6 super helpful tips on how to pose for a professional headshot

Gallery featuring collage of professional headshot images

  1. Have good posture.

One of the most important thing you need to pay attention to during a headshot session is posture. Hold your back straight and keep your shoulders down and back. Since these photos are professional ones, you don’t want to look like you’re slumped forward or stiff and rigid. 

Most people hold their tension in their shoulders, which means they’ll creep up by the ears, so stay mindful of them. Tension in your body will translate to tension in your face, and that’s the last thing you’ll want captured. 

Even if taking photos doesn’t feel natural, you should try to look as natural as possible. Plus proper posture will help you look professional. 

2. Stay mindful of your chin. 

Lifting your chin too high will make it so you look down at the camera—as well as give a great view up your nostrils. Your face will also look small, while your neck will be on prominent display. 

Drop your chip down and you’ll have a double chin. 

Keep your chin in a neutral position, not too high, and not too low. Have your photographer guide you as well.

Don’t forget the tongue trick too. If you place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and suck in, it’ll suck in your neck beneath your chin to help prevent you from having a double chin in photos.

3. Don’t face the camera directly.

female posing for actor headshot against black background

Angling your body is much more attractive and flattering in photographs. It doesn’t matter your body type, but facing the camera directly will make you appear wide. 

Think of angling your body slightly away from the camera. You can do this by rotating your shoulders slightly to either side, but have your face angled toward the camera. Also place one of your feet behind you, and then shift your weight to that back foot. Doing so will slim your appearance and give you an open and approachable look.

4. Lean on something. 

Depending on where you’re having your photos taken, consider finding something to lean on or against. It can make you feel less awkward while still appearing professional. Consider leaning against a wall or door or leaning over a chair or railing. 

If you’re leaning forward over something, make sure not to put too much weight forward. Not only will this make you look wider, it will also push your shoulders up near your ears. You still want to have proper posture and look relaxed, so rest your arms on the chair or railing, while keeping most of your weight off of it. Lastly, make sure your shoulders are relaxed and down.

5. Relax your hands. 

Just like you’re most likely to tense up in the shoulders, you’re also likely to have tensed hands. Even if your hands won’t be in the frame (as is common with most professional headshots), tension in your hands can lend to tension in your face, which can make for some bad photos. 

If your hands will be in the shot, stretch them out right before the photo and focusing on keeping them loose. Let them rest on top of your knee, in your pockets, on the railing, etc. Avoid balling them into fists or gripping something tightly. Even if your arms are crossed in front of you, focus on keeping them—and your arms—relaxed.

6. Let your smile reach your eyes. 

People can tell the difference between genuine and phony smiles. The difference lies in how far your smile reaches upward. Are your eyes crinkling when you smile? If not, then it’ll appear as if it’s not genuine.

Your smile will be one of your best features. It’ll make you look approachable and personable. 

If you struggle giving a great smile, rehearse it in the mirror before your session. It’s always good too to think of things that make you laugh and have those things in mind during the session. It’s likely too that your headshot photographer will have some tips and tricks that can help you relax and let that smile shine. 

A great smile will also make your eyes light up, which photographs very attractively. The eyes are the window to the soul, as everyone says. Your eyes are the best way to convey your personality to someone looking at your headshots, so make sure you use them to try to appear engaging.

Daniel Turbert is a philanthropist, president of a non-profit, and published photographer who runs a commercial photography studio in Chapel Hill, NC for headshots and fine art portraits