Why You Need a Good Headshot for Your Career and How To Get One

About a week ago, I found myself in an exciting new predicament. I was going to be a speaker at the Lady Project Summit in Providence, featured on the New York University website, and interviewed for the Her Campus “How She Got There Column”. Amazing news, right? It was until each of these groups proceeded to ask me for a “high resolution” headshot…


As a 20-year-old recent grad and overall normal person, I did not have one of these things. Needless to say, I panicked  as I scoured through my iPhone albums in search of a photo that was worthy of gracing highly-trafficked websites while making me look like a legitimate, professional, beautiful human being. But alas, all I could find were selfies and amateur beach photos that spoke to my Millennial passions:

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Though these were great for Instagram, they did not communicate the right message about me.

As a former marketer, I know that a headshot is one of the most important tools to define your personal brand. The saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true when people are researching you online and form snap judgments about who you are based on what your profile pictures look like. Whether you aim to land more speaking gigs or establish yourself as an authority in a certain field, the first step to becoming a professional (or seeming like one, at least) is getting a good headshot.

1. Finding a Headshot Photographer 

If you have never gotten professional photos done before, the best place to start searching for a photographer is within your network. Ask yourself: Do I know any good photographers? Do my FRIENDS know of any good photographers?  If one of your colleagues has a headshot on their Instagram or Facebook you really like, reach out to them and ask where they got their photos taken. This is how I found my photographer, Nick Urteaga of Coastal Flicks. My former internship advisor who runs a fitness blog (evannclingan.com) tagged Nick in all of her photos, so I sent him an email, discovered his rates were within my budget, and booked a session. I also found a few other great photographers through my network who I plan on reaching out to in the future: Sam Kelly Photography and Brittany Taylor.

If neither you nor your friends have contacts, the next step is to research photographers online. Google search “best headshot photographers nyc” or “professional photographers san francisco”. Go to their contact pages and ask what their rates are. This is how one of my friends found her acting headshot photographer David Noles. Although he’s very pricey, he is arguably the best headshot and portrait photographer in New York City. He has worked with big names like Lupita Nyong’o and Kimiko Glenn from Orange is the New Black. David Noles’ approach to portraits is truly something different and I hope to save up enough money to shoot with him one day.

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2. Wearing the Right Outfit

After you book a session with your photographer, the next big question is undoubtedly What Do I Wear?!  I recommend finding an outfit that has a good fit (avoid anything too tight or baggy), is new or looks  new (no wrinkled or worn fabric allowed!), has a color scheme that is flattering to your skin tone, and is SIMPLE. I cannot stress this last part enough. A headshot is supposed to be about you, not what you’re wearing. Look for a top that complements your face but does not distract or detract from it. Additionally, a simple outfit will make your headshot both timeless and versatile.

I opted for a salmon top from Zara because it went well with my skin and fell somewhere in between pretty and professional. That way, I could use my headshots for personal and professional uses.

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3. Posing for Your Photo Shoot 

I had the good fortune of having a photographer who knew how to help me loosen up and pose effectively, but this might not always be the case in your photo shoot. It’s important to remember to relax and have fun! The camera can see everything, so if you’re scared or stiff, it will show up on camera. If you need help relaxing, try some of these tricks: spin in a circle and then strike a pose, jump, tell a funny story to the photographer, think of a happy thought, find inspiration photos online and mimic the models’ poses. Don’t be afraid to take risks! You want to give your photographer as many options as possible, so if you have an idea for a pose, try it regardless of how crazy or silly it might look. Once you give your photographer something to work with, he or she can then advise you on how to adjust your movements to look best on camera.

Above all, you must remember that for every good photo on Instagram, there are 50 failed attempts at getting that shot in a trash bin somewhere. Take risks, have fun, and choose a good photographer! I leave you with a How to Pose Like a Supermodel video by Coco Rocha, which I am currently watching to learn how to take my modeling to the next level.

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  • Reply Luong Thành Thiện February 17, 2016 at 8:20 am

    You look like the wings of the active birds-Beauty in your appearance,heart and full desire and ambition

  • Reply Simon David Smith March 10, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Hello Victoria, your photo is beautiful x

  • Reply Lynn Barry Worthington March 10, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Hare to believe you are only 20 years old and have accomplished things that most people have spent their life time working to reach their goals. I am inspired by you.

  • Reply Michael Keyes March 11, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Love your blog about needing a head-shot! Thank you for promoting photographers everywhere! Nice blog, and about me page! Love your portrait! Beautiful.

  • Reply David Colon March 12, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Hello. I found you via your featured profile on about.me. Being a photographer I enjoyed reading your take on the experience as a client. I always recommend bringing several outfits to a shoot to give you options since your photographer is likely to see things that you won’t. Experiment and take risks. It might take 100-200 shots to get a dozen winners.

    If you’re ever in the Philadelphia area, let’s get together to shoot.

    David Colon
    @dcolonsphotos on Instagram

  • Reply Yuri March 16, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Voctoria, Just passing to tell you that your blog are amazing, I loved the resumé designs and yout pics too. nice job!
    I doscovered your about.me profile by the newsletter of about.me.

    • Reply Victoria Cana March 20, 2016 at 9:52 am

      Hi Yuri,

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you like the blog and found the resume design post helpful. Please share with your friends 🙂


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