How to take a selfie headshot

Some photographers would never post something like this. From an income standpoint, that makes sense, I suppose. I am always trying to find more clients, but more than any amount of money earned, providing a valuable service is important to me. I know that what I charge for a headshot session isn’t the cheapest in town or even in my neighbourhood! However, I do know that my knowledge and use of body/head positioning and expression direction provide my clients with photos they love. If another photographer can deliver the same experience for $49, they really need to raise their rates!

I know that not everyone who wants or needs a headshot is going to come to me. I’m okay with that. And I know that there are times, like these, where it may be impossible to walk into a photo studio and have a professional headshot taken by a photographer specializing in headshots. When I poke around LinkedIn, I see SO many really awful profile photos. It takes restraint to not beg them to hire me to shoot their business portraits and headshots. Cropping that photo someone took of you at the family BBQ to just show your pixelated face doesn’t look professional. It could actually harm your business profile when you consider how you only get one shot at a first impression.

So, seeing as we’ve been at home for so long and only recently have photo studios reopened, I thought I would write a guide on how to shoot a passable selfie headshot, in case you need one but can’t get it. Read it all below. And if you’re in Toronto (or you’re a fan of paying for other people’s travel) and you are looking for a great photographic experience and even better results, give me a call.


- Use natural light (but don’t actually shoot your photo outside).

- Take your photo around 2’ away from but facing a window. The sunnier the day, the further back from the window you should be. You want soft, diffused light and you want to avoid glare on your skin.

- Make sure your background isn’t busy. The ideal is a plain painted single-tone wall with nothing on it. Keep about a foot off the wall so any shadows are soft. Bedding can sub in for a backdrop if you’re inclined to do so.

- If you have to choose between the window and the wall, choose the wall. Exposure can usually be improved in post-production. 

If you have to choose the wall without window light, make sure the lighting is even and indirect. Overhead lighting will put pockets of shadow in your eye sockets. Use a flash as a last resort. You can diffuse the harsh flash from a phone by covering it with a piece of tissue paper.


-Use the best camera you have, at the highest resolution your camera allows

-Look into the lens

-Keep the camera lens level with your eyes. Don’t shoot from high up or down low.

-Frame yourself in the shot from just above the top of the head to just above the elbow.

-Don’t cut off shoulders/outside edges of arms. Don’t cut off any part of the body.


-Take three photos

    • One with straight shoulders, head on to the camera
    • One each with your left and right shoulder turned to the camera. 

    • Don’t turn more than 10º. Turn (don’t twist) from the waist by stepping the lead foot out a few inches. 

    • Turn your head back to the camera. If that’s difficult, untwist your shoulder back.

- Keep your arms at your sides. Do not fold your arms or clasp your hands together.

- Tilt your chin slightly down

- Try to not ‘over-smile’. Huge toothy smiles like someone is demanding you say ‘cheese’ look inauthentic. Small smiles are just as effective. A small smile starts with a lips straight inline, then pull up the edges of the mouth back toward the ears.

- Try to avoid jewelry, zippers, big buttons, etc., anything that might be distracting. If you wear glasses, make sure they’re pushed back on your nose.


- Is the shot in focus?

- Are you looking at the camera?

- Is your chin tilted down?

- Is the exposure good or is the photo too bright (highlights/glare on your skin) or too dark?

- Do you like the photo?

If you answered yes to all 5, POST IT!

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