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Ready, Set, Pose: Your Ultimate Guide to Preparing for a Headshot Session

A professional headshot is practically a requirement for businesses and brands operating in the digital landscape. Expert photographer Austen Hunter, with nearly a decade of experience, shares essential aspects of preparing for a headshot session – research, wardrobe, grooming, and body language, and more. This article offers valuable insights to help you create a lasting impression that showcases your professionalism. Discover the secrets to a remarkable headshot and elevate your online presence below:

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Table of Contents:

The Importance of a Professional Headshot

A professional headshot is a rewarding investment in your career, as studies show that it takes just 1/10th of a second for someone to form an impression of you based on your photo. This first impression can significantly influence whether someone decides to work with you or not. A well-crafted headshot can communicate confidence, approachability, and professionalism.

Professional headshots serve a variety of purposes, including on social media profiles such as LinkedIn, where profiles with a photo receive 21 times more profile views and 9 times more connection requests. They are also used on business cards, websites, resumes, conference speaker bios, and more. The right image can help create trust between yourself and potential clients, as LinkedIn profiles with a professional headshot have a 14 times higher likelihood of being viewed. Additionally, a polished headshot projects the right image when applying for jobs or speaking at conferences.

Researching and Planning your Headshot Session

Finding the right photographer for your professional headshot is important to ensuring that you get a high-quality photo that truly captures your personality and brand. Begin by searching online for photographers in your area who specialize in headshots or have experience working with professionals in your industry. Ensure the price of the headshot service is within the market range of other comparable photographers. Look at their websites, social media profiles, and portfolios to get an idea of their style, level of skill, and experience. Make a list of potential photographers to consider based on their work, client reviews, and credentials.

Reach out to them via email or phone to inquire about availability, pricing, and any other questions you may have. It's essential to work with someone who you feel comfortable communicating with throughout the process.

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Choosing a Headshot Photographer that aligns with your brand or style

Once you've narrowed down your list of potential photographers based on availability and pricing, it's time to choose one that aligns with your personal brand or style. Keep the following in mind:

  • Examine portfolios: Look at each photographer's portfolio and ask yourself if their photography style matches what you're looking for.

  • Consider lighting techniques: Are they using natural light or studio lighting?

  • Evaluate backgrounds: Do they have a headshot background that matches your branding colors?

  • Assess poses: Are the subjects' poses formal or casual?

By selecting a photographer whose approach resonates with yours, you'll create an image that illustrates your personal brand or style.

Scheduling the Session at a Convenient Time

After choosing a photographer, schedule an appointment for a date and time when you'll be able to arrive fresh-faced and ready to go.

  • Consider early morning appointments: Schedule before work, if possible, so that you're still fresh from sleep before any daily tasks wear you out.

  • Coordinate with your photographer: If you're working with a tight schedule, ensure that the session will not be rushed or stressful. It's important to have ample time for wardrobe changes and makeup touch-ups if needed.

  • Plan ahead: Ensure that you can arrive at the location of the shoot early before it starts. Pack all your equipment a day early or set up reminders on your phone in good time.

Selecting a headshot photographer that aligns with your personal style and planning your session meticulously are the key steps to obtaining a successful headshot. With the right photographer and a well-timed session, you're well on your way to creating a powerful and lasting professional image.

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Wardrobe Selection for Professional Headshots

An important part of your headshot session is selecting the right wardrobe. Here's a quick guide to help you choose clothing that will make your headshot shine:

  • Comfort and Confidence: Choose clothes that make you feel comfortable and self-assured. Whether it's formal attire or a casual outfit, make sure it fits well and allows for ease of movement.

  • Color Considerations: Pick colors that compliment your complexion and eye color. While solid colors are a safe bet, if you opt for patterns or prints, ensure they aren't overly busy or distracting.

  • Avoid Distractions: Keep the focus on you. Steer clear of clothing with busy patterns or prominent logos that could take attention away from your face or make your image appear dated over time.

  • Bring Options: Pack a variety of outfits for your session. A mix of formal and casual styles offers flexibility, catering to different professional contexts. Don't forget accessories like jewelry or ties that can add personality to your look.

  • Preparation: Iron or steam your clothes before the session for a polished, wrinkle-free appearance.

