Get the right look and pose for your professional portrait. 

Your headshot is your chance to leave a positive first impression on potential clients, patients, colleagues and employers — and is also important for visually conveying your personal brand.

Recent user research indicates that patients and clients are drawn to wellness experts in online directories that look professional, approachable and like they have a "good personality" in their professional photo.

How to look in your portrait professional

Your headshot may be used on a website or in print, so it is worth your time having a photo shoot that will yield 1-3 professional portraits that you can use in different scenarios and channels, including LinkedIn, a professional directory or in advertisements for your speaking engagements. Make sure to choose the right equipment for taking your headshot to get crisp and high-resolution photos that can be used in both digital and print publications. For the latter, high-resolution photos are required (often higher than 2MB), while a lower-resolution photo can be satisfactory for digital publications. 

What to wear for a professional headshot

Choose a top with clean lines and simple or solid patterns, such as white, black, gray or navy blue. While a bold shirt with bright colors or tight patterns such as plaid may look appealing in person, the pattern could be distorted in the final photo and take attention away from your face. Also avoid any shiny or glistening materials, such as silk, that may reflect the flash of your camera. Jewelry should also compliment, but not dominate your photo. Choose earrings that do not dangle more than two inches away from your ears, and necklaces that would not reflect that camera’s flash.

Headshots generally capture your face, shoulders, and even torso, so make sure that your shirt is pressed, all buttons are buttoned, and your shirt is form-fitting enough to not have excessive creases, folds or wrinkles. For both men and women, professional photographers recommend bringing a solid-colored jacket or cardigan to wear in the photo, as the contrast of colors and V-shape will bring attention and framing to your face.

Makeup and grooming for your headshot

The amount of make up you wear and the “look” you are going for in your portrait will depend on what industry you work in. For most service professionals, especially those working in the medical, health and wellness spheres, a minimal and clean look is the general trend.

For makeup: choose natural shades for your eye makeup and avoiding sparkles or glitter would be advisable. Keep in mind that not all of your makeup will be visible in the photo, so to give yourself an extra healthy and relaxed look, consider applying bronzer, powder and blush. Don’t be shy about applying slightly more foundation than you usually would for an even complexion.

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Oily skin can reflect light and be hard to adjust in post-production. The easiest way to control oily skin is with a blotter sheet, simply with a cloth or paper towel, or with a powder that’s made specifically for controlling shine. 

For hair: Keep your hair out of your face. You may want to use a hair product to tame any hair frizz and fly-aways, as frizzy hair may also be hard to edit-away during post-production of the photos.

Posing for a professional portrait

Your outfit, hair and makeup is ready for the shoot — now, you need to prepare a few poses, relax and smile! The trick to capturing an excellent photo is connecting with your photographer, feeling natural and relaxed. If you’re feeling nervous at the beginning of your shoot, feel free to make conversation with your photographer and even walk around your chosen shoot location (see more tips on how to relax during the shoot at the bottom of this article).

If you choose to take the photo yourself, avoid taking selfies and holding out the camera with your hand. Note that on both smartphones and most cameras, you can set up the camera at a distance and utilize a 3-10 second self-timer feature.

Shoulders, face and chin

During your photo shoot, move slowly and sequentially through your series of poses, starting with a straight posture and squared shoulders. Keep steady eye contact with the lens and a soft smile. Begin with your face squarely facing the camera, then slowly tilt your chin slightly down, and slowly to the left and right. Feel free to laugh to give yourself a more natural smile!

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Placement of hands, sitting and standing poses

Sitting poses are popular for professional headshots, and can vary from sitting in a chair at your office, on a stairwell, or leaning against a fence or ledge. Whether sitting down, standing or leaning against a wall, experiment with what feels comfortable for your hands. Many professionals choose to casually cross their arms in front of their chest, or place their hands lightly on their knees for photos. If you're feeling uncomfortable with the placement of your hands, you may place a hand on your hip.

In general, try to keep your hands visible and avoid putting your hands deep in your pockets or behind your back — it may feel good at the time of the photo shoot, but may not look professional in the final shot.

Tips for relaxing during your professional photo shoot

Most importantly, try to relax and even have fun with the photo shoot. Your energy can shine through your photo!

  • Look down or away from the camera for a few seconds, relax your face, then turn back towards the camera, make eye contact with the lens and smile.
  • Avoid drinking excessive caffeine 1 hour before the shoot.
  • Take a walk before (or even during) your shoot.
  • Cross and uncross your arms, then shake out your arms to release any nervous energy and loosen up.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Use circular, even breathing during your shoot, breathing in and out for the same amount of seconds (say, 2-3 seconds for both your inhale and exhale).

Get inspired

Browse photos of your colleagues in the RingMD directory to gain few professional headshot tips and read about common mistakes to avoid during your photo shoot. YouTube is also a great resource to watch tutorials on how to do you hair and makeup for your headshot, or to look up step-by-step guides for setting up proper lighting for your professional portrait if you are looking of how to take a professional headshot at home.

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