10 Business Headshot Tips to Boost Website Results

Last updated: Oct. 14, 2017

Think photos aren’t important for your local business website? Think again. In a recent Bright Local poll of 1,600 consumers, adding a quality photo increased perceived trust of the business by 79%.

And adding a genuine photo of the business owner increased trust more than any other type of photo (i.e., generic stock photos).

With that in mind, we offer the below professional business headshot tips and pose “tricks,” backed by data, and compiled from the photo industry’s leading experts.

Here’s how to take flattering, trust-inspiring photos of your company owner and staff — even if you don’t have a professional photographer.

1. Wear solid colors that compliment (and don’t blend in with) your skin tone.

Business headshot tips: Outfits with muted patterns, that don't blend in with skin tone

Like quality web design supports the content and not the other way around, your outfit should enhance you, and not distract from your photo.

If you do wear patterns, ensure that they don’t steal the show. You want people to remember you, not your clothing, headwear, makeup, or jewelry.

Optional Tip:

If we’ve already created your color scheme (see your Website Layout Strategy), matching your outfit with your website/brand colors will give your site a well-planned, modern feel:

Business photo that matches outfit colors with website

2. If you wear eyeglasses, remove them for the photo.

If you must wear them (for instance, if you can’t see your camera controls without), then lift the handles about a half-inch off your ears, and tip the glasses forward to reduce glare.

3. Always place your light source in front of, never behind you.

A bad example of business headshot lighting, with light source behind

While facing a window, get as close as possible to it, making sure that none of your face or outfit is in shadow.

Tip: It’s best to actually avoid very bright sunlight, as it creates dark shadows that are hard on faces. Keeping the blinds or thin curtains closed can provide soft, complimentary lighting.

4. Use natural lighting (not flash).

If natural light is unavailable, tape a single piece of white paper to a light fixture (i.e., your dining room chandelier) and position yourself underneath and slightly behind.

It will diffuse the light for a soft glow, rather than a harsh glare.

5. Smile, with teeth visible. (Just don’t force it.)

According to a PhotoFeeler study of 60,000 ratings of 800 profile photos, a closed-mouth smile makes you appear half as likable as a smile that shows teeth.

But don’t overdo it: laughing while smiling actually decreases your perceived competence and influence.  A “happy” expression will do.

Expert tip: Think of something funny and chuckle softly. It will spark a more natural-looking, slight smile to give your photo a genuine and trustworthy air.

6. Take the photo in front of a plain, light-colored background.

It makes it much easier for us to work with when we lightly retouch or add a background to your photos (if included with your website).

Avoid complex color patterns in your background that may be hard to match. Unless you’re wearing white, a white wall is perfect.

7. Forced to take smartphone selfies? Use the front-facing camera.

It’s too difficult to angle the camera correctly if you’re unable to see yourself while shooting.

8. Avoid creating a double chin or face distortion.

Confident jaw-line business headshot pose

If taking business selfies, always ensure the camera is at or above the level of your head.

Then angle your chin out and upward slightly to look at the lens. Accentuating your jaw this way helps you look even more likable, influential, and competent.

9. Look more trustworthy by giving eye contact.

Head-on business headshot pose

Looking even slightly off to the side or above the camera can make you seem to lack confidence and trustworthiness.

If the lens location isn’t obvious, ask your photographer to point to it, so you can ensure “eye contact.” 

If you have the benefit of another photographer, stand up straight. Then, moving nothing but your neck and head, jut your forehead slightly forward and downward to accentuate your bone structure.

10. Have a glass of wine first. (No, really.)

This certainly sounds like strange advice for a business photo. But after checking the “3 Glasses Later” photo project mentioned on FitSmallBusiness, the cleverness of this tip became crystal clear!

While that project wasn’t a business-related shoot, some very professional-looking poses came out of it

I found it fascinating that, after 1 to 2 glasses of wine, almost all of the subjects exhibited the exact qualities needed to take confident, trust-inspiring photo: uncoached.

Again, as this wasn’t a business shoot, 2 of the 4 outfits are ill-advised for professional photos. Instead, look closely at the smiles, head position, and jaw line in the below red-boxed examples:

The Reveal

Choosing a professional, experienced photographer is always your best bet whenever you can. If just not possible, however, the above 10 business headshot tips can help you get by when you’re just starting out.

Do you have a business headshot you’re proud of, which you’ve taken with your own hand? Or had a skilled friend snap for you? Show us what’s possible in the comments below.

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About the Author

Excellent Presence Owner H.T. Major established her first Web design & marketing business in 1999 at age 19, taking it full-time in less than a year. She now manages the "xPrez" team to help service-based small businesses and solo entrepreneurs amplify resources to get more and better business from the Internet. Start YOUR quote for strategic website design, maintenance, or marketing now.

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