Selfies won’t do.

Professional headshots are not just for actresses and models, of course. Every person in business — whether you are a lawyer, author, journalist, chiropractor, entrepreneur, doctor, dentist, academic, business leader or startup founder — needs a great headshot that is crisp, personable and professional.

“It is the difference between getting a phone call or not getting a phone call for an interview," says Elizabeth McQuern, independent artist, photographer and filmmaker, who has photographed hundreds of individuals in five years as the owner of Elizabeth McQuern Photography in Chicago. "A good photo goes a long way in creating a positive impression."

Many others agree.

“Your professional headshot is one of the single most important images you could have on your company’s website or collateral, and for your own personal brand," writes Lyndsay Bouchal in CoCommunications. "Your headshot is a first impression — a snap judgement — that will be viewed by potential clients and prospective employees."

As an author, journalist, academic and keynote speaker, I have had more than a dozen sessions with different professional photographers for business portraits over the past 30 years to appear on my books, publicity posters for events, alongside my bylines in media, on company and association websites for appearances, and on my own website and social media pages. I update my shots every three to four years because, if you don’t have an updated, good headshot, people may say you are trying to pass yourself off as younger than you are.

“If your current LinkedIn headshot is that one of you as an eager new grad 10 years ago, it's time to upgrade," writes Kate Lopaz in The Job Network. "It should be a fairly natural, friendly solo photo — you don't want it to look like a passport photo or, worse, a mug shot. Candid photos are fine as long as you look professionally appropriate. If you're having trouble figuring out if a photo is appropriate, take a look around at other profiles in your field, around your level, and see what people are using."

“Employ every medium,” is Leadership Power Tool #8, according to Gloria Feldt, president and co-founder of Take the Lead. She offers the following advice: “Use personal, social and traditional media every step of the way. Use the medium of your own voice. And think of each of the power tools as a medium to be pressed into the service of your ‘power to’” accomplish something.

Your visual branding is another one of those media tools. As part of your personal branding, a photo of you that communicates your approachability improves your messaging — no glamour shots and no gimmicky shots that appear posed or artificial.

You want to have professional corporate headshots ready in case your company wants to promote you for a panel or speech, or applaud you for a job well-done in an internal company communications or externally to local press or networking organizations. Many companies call in a photographer to shoot everyone in the company separately, McQuern says.

McQuern warns of common mistakes when choosing professional headshots: “You don’t want one that doesn’t quite telegraph your personality. You don’t want to look tense and uncomfortable — or have that rigor mortis smile,” McQuern says.

To get her portrait subjects relaxed, she asks in advance what are the three things the person is trying to project in her image. Is it compassion, trust, knowledge?

McQuern suggests that you keep it simple without too much jewelry, and try to be comfortable with what you are wearing. “But no Snoopy pajamas,” she suggests. “Dress as you would going to meet this person as a perspective client.”

Prices across the country for headshots can range from $100 to $300 for up to 15 different poses, some with different clothing, according to Thumbtack.

McQuern advices employers before hiring someone that they “should absolutely look through their online portfolio and look through the testimonial section.” If business headshots are retouched excessively to correct mistakes, people can look cartoonish, she warns.

A good professional headshot taken by a legitimate headshots photographer can be “transformative,” McQuern concludes. “If people see themselves in a new way, it’s a confidence boost and they rethink how they consider themselves. If you show people at their best, they see themselves as their best.”

In short, professional head shots aren't just for actors; business headshots are important within the corporate community, as well. A great headshot will make you look professional and help you get the job. 


Michele Weldon is an author, jouranlist, editorial director of Take The Lead and senior leader with The OpEd Project. Her most reccent book is Escape Points: A Memoir.