How do you pose for a headshot?

Headshot Photography, Headshot Photography FAQ
Young woman posing for a headshot

In the article “what does a headshot look like?” I explored some of the trends in headshot photography. Headshot styles have changed and there’s certainly more scope to capture your personality in your own headshots.

How do you pose for a headshot? When it comes to posing for a headshot, the primary objective is to create an image that feels engaging, confident and approachable.

There will always be some subtle differences in headshot styles depending on your profession, culture or geographical location. However, the main characteristics of warmth, confidence and approachability apply whether you’re a CEO or a junior at the start of your career.

An essential part of creating a headshot is getting to know the client. It’s important to understand how they see themselves and how they’d like to be portrayed in their headshot.

This part of the process is incredibly important. It lays the foundation for the headshot session and helps the client feel relaxed.

When it comes to posing, there are some simple techniques that help create a flattering headshot.

A relaxed posture when posing for a headshot

When you’re considering how to pose for a headshot, a relaxed posture helps to convey a sense of confidence and this can be seen in your facial expressions as well as your body language. I’ll often help my clients develop a relaxed posture by building it up, step by step.

We’ll start with the feet and hips, shifting the weight, adjusting the body angle relative to the lights and camera, working through to the shoulders, hand placement and finally the neck position, eye contact and a relaxed expression.

It sounds like there’s a huge amount to focus on, but with some careful direction we can start to mix up some of the options and create energy to bring the headshot to life.

Communicate confidence through your eyes and your expression

We don’t automatically think of the eyes, but they’re an incredibly important communication tool. Your eyes are often said to be “the window into your soul” and they can reveal emotions from excitement, to affection, vulnerability, warmth and fear.

When we look at a headshot or a portrait photo we’re instantly drawn to the eyes because they tell us a huge amount about an individual. Not only do we get a feel for their personality, we can also tell how fresh and energised someone is too. However, the eyes don’t communicate emotion on their own. They combine with all the facial muscles to create an overall expression and this is what we read when we look at someone’s face.

I mentioned earlier that the most important characteristics to convey in a headshot are confidence and approachability. So one of the most important aspects of posing a client for a headshot is to help them feel relaxed. Any signs of tension or an awkward expression will be easy to read in the final headshot and will distract the viewer. It might not be immediately obvious and we may just get a feeling that something just doesn’t feel quite right.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ with headshots

When considering how to pose for a headshot, it’s important to remember that headshot clients are all individuals. Everyone has a different height, weight, body shape, ethnicity, skin tone, energy level and personality. So a headshot photographer needs to get to know their client quickly and adapt the session to the person in front of them.

When I’m photographing a team of people I apply a similar approach. I always take the time to have a quick chat before I start photographing. I’ll ask plenty of open questions to understand what they do and how they feel about being photographed. This helps them relax so they’re not overthinking the process and I’m gaining some valuable information to help me guide and direct the session.

If you want to explore posing for a headshot further a great reference book is The Photographers Guide To Posing by Lindsay Adler. Lindsay explores angles, perspective, body shape, and a variety of posing techniques to help clients look and feel their best. 

If you’d like to find out more, I’ve written a series of headshot photography FAQs. Clients often ask me these questions, so I hope you find them helpful.    

If you prefer a chat instead, or you’d like to plan a headshot session you can book a complimentary consultation call here. 

Learn more about headshot photography and the other services I offer including business storytelling photography, personal branding photography and corporate event photography.