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How to Get Cheap (or Free) Professional-Quality Headshots

Strike a pose during golden hour

Headshot of young woman

Photo courtesy Allef Vinicius

Professional headshots can go a long way in building your brand and marketing yourself as a professional. When recruiters do a background search on you, the last thing they want to find is a picture of you partying in Ibiza on your personal website. It’s crucial to keep your public image professional and polished—it’s can be one of the first things a hiring manager will see when they search your name.

The bad news is, professional headshots are going to run you at least $150. So, how do you go about getting a high-quality headshot without causing a crater-sized hole in your bank account? Never fear, there are several ways you can get a great photo for cheap—or even for free.

Read more: 6 Ideas for Picking a LinkedIn Cover Photo

If you’ve got $50 to spare...

Email your local university’s art school to see if a photography student is willing to help for a small fee. Or, if you’re a current student or an alumni, there are often campus events that host free 30-minute headshot sessions. Contact the career services department to find out if they’re hosting an event like this.

If you’ve got $15 to spare…

Check your city’s community events site for headshot sessions. Some communities host pop-up events at coffee shops or parks or gardens where you can get headshot photography for a small price. Events like these are also the perfect opportunity to network in your area

If you’ve got $5 to spare…

Download a professional headshot app on your phone, like MyHeadshots. The app costs $4.99 and allows you to take and/or import a photo of yourself, crop and edit it, and add it to an uploaded resume. 

And finally, if you’re on a shoestring budget, pinching pennies...

Take the headshot yourself for free! Use the self-timer setting on your phone or camera to avoid any awkward selfie headshots, or you can also enlist the help of a trusty friend, family member, or neighbor.

A few tips for taking a professional-quality headshot yourself

  • If you have an iPhone 7 or later, use portrait mode. 

  • Take your pictures against a neutral background outside in natural lighting. Dark lighting and shadows are never your friend. 

  • Neutral colors are safe bets for your photo, but if a pop of color or loud pattern is a better expression of your personality, go for it! Consider using a few different outfit options.

  • Formal is better than casual. If you work in a casual field, consider throwing a blazer over a T-shirt for a more structured look.

  • Stay away from hairstyles that cover your face. 

  • Still need a little touch-up at the end? There are tons of free photo-editing apps like Adobe Photoshop Express and Pixelstyle that have retouch tools. Bye bye, forehead shine!

Read more: The Best Places to Buy Cheap Business Cards

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By Cara Hutto


Cara Hutto is a freelance writer and the former assistant editor at InHerSight. Her writing primarily focuses on workplace rights, job searching, culture, and food, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in media and journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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