Beyond these guidelines, it's worth noting a couple of additional tips from seasoned headshot photographers like Austen Hunter. For one, consider the neckline of your clothing. V-necks can often elongate the neck and give a flattering silhouette. Another tip is to think about your industry standards. If you're in a creative field, you might have more flexibility with colors and styles compared to more corporate fields. Lastly, don't underestimate the power of tailoring. Well-fitted clothing can enhance your appearance and make your headshot look even more professional. Check out our post on what to wear for headshots for more information.

In essence, your wardrobe should not only represent your professional persona but also make you feel confident and comfortable, contributing to a successful headshot session.

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Grooming and Appearance Tips for Headshots

Preparing Your Hair for the Perfect Headshot

Your hairstyle plays a pivotal role in the outcome of your headshot. To ensure your hair looks its best, here are some detailed guidelines to follow:

  • Schedule a haircut or trim: Make sure to get your haircut or trim at least a week before the session. This gives your hair time to settle and look natural, avoiding the overly-styled look that a fresh cut can sometimes create.

  • Have a chat with your hairstylist: Good communication is crucial when getting your hair ready for a headshot. Share your expectations with your hairstylist and discuss any specific requests you might have, such as adding volume or layers. They may also provide valuable advice tailored to your hair type and face shape.

  • Facial hair grooming for men: For men, it's important to pay attention to facial hair. Trim your beard or mustache to ensure it's neat and well-groomed before the shoot.

  • Hair coloring advice for women: If you plan on coloring your hair, do it at least two weeks before the shoot. This ensures the color has time to settle and look more natural. Remember, natural-looking hair color generally photographs best for headshots.

Maintaining a Natural and Minimalistic Makeup Look

In professional headshots, the focus should be on you, not your makeup. Here are a few headshot makeup tips to ensure a natural yet polished look:

  • Choose natural colors: Select makeup shades that complement your skin tone. This will enhance your facial features while maintaining a natural appearance.

  • Ensure a seamless foundation: Pay extra attention to blending your foundation onto your neck area. This prevents a visible line between your face and neck in the photos.

  • Control shine: Use a setting powder to reduce shine on areas where light tends to hit heavily, such as the forehead and nose. However, don't overdo it as excessive powder can give an artificial look in photos.

Ensuring a Clear Complexion through Skincare

Preparation for perfectly smooth skin begins well before the day of the shoot. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Start a healthy diet and hydration routine several days before the shoot. Consuming foods rich in Vitamin C, such as oranges, and drinking plenty of water promotes healthy, glowing skin.

  • Exfoliate your skin: It's important to exfoliate your skin a day or two before the session. This removes dead skin cells, leaving your skin looking brighter and more refreshed.

  • Avoid new products: Don't try any new creams or treatments on the day of the shoot, as you don't want to risk having an allergic reaction that may affect your final images.

By adhering to these guidelines, you will not only ensure an excellent photoshoot experience but also develop habits that will benefit your skin in the long run! For more specific information, check out our post on headshot tips for men and headshot tips for women, respectively.

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Posing Tips for Professional Headshots:

As you approach the day of your photo shoot, there are several important steps you can take to ensure you're presenting yourself in the best possible light. Practicing different poses in front of a mirror beforehand is one such step. It allows you to discover your most flattering angles and expressions, from head tilts and chin positions to body angles and facial expressions. Play around with a range of expressions, such as smiling, laughing, or maintaining a serious look, and see which suits you best. Just remember, the goal of a professional headshot is to come across as confident, approachable, and professional, so avoid any poses that feel too exaggerated or awkward.

Another key element to consider is your posture and body language, as they play a significant role in conveying confidence. Good posture is crucial—stand straight, pull your shoulders back and down, push your chest out slightly, and keep your chin up. This posture exudes confidence and assertiveness, which are qualities often sought after in the professional world. You can further enhance your stance by shifting your weight onto one leg and keeping your arms relaxed at your sides.

When it comes to body language, avoid crossing your arms, which can come across as defensive or closed-minded. Instead, aim for a more open and relaxed stance, with your arms loosely held at your sides or in front of you.

Finally, it's important to remember to breathe deeply before each shot. This simple act can help calm any nerves or anxiety, ensuring you appear relaxed and natural on camera. By practicing these headshot posing tips in advance, you'll feel more comfortable and confident on the day of your shoot, leading to more flattering and professional-looking photos!

