot for your ERAS application.

Short Summary:

  • Your ERAS photo plays a critical role in shaping the first impression for your medical residency application. A professional, well-composed headshot communicates your professionalism and dedication.

  • Despite being technically optional, a high-quality ERAS headshot is strongly recommended. It contributes significantly to creating a complete, competitive application.

  • While taking your own ERAS photo is possible, a professionally captured headshot generally offers superior quality and a more professional image, giving you a potential edge in the highly competitive application process.

  • Appropriate attire, a simple and neutral background, and a friendly, approachable expression are key elements for a successful ERAS photo. Enlisting the expertise of a professional headshot photographer can help ensure these factors are optimally addressed.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is an ERAS Photo?

  2. How Important is an ERAS Photo?

  3. Can I take my own ERAS Photo?

  4. ERAS Photo Requirements

  5. What Background should I use for ERAS Photos?

  6. When Should I schedule my ERAS Photo?

  7. What should I wear for ERAS Photos?

  8. Can I smile for an ERAS Headshot?

  9. ERAS Headshot Tips

  10. ERAS Photo Examples

what to wear for ERAS headshots two people in business formal outfits

What is an ERAS Photo

An ERAS photo, integral to the Electronic Residency Application System, is a professional headshot included in medical students' residency applications. Commonly known as a medical residency headshot, this photo serves as an important visual introduction to faculty members evaluating applications. When an applicant gets accepted into a residency program, this headshot often appears on the program's website and hospital rosters.

The Role of the ERAS Photo

The ERAS photo plays a pivotal role in shaping the first impression about the applicant. Being a visual element in an otherwise text-heavy application, it holds a unique sway in narrating your professionalism and dedication to your chosen medical field.

A compelling, well-composed headshot can speak volumes about you as a person and a potential resident. It demonstrates not just your appearance, but also subtly communicates attributes like attention to detail, high standards, and commitment.

ERAS photo headshot tips Professional guide

How important is an ERAS Photo?

Though it's technically optional, an ERAS headshot is essential in creating a complete and competitive application. The significance of this photo is backed by research in social psychology:

  1. Fast Judgement: According to a study from Princeton University psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, it takes a mere tenth of a second for someone to form an impression of you from your photo. This decision is primarily based on trustworthiness, and a well-taken, professional headshot can significantly aid in establishing that trust.

  2. Long-lasting Impressions: Further research by the same psychologists showed that additional exposure doesn't significantly alter those first impressions. In other words, your ERAS headshot's first impression can stick with program directors throughout the application process.

  3. Facial Perception and Cognitive Biases: A 2017 research study published in the journal "Nature" found that people could form impressions about an individual's competence, likability, attractiveness, and trustworthiness based on their facial appearance. A professional headshot photographer understands these perceptions and knows how to use lighting, angles, and expressions to bring out your best, most trustworthy self.

A well-executed ERAS headshot captures your professionalism, attention to detail, and dedication to your chosen medical field. It demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a high standard, even in seemingly minor details - a characteristic highly valued in the medical field. Moreover, a professional ERAS headshot sets you apart from other applicants who opt for less professional photographs or skip including a photo altogether.

Considering the competitive nature of medical residency placements, the importance of a professionally taken ERAS headshot cannot be overstated. It's an investment in your future and an opportunity to influence the narrative of your application, emphasizing your commitment, professionalism, and suitability for a medical career.

can you take your own eras headshots woman taking selfie

Can I take my own ERAS Photo?

The expertise of a professional headshot photographer is highly recommended for an ERAS photo. Taking this photo on your own can present a set of challenges that might impact the overall quality and effectiveness of the image. However, if circumstances necessitate a do-it-yourself approach, there are some guidelines to bear in mind:

  • Lighting: Position yourself near a window with plenty of natural light for a clear, well-lit shot. Avoid harsh sunlight that could create strong shadows.

  • Background: Choose a plain, neutral-colored wall for the background. Avoid distracting elements that could take away the focus from you. An editing app can assist in further refining the background.

  • Attire: Opt for professional clothing that aligns with the medical field's standard. Subtle colors and patterns are generally favored.

  • Pose and Expression: Aim for a relaxed pose and a pleasant, professional expression. A forced smile or stiff posture can give the photo an unnatural look.

While you can take your own ERAS photo, a professionally captured headshot often offers a marked improvement in quality. It projects a stronger professional image and can potentially give you an edge in the competitive medical residency application process. It's not merely about capturing your face; it's about presenting a poised, confident, and approachable future medical professional - a task best left to a professional headshot photographer.

ERAS Photo Requirements

There's a very specific file size requirement for your ERAS photo. This is what the application requires:

  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 3.5 inches

  • Resolution: 150 dpi

  • File size: No larger than 100 KB

  • Color photo

Your ERAS photo must include a frontal shot of your head and shoulders, with your head in the center of the image.

What Background should I use for ERAS Photos?

When selecting a background for your ERAS photo, simplicity is key. The focus of the image should be on you, not on the backdrop. A solid color background is highly recommended. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Color Choice: Typically, white or light grey are the go-to colors for an ERAS photo background. They offer a clean and professional look that doesn't detract from the subject. Dark grey can also be an option if you prefer a more conservative, distinguished appearance.

