How To Get The Perfect Headshot For Your Marketing Materials

The saying is, “You only get seven seconds to make a great first impression.” In this day and age, many times, that first impression is made without ever meeting in person.

Whether you are running Facebook ads or mailing your book, you need to use the best possible image of yourself to get the positive attention you’re seeking. A great way to do that is by having a professional headshot taken.

If you currently spend an extra two or three hundred dollars marketing your listings with professional photography, why would you not do the same to market yourself?

In the modules below, we will give you tips for not only finding the right photographer but also ensuring you are happy with your appearance in the photographs.

To help us out, we spoke with Jacksonville photographer Deanne Dunlop, and here is her take on why it is so important to have a professional headshot:

“It's attention to detail.” she says. “Your headshot is one of those pieces that says a lot about your attention to detail.”

When asked how often you should update your photo, Deanne said, “I would say every year, but I say that because I really feel that people's looks change every year. So I think it's nice for your headshot to be just a good reflection of you. And so one year, two, maybe at the max three.”

Module 1: Find The Right Photographer

If you’ve never had a professional headshot taken, it can be a little overwhelming choosing the right photographer. Luckily, no matter where you are located, you’ll find several to choose from.

To begin your search, you can do a simple Google search. 

Enter in your location and the term “headshots” or “headshot photography.”

At the top of the search results, you will see a map of your area and a list of businesses that match your search.

At the bottom of the list, click where it says “More Businesses” to see the full list of photography studios in your area.

Now that you have a list of area photographers, it’s time to decide who to use. Dunlop say’s the most important thing to look for is an online gallery. “I would say an online portfolio is going to be invaluable for you to be able to look and say, ‘Is the lighting professional? Does it look good? Is their website professional looking?’”

As you can see on Deanne’s online portfolio, she displays a wide variety of headshot examples.

The main thing to look for is quality lighting.

Once you find a few options, Deanne recommends you call the studio and ask the following questions:

  • Do I have access to the photos digitally?
  • Am I going to be able to reproduce them?
  • Do I have print rights?

While prices vary depending on your market, we found most headshot sessions cost between $150-$300, which is comparable to having your listings photographed.

In addition to searching Google, you can use sites like Thumbtack or Snappr Photography to find local photographers.

Don’t forget personal referrals. Ask around your brokerage for recommendations. “Personal referrals are a great place to go,” Deanne says, “as long as you can back that up with a gallery or something that you're looking at on a website.”

Module 2: Deciding What To Wear For Your Headshot

When it comes to first impressions, your choice in clothing can say a lot about you. For your professional headshot, what you’re wearing should not be the focal point. Over the course of her more than 20 years as a professional photographer, Dunlop has taken thousands of headshots.

“What you really want is for the focus to be on the person. The eyes, the smile and then the clothes.”

“You definitely don't want to put something on that everybody's eyes keep going down to the shirt and they're like, ‘Wow, that was quite a choice.’”

So how do you make sure you are making the right choice? Dunlop says bring plenty of options to your photo session.

“Don't worry about looking like you're over the top. It doesn't matter. When you leave, you get a good headshot. That was the purpose.”

In this module, we will discuss color and prints and whether you should wear a jacket or accessories.


“The thing that's really important about colors is that number one, it's a color you feel good in. That's an important element because when you feel good, obviously you look good and you smile.”

That was Dunlop’s number one piece of advice when it comes to choosing which color to wear in your headshot.

However, some colors work better than others.

It is a good idea to avoid pale shades. 

According to Deanne, these colors can be difficult to light, leading to hot/bright spots in your photo or a photo with an overall washed-out look.

There may be times when your headshot will need to be printed in black and white.

As you can see in our example here, when the photo is converted into black and white, there is very little contrast between the model’s skin tone and clothing.

Jewel tones are preferred over light colors because jewel tones are darker, without being too dark. They also add a nice pop of color without distracting away from your eyes and smile. When converted to black and white, they also allow for good contrast between your skin tone and clothing, keeping the focus on your eyes.

Now, what about specific colors? Again, it comes down to what you feel most comfortable in. However, there have been countless studies done on how certain colors are perceived, and here are some takeaways.

Black: can invoke the feeling of power or sophistication. A drawback of black formal wear is that it can be associated with mourning. It is best not to wear other dark colors with black because the combination gives little contrast and can look unprofessional.

White: is known as a color of purity, clarity, cleanliness and openness but can also represent simplicity and sterility. White should be worn with caution on fair-skinned people, as it provides little contrast. If you choose white, it’s best to layer it under a darker color.

Blue: represents trustworthiness, dependability and professionalism. Lighter blue represents friendliness and calm.

Brown: has several meanings including wholesomeness, reliability, stability, experience and comfort. If you’re wearing brown, be sure it doesn’t blend in too much with your skin tone and leave you with a no-contrast look.

Beige or Tan: represent piety and conservatism. They can also be perceived as dull. When worn as an outer layer, beige and tan will take on the meaning of the color they are worn with. Again, be careful with these colors as they can blend in too much with your skin tone, leaving little contrast.

Red: is viewed as exciting, powerful and passionate. Red is best worn in small amounts so as not to overpower the headshot. 