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Headshot Props and Accessories

Incorporating Props and Accessories to Enhance Your Profession or Brand

Integrating props or accessories in your headshot can provide a glimpse into your profession or brand. A stethoscope could represent a doctor, a briefcase could imply a business professional, and so forth. These additions make your headshot more engaging and memorable, offering a clear idea of your profession to potential clients or employers. When deciding on which props or accessories to use, focus on what message you want to deliver. If you're an artist, consider tools like paintbrushes or musical instruments. For those in the tech industry, gadgets like smartphones or laptops might be appropriate. The aim is to select items that accurately and authentically represent your profession.

Coordinating Props and Accessories with Your Wardrobe

Ensure that any props or accessories chosen for your headshot harmonize with your attire rather than compete against it. Consider color: if you're dressed in muted tones, a vibrant accessory like a scarf or tie could add a pop of color. Conversely, if your outfit is bold and colorful, opt for more subdued props. Also, be mindful of scale when selecting accessories and props. Oversized items may look awkward, so it's best to go with smaller items that won't detract from your overall appearance. However, moderation is crucial: a professional headshot benefits from simplicity and elegance.

Do's and Don'ts of Using Props in Headshots


  • Choose props that align with your profession or brand.

  • Opt for accessories that complement your outfit's color scheme.

  • Consider smaller items that won't dominate the photo.


  • Select props that clash with your outfit or overall image.

  • Use oversized items that could overshadow your face.

  • Overdo it with too many accessories or props, which can distract from the simplicity and elegance of a professional headshot.

In essence, props and accessories can add authenticity to your headshot, but remember simplicity is key.

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Communicating with your Headshot Photographer

Pre-Session Consultation: Effective communication begins well before the photo shoot. Schedule a consultation with your photographer to discuss your expectations and specific requests. This should include the vision you have for the final product, whether you want a more formal or casual headshot, the preferred location, time, and even your wardrobe choices.

During this consultation, be sure to discuss any concerns or insecurities you have about the process. Perhaps you're worried about how to pose or about looking natural in front of the camera. A professional photographer will understand and offer strategies to alleviate these concerns. The goal of this discussion is to create a mutual understanding of the shoot's direction, ensuring the photographer can effectively prepare to meet your expectations.

Active Collaboration During the Session: On the day of the shoot, remember that the photographer is there to guide you but also to collaborate with you. They will provide direction on poses, expressions, and how to make the most of the lighting. However, this shouldn't discourage you from expressing your preferences or uncertainties.

If a particular pose feels uncomfortable or unnatural, communicate this to your photographer. Likewise, if you have ideas or want to try a specific pose or expression, feel free to voice these suggestions. Trust in the photographer's expertise, but remember that your comfort and authenticity are crucial to creating a headshot that truly represents you.

Post-Session Review: After the session, maintain open communication with your photographer. They will likely provide you with a selection of images to review. Express your likes and dislikes about these preliminary selections, and don't hesitate to ask for adjustments or edits as needed.

With a commitment to effective, open communication throughout the process, you'll not only have a more enjoyable headshot session but also end up with high-quality photos that accurately depict your professional image. Remember, this is a collaborative process, and your involvement is key to achieving a result that meets your expectations.

Final Thoughts

The power of a well-executed professional headshot in establishing your personal brand is undeniable. It's the first impression that potential employers or clients get of you and serves as a visual testament of who you are, both personally and professionally. A headshot isn't just about aesthetics; it's about conveying your unique story and professional ethos.

Investing time and effort into every stage of the headshot process – from selecting the right photographer and wardrobe to practicing poses, effective communication, and meticulous post-shoot reviews – will ensure an end result that is authentically you. This is an opportunity to create a lasting impression and unlock professional opportunities, so put your best foot forward with a headshot that resonates. Ready to create an image that propels your professional journey forward? Book your headshot session with Austen Hunter and let us capture you at your best.

how to prepare for a professional headshot session

Austen Hunter Photography is a Pensacola, Florida photographer who specializes in family portraits, military portrait photography, and headshot photography from Destin and 30A Florida, to Pensacola and Orange Beach, Alabama. Austen Hunter has been locally recognized, internationally published, and is known for his bold and clean photographic style. He uses a variety of both natural light and off-camera flash to capture images. Make a great first impression: Book with Austen 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.

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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."

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