What Makes a Great Headshot Photo for Your Website?

Every business should have a headshot photo of the founder, the executives, and as many team members as possible. Customers do business with people, not organizations. Your portrait photo on your About web page is likely the first glimpse a prospective client sees of you.  Here are some tips to make sure you are showing the best of yourself.


First, some don’ts:

  • Never use a photo with a drink in your hand or shot from inside a bar or at a party
  • Avoid photos where the lighting is too dark
  • Avoid photos where you have to clip someone out of the picture and their shoulder still shows (unless you have a really good Photoshop person)
  • Ladies, avoid low-cut tops (well, I guess men should too)
  • Avoid clothes that are too formal (like cocktail attire) or too casual or show too much skin
  • Avoid red-eye photos where the flash is not optimal
  • Avoid photos of you in a group unless it’s your work team
  • Avoid selfies where parts of your face are out of proportion

And the most important don’t: Don’t worry about how people might judge your looks. It’s not about your looks as much as it is about how approachable you look.  So, try not to look intimidating!


The two most important aspects of a great photo are lighting and eye contact.  Let’s explore these in details.


A professional photographer will tell you that photographic lighting is an art form. Certainly, you’ve seen many striking pieces of photography where light played a tremendous role.

While you don’t have to get artsy with your business photos (and probably shouldn’t), lighting is still key. Your face needs to be lit so we can see details. You can use natural light from a window, purchase a light kit, or best of all, go to a professional photographer to get your portrait made.

If you do it yourself, light your face from the side and front to provide more dimension. You can get a light kit on Amazon or at your local photography store.  I have two soft boxes (Westcott Photo Basics 411 uLite and 20-Inch Soft Box) on stands (Westcott 750 Photo Basics 6.5-Foot Light Stand), and they work great for Zoom calls as well.  A reflector is nice, too. Put it right in front of you horizontally, and watch your wrinkles disappear.

Eye Contact

We need to see your eyes in the photo, and that’s why lighting is so important. It’s best if you look straight at the camera.

If you hate getting your photo taken or you are anxious during a photo shoot, that will come across in your pictures. Practice looking in the mirror and making faces at yourself. Find a way to psyche yourself up, and remember all of the people you can help with your skills as you go through the shoot.


Your smile should be a genuine Duchenne smile. This is when you smile with your eyes. Instead of thinking of saying “Cheese!” think of something you are really happy about in your life. If you go to a professional photographer, they can help you relax. A big trick of mine was to tell the subject I’m testing the lighting, then take a bunch of shots. These were typically the best since the subject didn’t think they counted.

What to Wear

Wear business clothes or business casual. You may want to stay away from all white clothes, all black clothes, or weird clothing patterns that will date the photograph. White and black clothing can absorb the light differently and appear washed out with no detail.  Greens can play funny tricks with the camera too; it’s the hardest color to photograph accurately.

If you need to, get a haircut and/or hair color treatment a week before the shoot so that it has a chance to grow out naturally for a few days and won’t look so severe.

If you wear glasses and want to wear them in the photo, take the lenses out or adjust the lighting so glass glare is not an issue.

Staging the Scene

For headshots, a neutral or canvas background is best. A professional photographer will likely have a hair light or backlight to separate the outline of your head from the background so the picture is more dimensional and less flat.

You may also want to have a photo of you at your desk, which then may include shelves or a credenza in the background.  If this is the case, be sure to stage the background the way you want. Be hyper-aware of what shows up right around your head in the photo; you don’t want to appear like you have horns.

If you’re shooting your team, keep it simple. All of the backgrounds should match, and it’s easier if there is a neutral background so that the focus is on the person and not what’s behind them.

The Shoot

Shoot dozens of photos (hundreds if you’re doing it yourself). It can take a lot of photos before you get the perfect one. Even professionals don’t get it in the first try.

Try these tips for a great first impression with potential clients.  Then, send us your shiny new headshot, and we’ll get it posted on your About page.