top of page


Headshots 101: How to Avoid Common Headshot Mistakes

Dive into the realm of headshots with me, Austen Hunter, a seasoned professional headshot photographer who has captured the essence of thousands. In this insightful piece, I unveil the secrets behind powerful headshots, pinpoint common headshot blunders, and share invaluable tips. With my guidance, you'll be well on your way to showcasing your best self, whether it's on your LinkedIn profile, your company's website, or any platform where a polished image is paramount. So, are you ready to delve in and unlock the potential of an exceptional headshot?

Key Takeaways:

  • Professional headshots are critical in today's digital world for creating a positive first impression. They are a combination of art and science, capturing not just a good-looking image but also communicating professionalism and personal brand.

  • Common mistakes in headshots include inadequate lighting, over-editing, inappropriate attire, unflattering angles, lack of expression, and neglecting industry norms. These can impact the perception others have of you professionally.

  • Keys to a great headshot include choosing the right photographer, finding your best angle, being authentic, maintaining good posture, practicing facial expressions, and good preparation ahead of the photoshoot.

  • The process of taking or selecting headshots shouldn't be rushed. Investing adequate time and effort can lead to an impactful headshot that truly represents your professional identity.

Table of Contents

top most common professional headshot mistakes to avoid

What is a Professional Headshot and Why is it Important?

A headshot, typically a photographic portrayal of a person's face extending to their shoulders, plays a pivotal role across a multitude of professional platforms - from job applications and business websites to a LinkedIn profile or other social media platforms. It essentially acts as a visual handshake, often forming the initial impression one makes in diverse professional contexts.

Harvard University studies have demonstrated that it takes a mere 50 milliseconds to form a first impression. In the online world, a captivating headshot can be instrumental in shaping that instantaneous judgement. Your headshot is not simply about capturing a good-looking image; it’s about communicating your professionalism, confidence, and personal brand to potential employers, collaborators, and clients.

Despite its significance, the art of crafting a potent headshot is often underestimated, leading to missed opportunities. The creation of a headshot that embodies your professional persona, stands out from the crowd, and resonates with viewers is no easy task. It's a blend of art and science, involving technical photography skills, a keen understanding of aesthetics, and an intuitive grasp of human psychology.

Over the course of this article, we'll be addressing the common pitfalls you could encounter when commissioning, or taking a headshot. Understanding these common errors and how to avoid them can equip you to collaborate more effectively with your chosen photographer or to DIY a headshot that accurately captures and communicates your professional identity. After all, creating a powerful, impactful headshot is more than just a vanity project—a headshot is an investment in your personal success story.

top most common professional headshot mistakes to avoid

The Importance of Avoiding Common Headshot Mistakes

Despite its importance, many people make headshot mistakes when taking or choosing their headshots. These errors can include anything from poor lighting to inappropriate clothing choices or unflattering angles.

Unfortunately, these mistakes can significantly impact how others perceive us professionally. For instance, an over-edited image might make us appear dishonest or insecure while wearing casual clothing may cause us to appear unprofessional.

Likewise, bad lighting may detract from our appearance and overall message we want to convey with our professional images. When we take the time to avoid common headshot mistakes such as these—that often seem small but are quite significant—we maximize the power of our image while minimizing distractions that prevent others from seeing our true selves..

The headshot is a formidable tool in your professional arsenal, but getting it right is often more nuanced than people realize. There are common errors that can significantly alter its impact and effectiveness. Recognizing these missteps and understanding how to navigate them can make the difference between a headshot that stands out for the right reasons and one that misses the mark.

Table: Common Headshot Mistakes

Common Mistakes



Inadequate Lighting

Substandard lighting can make your headshot appear lifeless, flat, or overly harsh

Seek natural light or use basic lighting equipment


Excessive alterations can render your headshot unnatural and unprofessional

Keep editing subtle, seek professional assistance if needed

Inappropriate Attire

Wrong attire can convey an incorrect professional persona

Opt for simple yet stylish clothing that reflects your industry

Unflattering Angles

Wrong angles can adversely affect how your facial features are perceived

Explore various angles to find what works best

Common Headshot Mistakes to Avoid:

  1. Inadequate Lighting: Without appropriate lighting, even the most skillful camera work can fall short. Substandard lighting can make your headshot appear lifeless, flat, or overly harsh, casting unappealing shadows or highlights. For those who want to take their own headshot, aim for natural light sources, like an outdoor setting in the daytime or near a window where light is abundant. If natural light isn't an option, consider basic lighting equipment like softbox lights or reflectors to evenly distribute light across your face and minimize harsh shadows.

  2. Over-Editing: With an abundance of filters and photo editing apps at our fingertips, it's easy to succumb to the temptation of over-editing. Excessive alterations can render your headshot unnatural and unprofessional. Keep things subtle when touching up your headshot, focusing on enhancing rather than transforming your image. Seek professional assistance for editing if needed.

  3. Inappropriate Attire: What you wear in your headshot conveys a strong message about your professional persona. For corporate headshots, opt for simple yet stylish clothing that reflects your industry and role. Avoid overly bold or casual choices, sticking with timeless colors like black, gray, or navy. Creative fields can allow for more adventurous attire, but always ensure your headshot outfit complements rather than competes with your overall image.