Orange: less overwhelming than red, but also viewed as vibrant and energetic. Orange is best worn in small amounts, similar to red.

Green: has a calming, balancing, and rejuvenating effect. Green also represents stability, growth and happiness and is considered inspiring.

Yellow: is seen as energizing and warm. It represents happiness and can be considered stimulating and expansive. Yellow can be a very difficult color to pull off though for certain skin tones.

Pink: viewed a softer, happy color.  Pink should be worn with caution so as not to blend in with skin tones and lose the details of the face.

Purple: represents nobility, creativity and imagination. Darker shades of purple can be associated with wealth and luxury.


When it comes to prints, it is best to avoid anything that may be distracting. Big, bold prints are a great way to show off your personality, but they tend to not photograph well.

Remember, you do not want your clothing to be the first thing people see in your headshot. It is also best to steer clear of prints to not date your photo. If you plan on using this headshot for a few years, you want to make sure you aren’t wearing something that could fall out of trend.

Stripes can also be a tricky pattern when it comes to headshots.

The great thing about having a professional take your photo is their ability to touch up minor flaws with editing.

However, wrinkles in stripes can be extremely difficult to remove and will make your photo less professional looking.


To wear a jacket or not? While it may seem like the “professional” thing to do, the point of your headshot is to portray your unique brand. Do you wear a jacket to every listing appointment? If you answered yes, then it is a good idea to wear one in your headshot.

Darker color jackets are great for layering on top of lighter colors. So,if you are dead-set on wearing a lighter shade, take a jacket with you to wear for a few shots.


Like jackets, accessories such as glasses and jewelry should be worn if they are part of your everyday look. Again, the key is for accessories not to be a distraction.

If you wear glasses, you know how much they become a part of who you are. You definitely want to have them on in your photo if that is how potential clients will be meeting you in person.

Remember, you want to avoid distractions, so try sticking with a more subtle pair.

Glasses can be tricky to photograph due to light reflection, but your photographer will work to position you to avoid any glare.

Women’s accessories such as earrings and necklaces make for great pops of color. Here is what Dunlop had to say on the topic:

“I think accessories are a really good idea. If you can bring a couple of different kinds of earrings, you know, a lot of times a pop of color goes a long way, especially if your headshots are going to be pulled off of a background and perhaps laid on top of a different background.”

“If you don't wear a lot of jewelry, then you just need to tell the person photographing you, ‘I don't wear a lot of jewelry.’”

“It doesn't matter whether the photographer likes your choice in earrings. The important thing is that it looks like you and that you're comfortable with it.”

Module 3: Hair and Makeup Tips

Now that you’ve found your headshot photographer and chosen what to wear, it’s time to think about hair styling and makeup. While this may seem like a no brainer, you do have to think ahead when it comes to this part of your photoshoot.

Dunlop recommends giving yourself about three weeks for this project.

“Don’t just check a box and get your headshot done because you're in a hurry because you put it off and your boss needs it Tuesday. You want to make sure you think about all of those parts in advance.”


When it comes to hairstyling, it should go without saying, you want to stick with your signature look. Remember, the idea is that you will eventually be meeting in person many of the people who see your photo. You don’t want to try out a new hairstyle for your photograph just to change it a few weeks later.

Here are some more of Dunlop’s tips:

  • Don’t not get a fresh haircut the day before your photo, unless of course, you shave your head.
  • People are generally happiest with their hairstyle about 10 days after it is cut.
  • If you color your hair, pay attention to your roots.

On the day of your photoshoot, you may want to use hairspray, gel, and other products to tame frizz and make your hair look healthy. Be sure to avoid products that give a matte look. Matte finished hair will look dull and lifeless in pictures. Instead, use hair products that enhance shine.

Here are some more of Dunlop’s tips:

  • Don’t not get a fresh haircut the day before your photo, unless of course, you shave your head.
  • People are generally happiest with their hairstyle about 10 days after it is cut.
  • If you color your hair, pay attention to your roots.

On the day of your photoshoot, you may want to use hairspray, gel, and other products to tame frizz and make your hair look healthy. Be sure to avoid products that give a matte look. Matte finished hair will look dull and lifeless in pictures. Instead, use hair products that enhance shine.

Facial Hair:

If you regularly wear facial hair, you will want to be photographed with it. Make sure everything is trimmed up and looking clean. To add a little shine to your beard, apply some beard oil prior to your appointment.

If you like a more clean-shaven look, pay attention to your photography session time. If you have a late afternoon appointment, do yourself a favor and give yourself a fresh shave right before.


When it comes to business head shots, the idea is to “look like you on your best day.” Makeup styles vary widely, but there are tips to consider when getting ready for your professional headshot.

  • Go for a “Natural” not “Light” look.
  • You want to avoid uneven application.
  • Avoid uneven application by using enough product to ensure full coverage.
  • Apply more setting powder than you ordinarily would.
  • Lip color should be a notch darker than what you would normally apply.
  • Using a lip gloss can also make your lips appear fuller. Darker mascaras work best for headshots.
  • Don’t be afraid to use more powder than normal.

When all is said and done, the main thing to remember is to relax and have fun. By choosing to have a reputable professional photographer take your headshots, you can rest assured that you will have a quality photo in the end.

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