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A Mini Guide for Profile Headshots

*Article written by Matthew Brown of HelloBonsai.com

Remember the 90s?

Lava lamps, CD Walkmans and animal print fabrics probably spring to mind. Profile headshots, on the other hand, likely don’t.

As website-use and social media for business marketing become the norm, so does the necessity for high-quality, modern and attractive online platform headshots.

Gone are the days of clunky computers, print-out resumes, and relying on in-person marketing for business success.

Welcome to the digital age.

So, what does this all mean for you? To start, it’s high time you refreshed your long-neglected website and social media platforms with newly updated photos.


We’re here to explain why, and how it’s done — with style.

Do I need a new headshot?

If your ‘profile headshot’ is a snap of you in board shorts, double-fisting a couple Pina Coladas, it goes without saying…

It’s definitely time for a new photo.

However, even if your Costa Rica vacation isn’t the center of your online marketing aesthetic, you may still need an update.

Typically, you should aim for shooting a headshot every year, or in line with any major career or style change. Think new beard (for men, hopefully) or a new haircut/dye.


Sounds easy enough, right?

But get this:

You should also have a collection of headshots for different occasions. This means it’s worth building your own stock library of professional profile photos to include headshots, group shots, and product shots.

You’ll be surprised how handy they’ll be for various marketing, PR situations, or the impact of a good headshot in your freelance proposal.

How a good headshot boosts your business (seriously)

…But it’s just a picture, right?

According to CareerCast, your old headshot may be sabotaging your job or business opportunities.

Also, studies show that before inviting an applicant into an interview setting, approximately 90% of HR consultants say they look through social media profiles, especially LinkedIn and Facebook.

These days, your profile picture is a person’s first impression of you. And as they say: a picture’s worth a thousand words.

Or in this case, an interview.

If they don’t like what they see, or what impression you’re giving, your chances of even speaking to someone on the phone or in an interview setting are completely wiped.

According to Susan Joyce of The Huffington Post, professional and successful jobs require social media skills.

So, if your profile picture is seriously out of date or doesn’t show at least some basic knowledge of social media use, chances are you won’t be receiving that greatly anticipated phone call.

What makes a successful freelance headshot?

So, now we’ve made it pretty clear how a proper freelance headshot is huge, it’s time to start looking at ways to create the perfect picture.

While this may seem like a lot at first, don’t worry.

Like anything, with practice it will soon become second nature to you (and you may even find some satisfaction in it, too).

1. Look your best (obviously)

When you’re well-rested and hydrated, you’re BOUND to look better.

So, first thing’s first, cut down on salty foods, alcohol, and caffeine the day before the shoot and treat yourself to a salon session and healthy morning routine to really look your best.


Believe us, it’s worth it.

Tip: to avoid that blindingly shiny face look, dab your skin with a bit of powdered tissue.

2. Image/brand connection

When preparing for your freelance headshot, keep in mind the impression you want to leave.

What outfit, pose and makeup best describe yourself?

If you’re a fierce office slayer, you may want to emanate strong qualities and sport modern, chunky jewelry. However, if you’re more soft and calm in nature, consider wearing clothing that’s reflective of a more reserved personality.

When it comes down to it, whatever you’re offering, always make sure the photo is likable and professional.

3. Think flattering, not distracting

Choose your favorite outfit.

You’ll want to wear something that makes you feel great — not exhausted by noise.

Solid colors are always the safest bet (as long as they provide good contrast against your skin). However, patterns can be worn if they’re not too vibrant or distracting.

In short, you want an outfit that allows your personality to shine through, not the other way around.

4. Get comfortable on camera

The first step to this point: hire someone you feel comfortable with.

The best photos include a positive reaction of some sort. If you hire a photographer who’s able to capture genuine reactions on camera, your photo will definitely stand out.

If you’re not hiring a professional, make sure you move your forehead to the camera a bit closer than your mouth and nose.

This is one of many ways to create a strong and flattering look.

How to properly apply your brand

First and foremost, the purpose of your professional freelance headshot is to put a face to your brand.

There are many ways to present yourself — the cyber sphere’s the limit! It all depends on what your brand image represents.

In other words, the most important aspect to consider is context. Which means it will be beneficial investing in strategizing how you’ll use the images.

For example:

If you’re a creative business owner, have some fun with it. Wear your website brand colors and strike a pose that represents what you offer. If your website background is white, make sure your headshot background is as well.

Then, use the branded photo to spice up your freelance proposals and help seal the deal on your dream job.

Have fun with it. But strategized fun.

Why you should work with a professional photographer

While it’s tempting to just set your iPhone on a stand with a self-timer in order to save a few bucks, you should hear us out first.

There’s an important detail to keep in mind: You’re essentially hiring a visual solution provider, not just a photographer.


Professional photographers are knowledgeable and prepped to face any challenges when it comes to high-quality images and branding representation.

A professional photographer won’t just take a freelance headshot. They will use their artistic training and expertise on equipment to offer the most personable, unique and high-quality image possible.

Which is, as we’ve discussed, vital for brand integrity.

Your deserved time in the spotlight

Valuing your business and career means valuing yourself.

By spending time and the right sort of effort on presenting yourself not just well, but effectively online, you’ll not only feel great as an individual, but your career path will also experience a lift.

Strategically creating a brand freelance headshot will help you feel more confident in your brand image.

Simultaneously, it will mark the beginning of a new professional standard that will go from strength to strength as the clients roll in.


Contributor: Matthew Brown

Bio: Matt is the founder of Bonsai, an automated contracts, proposals, invoices and time-tracking product used by 100,000+ freelancers and agencies globally. He lives in San Francisco, where he enjoys surfing, science fiction, and leafy green vegetables.