Professional Headshot Tips

4 Pro Headshot Photographer Strategies That Work

4-Professional Headshot Photographer Strategies that Work is for the photographer beginning in the headshot business.  The photographer who’s been in the business and needs to know more will find some helpful strategies to smooth the workflow and thereby create better images.  And the photographer, like myself, always looking to improve their work will find some helpful strategies.

So you wanna do headshot photography, here are some bold facts you need to know along with camera technique and lighting and all the technical aspects of photography. I present 4 Pro Headshot Photographer Strategies That Work. The necessary ingredients for professional headshot photography include some special ingredients.

Behind the scenes strategies for headshot photography

For your photography to be successful, the subject, when delivered his final photographs, probably more than any other element will need to be excited about how you have represented them in their photos

Stress, tension, and awkwardness must be replaced with relaxed, confident, and genuineness. Your photographs may show some problems with stress, posing unreal, or awkwardness with your subjects. You can control the time your subject is with you, the conversation, and all the emails and communications. Nip it in the bud by making use of all your options.

“If anything is wrong or awkward, it’s the fault of the child”

As an example, early on I felt that subjects were unnecessarily tense. I realized that the tension was possibly a product of “School Days” photos where many kids are photographed with one single exposure. Good or bad. If anything is wrong or awkward, it’s the fault of the child. At least, they may think that.  This single-shot technique or a low number of shots was not uncommon in our not-too-distant past.

So, to help with that I talk about numerous photos being taken in all my sessions. Stressing it in the email sent to possible subjects and it is part of the chat when folks arrive for their shoot. I also explain on my website how quite a few exposures are made in a very short time.  All to help relax that concern.

Recently, I was requested to photograph a well-known college basketball coach and he was late.  The agency people had only allotted a certain time frame so we had to work fast.  After all, was done, weeks later, curious, I checked the time-stamp on the photos and realized almost 300 photos were made in 25 minutes. That was a bit more than normal.

Deal With the Details

Grab the microscope and inspect the detail found in your headshot photos and adjust as needed your communications with the subject to correct your challenges if it applies. As a result, you’ll make better photographs. Is there tension…fix it. Are they looking too posed…fix that.  Folks show up with much too colorful, patterned clothing.  Fix it in your communications.

For purposes of our topic today I have divided this article into four parts.

  • Organized Pricing 
  • Early Communications
  • Intro Chat at Studio
  • Headshot Defined

The days of a client of yours or even just someone interested in a photograph being made by walking in your door is gone.

Decisions are made, this is nothing new to anyone not living in a cave the last 10 years, on your phone with a quick Google search.  Be the photographer with answers to all the questions folks may have when they reach out to you.

Pricing – Cut and Dry – Easily Consumed

Headshots are no different” 

And when the “possible” client comes flying on the digital airwaves you need to have all the answers.  

As an example, the packages from a simple session with one file prepared, to lengthy sessions for modeling/acting with numerous files delivered are organized with all details determined.  

Put your tools of empathy to work and come up with the additional questions that may come up in addition to pricing basics.  For me, I only deliver a small number (many times one) of finished files.  So a question that happens is “what if I want an additional photo.”  I can answer that and you should too.  

The result of the homework is that you can quickly answer questions or email or send a link to the potential client with all the necessary information. 

Even if your clientele does not see your notes. It’s the script for your conversation and needs to be used with confidence as needed.  You need to have three packages to offer.

The options for me include a very basic business headshot with a single file delivered.  An upgrade to that is a very speedy same-day turnaround of the same service.  Then the standard 2 look headshot includes 2 finished files and a clothing change.  So that’s the basic choice.  In addition, I have pricing for location and modeling/acting which is quite different.

The other requirement is to have a ready supply of images to show both on your website and your business listing with Google.  Prospective clients will make decisions based on quality images on your website. Quality, quantity, and composition sell this product.

“For headshot photography, one must show headshot photography” 

Seems so logical but I regularly see, obviously, where folks beginning in business show their best work. Then, after gathering their portfolio, they come up for certain searches in Google, like a headshot, and there’s not a headshot on their site or their GMB listing.  Plenty of wedding work but no headshots. You need to be strong in whatever your strength is.

Dressing suggestions

Remember the name of this photo product.  Headshot.  So, to have something busy, clothes-wise, in the shot takes attention from the story of this project…the head and face.  Dressing suggestions may vary from pro to pro but I feel the clothes need to be darker.  So remember, darker is better than lighter.  Then, plain and simple patterns are better than busy patterns.  

“Words like timeless and classic describe the business look”

Be Yourself

This is a good time to throw this in.  I want this person to look their best.  It may seem small but, for some, if they pick clothes based on your “rules and suggestions” they may not feel as positive as you need them to accomplish the goal.

So, I try to keep clothing suggestions very loose with a subtle disclaimer.  “If the things that I’ve suggested differ from things that you’d like to wear, please wear what you are the most comfortable with.  Bring a couple of things extra if you’d like to discuss before we shoot”.

Not only do you need to think through your process looking for information that the new client may need but be sure to always listen to things while they are with you to latch on to the things that you could approach differently for prospective clients.

