How to Take Professional Quality Headshots of Yourself

Headshots. Believe it or not, they're not just for real estate agents and actors. Headshots are handy for bloggers as well. We can use them for “about pages,” Twitter and Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, press requests, conferences and I'm probably missing a few reasons why it's important to have an updated headshot on hand at all times.

In the world of the internet where a year is basically like seven years in internet time, it's good have an updated headshot at least twice a year.  I used to just take from my outfit photos and change every season, but it occurred to me that a good head shot should look great as a Twitter icon or on a conference programme, and some cropped photo from a left over outfit post was neither graphic enough or professional looking to use as a headshot. But having professional photos taken every six months can be a drain, and to be honest, I really like having the control of taking my own photos. Last week, I took my own real headshot for the first time and it was suprisingly easy and I was quite happy with the results.

How do you do it? Well, it's pretty simple!

Step 1: Set up Your “Studio”

studio wooden floor
You don't have to have a huge production to take a great headshot.. I used a blank wall in my son's nursery (notice the changing table in the background). You'll need:

  • A good camera (your DSLR is just fine)
  • A flash (I used the built-in flash, but you can get fancy if you like)
  • Tripod (bonus for a remote)
  • Backdrop: Photo backdrops can get expensive ($70+) so I just bought a roll of bulletin board paper at at a craft store for $8
  • A chair (though you can stand if you like)


Step 2: Take a bunch of photos

I just used the camera's built-in settings. Portrait mode with the built-in flash. The only “custom” thing I used was a 28mm f1.8 lens instead of the one that came with the camera.

one woman many images
I set up the camera on a timer and to fire five consecutive shots, photobooth style. This is good because you can really let yourself go. One of the hardest parts of taking your own photos is overcoming the stiffness in expression. I just goofed around for most of it to loosen up to get a fresh expression on my face.

Step 3: Edit & Photoshop

woman image adjusting contrast
Taking photos is one thing, but editing is probably the most important step to having a great headshot. Pick a photo that feels natural to you. Does this look like you? Are you making a nice face? Is the photo in focus? Have good light to start with? Once you have your pic selected,  make a your photo pop is by enhancing in Photoshop. I just used a very minimal amount of adjusting using the “Adjustments” window in Photoshop. (Increase contrast, lighten just a tad, and boost saturation) Of course, cropping is just as important.

And once you are done, you have yourself a cheap and fabulous headshot you can use any way you like. Here's what I came up with!
woman image adjusted

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15 Responses

  1. MizzJ

    haha I never thought of it, but you’re so right, it doesn’t require too fancy a setup to get a good headshot! I’ve heard some advice before too about what kinds of clothes photograph well – solid, bright colors and to avoid too busy a pattern. I noticed you chose a yellow backdrop, was there any reason for that? Are there certain colors one should look for when choosing a backdrop?

    • Jennine Jacob

      Well, truth be told, I got yellow paper originally to use as a photobooth for my son’s halloween party. Since it was already up, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make a headshot. It’s really up to your personal taste. I tend to like headshots that work graphically. Yellow is a strong color.

  2. Alexis Crawford

    My boyfriend is a photographer, so I have way more headshots than I could ever use, haha!

  3. Jasmyn Simone

    Great tips, especially on the budget-friendly backdrop. I definitely have to hunt down a craft store soon!

  4. Eva Tornado

    Is hard to take pics of yourself, because they might be unfocused =( So you will need to spend much more time to do it yourself =) As I always do =) Thank you for the great post!

  5. Trendeneur

    Really useful information! I usually just use close ups from photo shoots with blurred out background, does that work as well or is it important to have with a white background?
    Thank you!

    • Jennine Jacob

      You can have any kind of background you like! I’d say play around! 🙂

  6. MyBigAppleCity

    Listening to your favorite music can help you relax your face, too. Your expression on that headshot is everything. xx Jennie

  7. Onianwah

    o jeez, so help me God to get this right. lol

    Lagos, Nigeria

  8. Sean Caron

    Very nice shot, and I love the shallow depth of focus you obtained with that f1.8 lens. My only comment would be that you should allow more space between your backdrop and your chair – that would remove the shadow you are getting on the backdrop on the right side of the image. Love the yellow – but i think you need the right complexion for it; I’d come out looking jaundiced!