5 Pro Tips for Taking Studio Headshots

5 Pro Tips for Taking Studio Headshots

As a headshot photographer, it's your job to make sure your clients look their best. However, taking the perfect studio headshot isn't just about lighting and composition. It's also about understanding your client's needs and making them feel comfortable in front of the camera.

In this article, we'll share our studio's, 415Headshots, top five tips for taking the perfect studio headshot, from preparing for the shoot to post-processing the final image.

Get to Know Your Client

Before the shoot, take the time to get to know your client. Ask them about their profession, their goals for the headshot, and any specific requirements they may have. This will help you understand their needs and tailor the shoot to their specific requirements. For example, if your client is an actor, they may want a headshot that shows off their range of expressions. If they're a business professional, they may want a more serious and professional look. By understanding your client's needs, you'll be able to create a headshot that truly reflects who they are and what they do.

Pay Attention to Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of a headshot, and it can make or break the final image. For a classic, timeless headshot, use a three-point lighting setup: one key light, one fill light, and one backlight. This will create a natural-looking, well-balanced image that flatters your subject. Make sure to pay attention to the direction of the light and the shadows it creates. You can use a reflector to soften the shadows and fill in any areas of the face that are too dark. Experiment with different lighting setups to find the one that works best for your client.

A common request I hear is that my clients want to avoid having a double-chin in their headshot. For these headshots, I often use an overhead beauty dish with a reflector near the client's torso.

Use the Right Lens

The lens you use can have a big impact on the final image. For headshots, we recommend using a short telephoto lens, such as a 85mm or a 105mm. These lenses will compress the features of the face, giving your subject a more flattering look. They also provide a shallow depth of field, which can help to isolate the subject from the background. This is especially useful when you want to draw attention to the eyes or the face. Avoid using wide angle lenses, as they can distort the face and make your client look unnatural.

Micromanage Your Clients

Directing your subject is crucial for getting the perfect shot. Give them specific instructions on how to pose, where to look, and how to express themselves. For example, you might tell them to tilt their head slightly, to relax their shoulders, or to give a natural smile. You can also ask them to think of a happy memory or something that makes them feel confident, to help them relax and give a natural expression. Also, be sure to check and adjust their posture, hair, and clothing to make sure everything is in place for the final shot.

If one of our clients is struggling with their facial expressions, we recommend they close their eyes for 15-20 seconds and put themselves in a situation that made them smile (e.g. comedy show they went to, last joke their friends said, etc.). The moment they open their eyes and put on a smile is when we snap our shot.


The final step in creating a perfect studio headshot is post-processing. This is where you'll make any final adjustments to the image, such as color correction and retouching. But it's important to remember that less is more when it comes to post-processing. You want to enhance the image, not change it. Avoid over-editing and excessive use of filters, as they can make your client look unnatural. Instead, focus on making small adjustments that will enhance the final image, such as removing blemishes or smoothing out wrinkles.

It's a Wrap

Taking the perfect studio headshot requires a combination of technical skill and artistic vision. As a headshot photographer, it's your responsibility to make your clients look their best, and by following these tips, you'll be able to create headshots that truly stand out. Remember to always listen to your client's needs, pay attention to the details, and be open to experimenting with new techniques. With the right approach, you'll be able to create headshots that truly stand out and make your clients look like the stars they are.

Jasmeet Singh's picture

Lead photographer at 415Headshots, SF Bay Area's premier headshot studio. Specializing in crafting unique headshots for actors, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Empowering clients to present their best selves through truly reflective headshots.

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Totally agree!

In regards to the background “change,” I have a backlight (bare bulb) behind the subject pointing towards a gray background. I add a colored gel to get a different color. Makes the background “change” process take 30 seconds. 😁