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  1. Blog
  2. Networking
  3. December 17, 2019 (Updated August 18, 2020)

How to Get Professional Headshots (for Free or Cheap)

Strike a pose during golden hour

How to Get Professional Headshots (for Free or Cheap)
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 When recruiters do a background search on you, the last thing they want to find is a pixelated, outdated photo of you on your personal website. It’s crucial to keep your public image professional and polished—it can be one of the first things a hiring manager will see when they search your name.

Why you should have a professional headshot

Regardless of your profession (actor, model, entrepreneur, corporate ladder-climber), professional headshots help you build your personal brand, and imply to hiring managers or potential business partners that you're put-together and interested in advancing your career.

They also signal to people you encounter in the workforce that:

  1. You want to make a great first impression. You can't control every in-person first impression. (You could get held up in traffic before an interview! You could get trapped in a downpour on your way to a networking event!) You can 
  2. You want to stay top of mind. Plain and simple, people are more likely to remember you if they know what you look like. Using a professional headshot on your LinkedIn profile and in your email humanizes you, helping others to feel connected and take note.
  3. You want to stand out from other applicants. While we'd love for everyone to take our advice and get a professional headshot, it simply isn't considered mainstream just yet. This is good for you. You'll look extra polished when recruiters and hiring managers do their due diligence. 
  4. You want to show you're taking your career seriously. Headshots show an investment in your career. While you might opt to take them yourself (we'll tell you how!), having any kind of professional imagery front and center shows everyone you work with that you're serious about where your career is going because you've taken the time to focus on the little things.

When and where to use your professional headshot

Job searching in the digital age means you're visible across a variety of platforms at all times. Here are a few of the places you should plan to include your professional headshot:

  1. Your LinkedIn profile. It's the business networking platform! Your headshot was made for this. Don't forget to update your cover image, too.
  2. Your Twitter profile. If you're interested in brand-building—especially if you have a public-facing role—expect to update your Twitter photo. 
  3. Your professional Facebook page. Some jobs don't need professional Facebook pages, but some do. If yours is one of 'em, you'll add your headshot ASAP.
  4. Your email icon. Most email platforms have the option to upload a photo that appears when you pop into someone's inbox. Give the receiver the chance to put a face to the name.
  5. Your professional website. Again, not all jobs require a personal website, but some do. Upload your headshot if you fall into this category.

Do you include a headshot with your resume? No. A resume should address your experience and skills. That's it. Besides, as many companies switch to blind hiring to move diversity metrics, your photo won't be visible to hiring managers until much later in the interview process anyway.

How can you get professional headshots—cheap?

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

As we said, headshots can be pricey. If outsourcing simply isn’t in your budget, you can take them yourself at home. Try to use an iPhone 7 or later in portrait mode to give yourself an extra advantage. And treat the at-home photoshoot like you would a professional session. Photographer and actress Mika Boorem says, “The easiest way to have a positive experience with taking a professional headshot either of yourself or with a photographer is to have a clear idea of what you want.”

She recommends these six tips for capturing a picture-perfect image:

1. Research

Boorem says to know they outcome you’d like to achieve, you should research and save headshots you like for reference. “This will help you learn how to pose,” she says. “What framing you would like for your headshot. And this also may even help with choices like wardrobe, hairstyle, and make up.”

2. Dress accordingly

“Wardrobe is very important,” Boorem says. “Generally something that is plain is the best option. You want something that compliments but doesn't distract from the focus of the picture—you.” Depending on your industry, you’ll likely lean toward professional attire.

3. Focus on capturing a clear representation of you

You want to look like you. “Your hair and makeup should be close to how you wear them in your everyday life,” Boorem says. “A little bit of glamour never hurt anyone, but it's important that you don't go overboard. You want hair and makeup to be complimentary but not overwhelming.” Practice. Take a few selfies. Boorem adds: “Most likely you will be using some bright lights for your photoshoots. Powder is useful to help with minimizing distracting reflections. Matte skin generally looks clean and professional for headshots.” 

4. Keep the backdrop simple

“If you are doing your own headshots I would suggest a plain background and strong lighting,” Boorem says. “With a nice, plain background, tripod and lighting you can easily take some great photos right on your cell phone.” She adds that an off-white wall will work best, but grays, greens, and blues can be nice as well, ideally in muted tones. 

5. Watch where you stand

“You want to stand about a foot away from the wall,” Boorem says. “The idea is to be close enough to the wall but to not create a shadow behind you on the wall.”

6. Use a tripod if you can

If you don’t have one, Boorem says to “find a way to steady your phone at a flattering height. Usually this is eye level. If you go too high or low with the phone or camera you risk making warped angles.”

Read more: The Best Places to Buy Cheap Business Cards

About our source

Mika Boorem is a veteran actress with over 40 major motion picture and television credits. Her directorial feature length film debut Hollywood.con will be released in 2021. Her latest directing work includes music video, Catch Me if You Can for upcoming country artist Travis Tidwell. Video can be found on all platforms.

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Photo of Cara Hutto

Cara Hutto

Contributor

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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