  4. Unflattering Angles: Different angles can significantly affect how your facial features are perceived. Some angles can draw attention to your best features or minimize aspects you're less confident about. Explore various angles to find what works best for you. For instance, an upward angle can elongate a round face, while shooting from slightly above can draw attention to prominent cheekbones.

  5. Lack of Expression: A headshot lacking in expression can appear bland and unengaging. The right expression, aligned with the message you want to convey, is key to a compelling headshot. Experiment with subtle changes in your expression to find what best communicates your professional brand.

  6. Not Updating Regularly: It's essential to keep your headshot current. If your image looks noticeably different from your present appearance, it may confuse or mislead those who interact with you professionally. Experts recommend updating your headshot every two years or anytime you undergo a significant change in your appearance.

  7. Neglecting the Background: An overly busy or distracting headshot background can detract from the main subject— you. The focus should be on your face and expression, so select a neutral or non-distracting background that doesn't overshadow you.

  8. Forgetting the Industry Norms: Every industry has its own norms and expectations when it comes to headshots. A creative, colorful headshot might be appreciated in the art or advertising industry, but not so much in law or finance. Research and understand the norms for your specific industry before getting your headshot taken.

  9. Ignoring the Eyes: Eyes are often the first thing people notice in a headshot. Red-eye, a lack of focus, or appearing disengaged can make your headshot less effective. Ensure your eyes are bright, engaging, and accurately captured in your photo.

  10. Failing to Prepare: Not planning your headshot session can lead to less than desirable results. This includes not thinking through your wardrobe, grooming, makeup, and the image's overall aesthetic. Preparation helps ensure your headshot will align with your professional goals.

Remember, your headshot is a visual representation of your professional identity. Avoiding these common errors can help you maximize the potential of your image and leave a lasting, positive impression.

top most common professional headshot mistakes to avoid

Tips for a Great Professional Headshot

Equally as important as knowing what to avoid is understanding how to excel in your headshot. To transition from common pitfalls to creating a standout headshot, consider the following expert-recommended tips:

  • Choose the Right Photographer: Choosing the right Pensacola photographer can make a world of difference. Look at their portfolio to ensure their style resonates with your vision. A good photographer will guide you and capture you in the best light, literally and figuratively.

  • Find Your Best Angle: Spend some time in front of a mirror to practice your headshot poses and to identify which angle showcases your face the best. Sharing this information with your photographer will help them capture you from your most flattering perspective.

  • Relax and Be Authentic: It's not uncommon to feel a little uncomfortable in front of the camera. But remember, the best headshots capture your personality. So, relax, be yourself and let your authenticity shine through.

  • Maintain Good Posture: Standing or sitting straight, with shoulders back and head held high, conveys confidence and alertness. Good posture is key for a powerful and professional headshot.

  • Practice Facial Expressions: Your facial expression sets the tone of your headshot. Experiment with different expressions to find one that feels natural and embodies the professional image you aim to convey.

  • Prepare in Advance: Good preparation is the secret sauce for a successful headshot session. Plan your outfits, personal grooming, and rest well the night before. The more prepared you are, the less stressed you'll be, resulting in a more successful shoot.

Follow these expert tips, and you'll be well on your way to a professional, impactful headshot that truly represents you.

Take the Time to Get your Headshot Right

Having spotlighted common headshot pitfalls, it's essential to address how to avoid them. The primary takeaway is straightforward: invest adequate time to get it right. Don't rush the process of taking or selecting your headshots.

If you're taking your own photos, invest in quality equipment and lighting if feasible. Experiment with a variety of shots at different angles, with varying expressions and outfit options.

"Your headshot is the visual resume that speaks before you do; keeping it mistake-free is crucial." - Austen Hunter

When choosing a professional photographer, take time to research and select someone who has expertise in crafting the type of headshots you need. As you select which photos to use as a final product, consider the opinions of others, but ultimately trust your instincts about which image most authentically represents you. After all, your headshot is an investment in your professional image - it deserves the time and attention needed to get it right.

Frequently Asked Questions about Headshot Mistakes

Q: Why is a professional headshot important?

A: A professional headshot acts as a visual handshake and is crucial for creating positive first impressions in the digital world.

Q: What are some common mistakes in headshots?

Q: How can I avoid common headshot mistakes?

Q: What attire is suitable for a professional headshot?

Final Thoughts

Your headshot, whether for professional or creative pursuits, is a visual portrayal of your persona. Sidestepping common mistakes like substandard lighting or unsuitable attire, showing authentic emotion in your images, keeping edits subtle and realistic, and considering flattering angles - anyone can achieve a standout photo that leaves a lasting impression on viewers.

As the adage goes, Rome wasn't built in a day - and neither are stellar headshots! It may require time and effort, but the investment in creating high-quality headshots is a worthwhile endeavor.

Consider seeking the expertise of a professional for your headshot journey. At Austen Hunter Photography, we have the experience and artistic eye to help you create an impactful headshot that truly represents you. If you're ready to take your image to the next level, we invite you to book a session with us. Like any significant project, your personal branding deserves dedication and professional craftsmanship to truly shine.

Remember, every journey starts with a single step – or in this case, a single shot. Let's create yours together.



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