In the age of COVID-19, it’s not surprising that most professional photography studios have shut down or limited operations until the end of the pandemic. Even though a professional studio will take all precautions possible, there is always the slight risk of disease transmission in your commute. (At least without a vaccine.)
But, many people still need headshots for new jobs, sales presentations and company websites – so there’s been a massive increase in online searches for the term “how to take a professional headshot at home.”
In this guide, we’ll teach you exactly how to take a professional headshot using an iPhone at home. While the quality of the photo won’t be close to an actual professional session, the photos you will take in this guide will be 10x better than most selfies and other low-quality photos on LinkedIn these days.
At the end of this guide, we’ll also tell you how you can take your iPhone headshot to the next level with remote professional editing services.
5 Steps for Taking Professional Headshots at Home
Step 1: Scope Out Your Home Lighting
In general, you’re going to be looking for two things: A) where you can stand that will have flattering lighting landing on your face, and B) of the locations that fit criteria A, which ones have a clean/attractive background.
In your home, you face a couple of challenges:
First, you’ll want to avoid using overhead lighting. It’s unflattering, distracting, and obscures your eyes. However, you also don’t have access to professional photography lighting. So, for whatever lighting setup you use, if you’re shooting indoors, make sure to turn off all overhead lights.
Second, your house probably has a ton of distracting objects/clutter in the background, so you’ll need to avoid those areas.
Decent original shot. But the windows (the room’s main light source) are behind me, so I’m backlit. The items on the couch are also distracting.
The safest bet is to go near a window, or door, and use the room behind you as the backdrop. You’ll want to pick the brightest window possible, but not have the sun shining directly on you.
The light from the window should create even lighting across your body, with minimal distracting shadows.
At this time of day, the sun is shining directly into the window. Too bright.
If you’re unsure, take a couple selfies in different windows at different times of day – then compare the results. Remember, you want to be facing directly into the light.
While you’re searching for the right window, try to avoid using an overtly domestic backdrop like a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom in the background. Living rooms and/or home offices are good options.
Good lighting, but distracting objects in the background.
So, the best in-home option that fits both criteria would be a living room, office or library that has a sunny window or door.
Interestingly enough, the best spot in my house in San Francisco is here:
The material over the window slightly filters the light so that it lands on my face. The wall to the left is off-white, which will be important later. Time to move the bike and start shooting.
You can also go outside, but you should still make sure that A) the lighting is evenly hitting your body, and B) you’re happy with the items in the background.
Step 2: Recruit Your ”Photographer”
While a professional camera will produce a much higher-quality photo, shooting your professional headshot using an iPhone is OK in a pinch (i.e. For replacing a selfie that will be placed on an application that’s due tomorrow…)
Note: We do not recommend shooting your professional headshot on an iPhone if it can be avoided. But, particularly these days, sometimes it is necessary.
While you’ll probably grab whatever person is closest (friend, roommate or loved one), if you can, try to pick someone who will give you candid feedback on your pose/smile.
There’s an art to proper headshot coaching that they won’t be able to deliver, but humans are notoriously bad at selecting photos of ourselves, so any candid feedback will help. If you can, pick someone who is enthusiastic and willing to take several photos.
When you recruit your photographer, instruct them to take the photo from your eye-level height and tilted slightly downwards.
Step 3: Dress Appropriately
Take a look at our guide on the topic here: How to Dress for Business Headshots
In general, you’ll want to wear formal clothing that’s predominantly based in solid colors. Try to avoid too much makeup, distracting jewelry and bold patterns. These choices will distract from your headshot.
For your at-home headshot, you’ll also want to consider your background. Try to wear an outfit that has high contrast with your background. A light-toned shirt with a dark blazer is a classic professional look – and if you have the standard off-white walls, will help you stand out nicely.
If you have messy “quarantine hair,” try to use some styling spray, water or gel to get the majority of the stray strands under control.
If you have facial hair, we’d recommend shaving the night before. If you shave on the same day, you may get razor bumps and irritation.
Step 4: Take Your Shots!
Take at least 20 photos. You may be uncomfortable in front of the camera, but avoid the temptation to take one photo and then quit. The more options you have, the better your chances of capturing a photo that you actually like.
Try a couple poses, and try a couple locations that fit the criteria in Step 1.
The more options you have, the better your chances of capturing a photo that both you like and is professional.
If taking your headshots outdoors, instruct the “photographer” to take your photos using the “Portrait Mode” on your phone — this setting will blur the background.
It’s also very important to take your photo using the forward-facing camera on your phone. The “selfie” camera on the screen-side is a significantly worse lens that will distort your at-home headshot.
Try several photos with a full smile, half smile, and resting face.
Here are some simple poses you can try: How to Pose for Professional Headshots
In general, you’ll want to:
1) Make sure to lean into the camera. The majority of your weight should rest on your front foot.
2) Turn 10 to 30 degrees to the side. Facing the camera straight can look friendly, but is inherently not flattering.
3) Look directly into the camera phone lens.
Step 5: Get Your Photo Edited (Optional)
If you’d like to remove acne and stray hairs, whiten teeth, and generally improve the quality of your photo, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll happily edit your photo for a $99 fee.
If you took your photo with a white blank wall in the background, we can also replace the background with a set of studio/outdoor options.
Note: You NEED to have a blank white/off-white wall in the background, or we can’t remove the background.
Here is the original iPhone 12 headshot I did at home:
Here is that same photo with our editing process:
Here is that edited photo on my LinkedIn profile:
That being said, a headshot taken with an iPhone doesn’t really compare to a real professional headshot. iPhone’s have a wide-angle distorted lens that make them an ideal general-purpose camera. But, the wide angle tends to emphasize your nose and distort the photo in other ways.
So, if you can swing it, make sure to get a real professional headshot!
Thanks for reading! Follow this guide and you’ll have a fairly decent headshot for job applications, zoom meetings, and your LinkedIn profile.
While we hope this guide was helpful, we hope you can tell the difference between an iPhone headshot and a real professional headshot. To see headshot packages starting at just $150, head over to our pricing pages for Individual Sessions or Team Sessions.
Thanks for reading!