New Year, New Headshot?

December 29, 2021
By iQ Staff
Miniature figures around a giant camera and screen set up, amid oversized green leaves, representing a creative project.

Happy New Year! We're revisiting one of our top blogs of 2021 to help you determine if it's time to refresh your professional headshot. (Originally published 1/6/21.)

Finally, 2021 is upon us. Many of us are looking for a fresh start in the new year. A new headshot, reflecting growth and intentions for the year ahead, might be just the thing we need.

We asked professional photographer Michael Meyer to share his thoughts on headshots in 2021.


Is a new headshot every year necessary?

If you have a headshot that you love, that's up to date stylistically, fits all the social media, profile and remote meeting formats you need (and still looks like you!) then maybe not. But, if you've grown a COVID beard or changed your appearance in other ways, or are updating your brand or messaging, then a new headshot can be useful. And, if you simply feel like something new, that’s a good enough reason too.


What kind of headshot do spokespeople and other professionals need?

Instead of thinking of a single headshot that can do it all, you'll want a series of portraits that fit many needs. At the very least, you'll want a portrait that can be cropped square, vertical, and horizontal. Consider collecting a library of images from which you can pull an image to match a need. A portrait that will appear on the cover of an industry trade publication should be different than one meant for your LinkedIn profile or Zoom photo, for example. It's best to have multiple options so that you are ready to meet any outlet’s art specifications in the case of a contributed article, interview or speaking opportunity.


What do I need to know about lighting and background?

Lighting is hugely important and is the primary factor affecting how you’ll look in your photos. You’ll want to find a large light source that provides soft, indirect light. Think of a north-facing window or an overcast sky. Avoid lighting that casts hard shadows. Your background should be uncluttered so that it doesn’t distract from you. The same is true of your clothing, so wear colors that flatter you and don’t wear patterns or prints that shift the focus away from your face.


A portrait that will appear on the cover of an industry trade publication should be different than one meant for your LinkedIn profile or Zoom photo.

- Michael Meyer, professional photographer



What about COVID precautions?

If you’re hiring a professional photographer, discuss the safety protocols with them right from the start. Most working professionals have been shooting throughout the pandemic and have strategies and policies for reducing the risks, including rescheduling in the event of symptoms or possible exposure to the virus. If a friend is taking your photo, be sure to discuss how both of you can stay as safe as possible. You’ll likely be far enough apart as photographs are taken, but both of you should wear a mask the entire time, except for those brief moments when you’re in front of the camera. And of course, outside is safer than inside.


Can I do this myself?

You certainly can but ask someone within your bubble to take your photo to avoid the dreaded arm’s-length selfie look. Also, keep in mind that an organization may have specific requirements so that your corporate headshot will be consistent with the rest of the company’s headshots. Your photo should be of very high resolution if it’s meant to be republished in print or online. Your phone camera may not have the resolution to produce that kind of a quality image. If you are using your phone, use its portrait lens (if it has one) and its portrait mode, which uses AI to soften the background. If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, choose the long end of your kit zoom or an appropriate prime lens and the widest aperture that you can. Your camera may also have a portrait mode.


Any final thoughts?

Always take more pictures than you think you’ll need. A professional will often shoot dozens of frames to choose the best expression amongst several with subtle differences. And remember to shoot both vertical and horizontal frames. Finally, try smiling, and try a serious face as well. It’s tough to know what will work best until you see the results, and you just may end up with something that gives you a good head start on the new year.