1. Hire a Headshot Photographer
Headshot photography is a specialized skill. A jack of all trades is a master of none. Hiring your friend “the hobby photographer” to take your headshot is like visiting the medi-clinic to treat a cavity in your mouth. Sure, the doctor might have an idea of what needs to be done. But to get the job done right you need a specialist. You might get lucky with another specialist, like a wedding photographer who has invested in their craft, but make sure they also specialize in headshots. The truth is, if you want a professional headshot you’ll need to do some homework and find a photographer who specializes in headshot photography. If you find a photographer whose portfolio interests you but you don’t see a lot (or any) headshots to compare, reach out to them and request to see their work. If they don’t have anything to show, move on.
2. Word Of Mouth
First hand reviews are essential. You can search for reviews on Facebook or Yelp but you should also check the photographer’s Google Business Page. If they are a professional, they'll have their business linked in Google Maps. If you aren't able to source out any reviews, you can contact the photographer and ask for references. When speaking to references, ask, “would you hire this photographer again?” If the answer is no, keep looking.
3. Does Their Style Speak To You?
Finding a photographer is similar to ordering your favourite meal. If you want a perfectly grilled steak, you don’t go to the vegetarian joint down the road and ask them to throw one on the grill. Think of your headshot in the same way. Good photographers have a style or “flavour” infused into their work. Rather than finding the right look and asking a photographer to mimic it, find a photographer with a style that speaks to you and go from there. Don’t get me wrong, some photographers will try to achieve the look or style you are asking for. But in the end, you will probably end up eating perfectly grilled portobello mushroom instead of the medium rare ribeye that you were craving from the start.
4. Are They Consistent?
Consistency equals professionalism. If you can see quality images throughout their portfolio you can walk into the headshot session confident that you will receive the same quality of work. If the portfolio is all over the map, with a variety of styles that don’t seem to fit a similar theme, then it’s hard to know what you’re in for. Don't let one amazing image be the one to rule them all. Who knows where and when they took that. A consistent portfolio is proof that the photographer can replicate the quality and style that you are drawn to over and over again.
5. Don’t Let Cost Be The Only Deciding Factor
What's the lifetime of a headshot? Well, that depends. The short answer is: a headshot lasts as long as it still looks like you (2 to 3 years is a good rule of thumb). It’s an investment in yourself, in your company, and in your brand. With that in mind, let's look at the math. Over the course of 2 years, a $300 headshot session will cost you $12.50 a month. If you use it for 3 years, you’re paying less than the price of your Netflix subscription. While we can all agree that Netflix is great, it doesn’t help you get a job or promote your brand. An excellent headshot, one that makes you feel great and expresses exactly what you want to convey, is priceless in it's own way.
Choose quality. Like with most purchases, a cheaper price nets you a cheaper product. A quality headshot taken by a professional will last longer, attract more clients and, ultimately, make you money. Also, in most cases, headshots are a tax deductible business expense. That’s a win-win!
6. Expression, Expression, Expression
Nailing an excellent headshot is all about expression. The best lighting and background in the world won't save a crappy expression. Your photographer should know how to coach you. I know what you’re thinking, “How the heck do I find out if the photographer knows how to pull out authentic expressions?” Their work will speak for itself. Besides the portfolio that is shared on their business website, checkout their social media for the images they aren’t sharing in their portfolio. Focus on the expressions. Are they all confident? Are they all approachable? Are they relaxed and energized? Or is there tension? Do some people look out of it? Do you see any deer-in-the-headlights looks? Anyone look miserable? An excellent headshot photographer knows how to get the best out of every single subject. They also know how to tell if an expression is authentic or not. If the expressions in their work rock, then you are in good hands.
7. Check Out HeadshotCrew.com
What is the headshot crew? The Headshot Crew is an online search engine built for you to find the best headshot specialist in your area. Just punch in your location and you'll get a list of photographers closest to you. The site is the brainchild of Peter Hurley, the worlds premiere headshot photographer. The Headshot Crew is host to the largest group of headshot specialists in the world, at a whopping 13,000 members in over 130 countries worldwide, it's an excellent resource for you to start your journey.