As an example, you can imagine artwork becomes a key part of the service you offer.  I was realizing the number of surgical scars, acne scars, and wrinkles mostly around the eyes I was fixing.  For that to be communicated to the subject would relax them.  Not too much need to stress over all this when they know Gary will either make it disappear or minimize it.

Intro Chat at Session

This is the few minutes of visiting when your subject arrives at the studio for the session.  It is a chat that results in a new friend.  That is the “learn about each other time” and will probably reveal some things in common.  All that equals a new friend.

Be ready to ask questions and be interested in your subject as you acquaint yourself with the photo needs of the day. You need to grow if you haven’t already to have the ability to chat and relax your client.   The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your subject will be to capture.  More on this at How To Pose for Professional Headshots

Things you may consider being a part of this chat include:

  • The use of the headshot, primarily
  • Which company do they work for
  • Do they also do social media, like LinkedIn
  • Shoot quantity to give the subject a good set to choose from in their gallery

I am an example of timid.  At a party, I’m the guy in the corner totally unable to start a conversation.  BUT, step into my world of the photo session where I have a mission and everything becomes different partially because of my planning. Just to say, if I can do it…you can too. Conversation, direction, and confidence are all possible for you too.

If they came with extra clothes then that can be discussed.  All this happens in, probably, 10 minutes and then we’re off to shoot.

Some things that I can throw into the conversation to be sure what I’m doing is what the client is in need of:  

The photo is rectangular and vertical and the delivered file is 1000 pixels long on the long side.  

Use the smile techniques.  Question about their kids, where they grew up or schools they may have attended.  Also, ask about hobbies, fishing, golf, or things with the kids. Watch the expressions.

There are so many images taken; don’t stress about the shoot; we only need one great one (Oh no, again!).

Headshot Defined

Maybe we need to take a minute and define what we’re talking about in this headshot.  To different folks, they can be slightly different.  I have been involved in shoots before that could be very lengthy and produce a collection of photographs, but this is not my headshot photography.  

I begin the design of any service I’m going to create by looking at the service from the perspective of my buyer.  It’s gotta be business.  Dollars.  Someone needs to buy our work.  The person that I envisioned and have since confirmed is looking for a job, new to a job, or looking for a change in career.  Numerous people that I create headshots with are at various stages of upper-level education.

Make it Quick

They normally are only interested in one photograph.  Some they seem relieved to find that quite a few will be made to select from in the gallery even though they only need one.  Some, at this point, will start explaining that they don’t need a paper print.  No one needs a print, it seems.  

“I Create the Headshot Product Based On This Avatar “

A quick headshot with a brief chat to just get familiar and comfortable with some of the detail of how I shoot.  Move to the shooting area and get comfortable with, usually, between 15 and 30 shots.  Pretty fast with very little posing.  That’s it.

They leave and I go through and edit all the photos through some very basics in Lightroom, mostly about tweaking the crop.  PhotoShelter has a great interface that allows me to move quickly to deliver a link to a gallery.  PhotoShelter protects my images from being copied from the online gallery site with their security services.

Hot90 is another service including a speedy, done-in 90 minutes delivery that can be added to all the business headshots.  I also have a basic that includes 2 looks and a bit more shots to choose from.  Numerous modeling/acting headshot services are available.  Let’s not forget the on-location services.  Which is a nice break up to the steady work in the studio.


For me, headshot photography is cropped tight and you’ll benefit from explaining.  A headshot in photography is similar to what is a bust in sculpture.  Remember the Presidents on the money.  That’s the cropping for headshots.  


“The necktie will be cut in half” is a line of mine to illustrate the hands, jewelry, cuffs or watches don’t show.  There are exceptions when the cropping will be loose and the main one is some modeling shots that use a bit more of the frame.

Magic on the Face, Please

I’ll prep your files with eye and facial enhancement and what some have called my “magic”. The effort of the enhancement is to rewind the age clock, maybe, five years. Not twenty. Cropping and sizing ready the photos for email delivery as a zip file.  I explain it with this.

“If your friend sees your finished photo and comments about how good you did then we did well.  If they jump in with how good I am with PhotoShop then I did not do good”.  

Probably did too much.  Subtlety is the keyword with the artwork.  This too, with a request from the subject, can be more removing things than subduing them.  That service we call Magazine Cover because of all the fakeness found in the covers of numerous magazines.

Thank you

So there is a glimpse of my headshot business.  More is on the drawing board about the lighting set-up and camera details.  Here we have dealt with the boring part of photography.

Boring Photography

You know and agree, I’d bet, that there may not be anything more exciting for a photography lover than shooting those shots you love, editing those shots, and creating that finished image.  So I hope this “boring” part is helpful.  

Professional Headshot for Son Nguyen
f8, 1/160, 100 ISO, 85mm

But we have to wear a handful of hats and this touches on some of those other things.  Getting very exact about the services we offer is a must. 

Ian as example of Professional Headshot Photographer tips
f8, 1/160, 200 ISO, 85mm

Some of the chatting and communications with our prospective clients learned so well can get very close to memorizing.  But don’t dare memorize it cause your sincerity is at risk.  Organizing all the pricing so it can be called upon from memory at the drop of a hat of printed for the client at session time.

Keep an eye out for more on headshots.  Consider joining the TEKeez. Got a gift for you — TEKeez Photo Gifts. Info about your gift at Learn

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