  2. Avoid Outdoor Shots: It's not recommended to take your ERAS headshot outdoors. Outdoor settings can introduce unpredictable lighting and distracting elements, making it harder to achieve a polished and professional look. Furthermore, these types of backgrounds can be seen as too casual for an application process as rigorous as ERAS.

  3. Be Mindful of Standards: Certain professions or industries may have guidelines or norms about headshot backgrounds. Always check if such guidelines apply to your field. For medical residency applications, it's generally safe to stick with neutral tones like white or grey.

When should I schedule my ERAS Photo?

Residency applications deadlines are usually due around the middle of September, so it's best to start planning for your ERAS headshot around August. If you're getting your ERAS photo professionally taken (which is recommended), you'll want to ensure your photographer can get you in the studio and have the photos delivered well before the mid-September deadline.

what to wear for ERAS headshots two people in business formal outfits

What should I wear for for ERAS Photos?

You'll want to appear professional and polished for your ERAS headshots. Here's some general guidelines to follow:

  • Business formal is the most appropriate style for an ERAS photo, so make sure you bring a suit jacket. Charcoal, navy blue, or other dark conservative solid (No patterns!) colors are recommended.

  • For men, be sure to include a tie. Your tie can be patterned, but don't let it distract from the most important part of the photo: your face.

  • For women, avoid wearing any low-cut tops. It's also a good idea to use only natural makeup for your headshot and wear little-to-no jewelry.

  • Glasses are statistically likely to help you get accepted. According to this study, wearing glasses in your ERAS photo will actually increase your chances of getting your application accepted.

  • DON'T wear a white coat. Whatever you do, don't wear a white coat in your medical residency photo. It's just one of those faux-pas that you'll want to avoid.

For more information and outfit inspiration, check out our guide on What to Wear for Headshots.

Can I smile for an ERAS Headshot?

Yes, you should smile in your headshot! In fact, it's preferred if you do. A smile is the key to a great headshot and makes us look friendly and approachable. Since your ERAS photo is the only way to make a first impression with your evaluator, If you're self-conscious about your teeth, a closed mouth smile is okay too.

ERAS Headshot Tips

Here are some key tips to keep in mind when preparing for your ERAS photo:

  1. Outfit Selection: Choose your outfit ahead of time to ensure it fits you properly. Go for a professional and conservative look that aligns with the medical field's expectations. Solid, muted colors are usually a safe bet, while patterns and flashy accessories should be avoided.

  2. Rest and Hydration: Sleep is your best friend the night before your headshot session. A good night's rest can help eliminate dark circles and give you a fresh, alert appearance. Keep hydration in mind too - try to avoid alcohol as it can cause puffiness and a lackluster complexion.

  3. Mindful Eating: Eat a light, healthy meal before the session. Hunger can affect your mood and energy levels, which can translate into your photo.

  4. Posture: During the session, pay attention to your posture. Straighten your shoulders and maintain an upright yet relaxed posture. This headshot posing tip can make a significant difference in how confident and professional you appear.

  5. Relaxation: Remember, headshots shouldn't be a source of stress. Try to remain calm and relaxed during the session. A forced smile is easy to spot, so let your genuine personality shine through.

  6. Preparation: Take the time to prepare for your headshot session. From outfit selection to a good night's sleep, every detail counts. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to end up with a headshot you'll be proud to submit with your ERAS application.

ERAS Photo Examples

Need some inspiration for your ERAS headshot? Check out some of our favorites:

For an ERAS photo that truly impresses, consider partnering with Austen Hunter, a highly skilled headshot photographer. A professionally captured ERAS Headshot is well worth the investment to convey your commitment and professionalism. Enhance your medical residency application with a headshot that stands out. Don't delay, secure your competitive edge and book your session with Austen Hunter today.

Pensacola Headshot Photographer everything you need to know about ERAS headshots

Austen Hunter Photography is a Headshot Photographer operating out of Pensacola, Florida. With his team, he delivers high-quality headshot images to working professionals, creative entrepreneurs, and corporate clients from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Destin, Florida. Austen Hunter is an internationally published photographer and is known for creating headshots that leave a Great First Impression. Book your headshots with Austen Hunter today.


Austen Hunter Photography is a photographer based in Pensacola, Florida who specializes in family beach photography, military portrait photography and professional headshot in a bold and clean style. Austen Hunter has been locally recognized and internationally published . He uses a variety of both natural light and off-camera flash to capture images. People usually book Austen for outdoor portrait sessions or sessions conducted at his home studio.

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Etsy


Chelsea, Headshot Client

"Wonderful experience! Wanted an updated headshot and Austen and Sarah were amazing. The studio was clean and incredibly nice, Sarah even provided blotting pads to help with shininess I had during photo shoot. 10/10 recommend to anyone wanting to get a photo taken! Thank you again!"


Tammy, Headshot Client

"We are so glad that we found Austen. He did a wonderful job providing us with quality headshot photographs. He made us feel comfortable and gave us good suggestions for posing. We look forward to working with him again in the future!"


Daryl, Beach Client

"Austen and his team were amazing! They were able to capture exactly what we wanted for our engagement pictures and also provided us a tent to change clothes. I would highly recommend him and I would definitely use him again."

Ready. Set. Book!




Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page