Professional headshots are pricey, and coordinating schedules with a photographer can be time-intensive. If you’re setting up your LinkedIn profile and realize you need a new photo on short notice, don’t panic. You can DIY a professional-looking headshot using your smartphone in a matter of minutes. Here are five steps for getting the perfect shot.
1. Find the Right Look
Before you set up your camera, you need to shop for a suitable outfit to wear. Headshots only show you from the chest up, so choose a shirt or blouse and a suit jacket that are flattering on your frame. Opt for solid, neutral colors and stick to work-appropriate clothing. If you want your headshot to stand out, don a statement piece—like a bold tie or an intricate necklace—that shows off your unique personality. Shopping on a budget? Try secondhand and consignment stores to get high-quality workwear for less. Finally, make sure your hair is neat, and if you wear makeup, keep it light and simple. Use just enough to bring out the features of your face.
2. Use Soft, Natural Lighting
Once you have the perfect outfit, plan to take your photo in optimal lighting. Natural, soft lighting is key for taking any portrait. You can find soft lighting early in the morning, an hour before sunset or anytime on a cloudy day. (As a general rule of thumb, avoid the harsh sunlight in the middle of the day.) Soft lighting is diffused, so it doesn’t create hash shadows or reflections on your face. Choose a spot in front of a window with a backdrop of an empty wall when the lighting is right. Make sure there’s nothing distracting—like a messy room—in the background. If you can’t find a plain wall, hang a neutral-colored sheet behind you. Opt for gray, beige or white, which are timeless colors that draw attention to the subject of the portrait.
3. Grab a Friend – Or Set Up a Camera Mount
The easiest way to get a great headshot is to ask a trusted friend or family member to take the photo for you. But if you don’t have anyone available, you don’t have to resort to taking a selfie. All you need is a car mount for your smartphone and a pair of headphones. Attach the car mount to your window with the rear camera facing towards you. Don’t use the front-facing camera for a professional headshot—the quality is significantly lower than the rear-facing camera. Once you have the camera set up in your desired location, plug your headphones into your phone. These become a remote control for your camera. When you press the “+” button on the volume control, your phone will snap a photo.
4. Take Multiple Photos
Make sure you have enough space on your phone for a lot of new photos. It’s unlikely that you’ll get the perfect shot on your first try, so keep taking photos until you find the right angle and exact lighting that fits you best. Plus, taking multiple photos means you’ll have plenty of options for your profile!
5. Edit Carefully
There are several photo editing apps that are easy to use and available for free (or a few dollars) on your smartphone. One of my personal favorites is VSCO Cam, but Afterlight, Facetune and Adobe Photoshop Express are other popular choices. When you edit your headshot, it’s important to maintain the delicate balance between looking like yourself and putting your best foot forward. Do not over-edit your photos. If there is a blemish you would like to correct, Facetune or Photoshop will do the trick for you easily, but don’t be tempted to make yourself look like a different person. If you want to put a filter on your headshot, VSCO Cam offers many natural-looking options. For example, I prefer the VSCO filter A6 taken to 30 percent intensity on a photo like a professional headshot.
From finding a professional outfit to setting up a mini at-home studio, DIYing your LinkedIn headshot can be a done on a budget and in minimal time. Whether you choose to do this process by yourself or get help from a friend, remember to have fun with it! Your happiness and confidence will shine through in your photo.
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