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by Emma Butler

How to Take a Decent Head Shot Using Your Phone

Illustration of a polaroid headshot shows a white man smiling and says Proof 8

In a perfect world, your brother/sister/mother/child would be a professional photographer who owed you a favour. You’d have them take beautiful head shots of you and your employees for FREE, which you’d then toss on your recently redesigned website for the world to see.

Alas, we live in an imperfect world.

But do not fret! This doesn’t mean you have to settle for crappy head shots on your website. Budget and time constraints often lead our smaller clients to taking a DIY approach to head shots for their websites, and you know what? That’s ok. While we encourage everyone to seek out a professional photographer to take brilliant portraits of their team, we understand that sometimes you just need to get images of your staff on your website as quickly as possible. And sometimes, the only decent camera you have kicking around is the one nestled inside your trusty iPhone (or Galaxy Note, if you swing that way).

We’ve compiled a few handy tips on how to take a decent head shot with your phone — follow these and you will end up with A++ images you’ll be proud to use to grow your business.

Have someone else take your photo

Although there are plenty of people on Instagram who have mastered the “art of the selfie”, we suggest having a friend or colleague take your headshot — the result is much more professional. (Plus, the front-facing camera on your phone takes lower resolution images.)

Use a neutral background

Choosing a neutral background — a plain or brick wall, a fence, even some simple greenery — will keep the focus on you. Watch out for objects in the background that might end up looking like they’re sticking out of your head.

Use even lighting

Probably the most important tip we can give you! If you’re outdoors, find a nice shaded spot to have your photo taken. Being photographed in direct sunlight creates bright highlights and heavy shadows on a person’s face, which isn’t very flattering. Overcast days are the best for shooting outdoors, because the light is very even. If your photo has to be taken indoors, try to find a spot that is lit with natural lighting (from a window).

Jen Salamandick posing, one incorrect and the other correctly.
A neutral background, casual pose, and even lighting make for a great image. (Photos shot on iPhone 5S.)

Stand out!

Wear clothing that contrasts with your chosen background — no one wants to blend in with a grey wall! To look natural, wear the kind of outfit that you would normally wear to work. Dressing up in a tux is not necessary.

Pick a style and stick to it

Brand consistency is important — and the same is true for your headshots. Pick a style and stick to it! Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean making everyone stand in the exact same pose wearing the exact same thing, unless maybe your small business is a summer camp. Making little things consistent is important, such as using the same (or similar type of) background and shooting everyone at the same time of day (to match lighting). By doing this, you ensure each of your team members’ images look like they came from the same place.

Approved photos of Jen Salamandick and Emma Butler have green checkmarks. A third photo of Jen Salamandick is incorrect and has a red X over it.
Style: the first two images have a similar background and a similar pose. The third one leaves a lot to be desired…

VOGUE. (Just kidding — strike a casual pose.)

Try and stand in a way that is relaxed, with your body angled slightly away from the camera. Fold your arms, have your hands on your hips, or put your hands in your pockets — whatever feels most natural. Remember to keep your shoulders back and your chin up.

Hold your phone steady

Make sure the photographer keeps the phone as still as they can by using both hands, and keeping their elbows tucked into their sides for support. (Breath normally — don’t let the pressure of being a photographer cause you to hyperventilate.)

Use HDR mode

HDR is a mode of shooting that combines several exposures to create a single picture with more detail and a greater range of tones and colours. If your phone’s camera has it available, please use it.

A screenshot of the iPhone camera app taking a photo of a white man wearing a blue button up shirt.
Using the autofocus and HDR features help you achieve a better image.

Lock the auto-focus

Tap (or hold, depending on your phone) the screen where you want the camera to focus — the face — to lock the focus and keep the image sharp.

Give your head some space

Remember to leave space around your head and shoulders — the image can always be cropped tighter later if necessary. Don’t worry about including the lower torso and legs — this is a headshot, after all!

Don’t use digital zoom

Digital zoom lowers the resolution (and therefore quality) of an image. Have the person taking your photo step closer to you instead.

Shoot away!

The beauty of digital cameras (including phone cameras) is that you can take as many pictures as you want until you get the right one. Don’t be afraid to take a few — you can always delete (or meme) the ones that don’t work out!

Four photos of Jen Salamandick smiling
There's no such thing as too many photos! (Photos shot on iPhone 5S.)

That’s all there is to it! We wish you the best of luck with your DIY head shots. When you’re ready to get some professional portraits taken, get in touch — we can recommend some awesome photographers.


Andy Kuipers profile picture Andy Kuiper says:

Thanks you, I enjoyed this article Emma 🙂 Good tips

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

Thanks Andy, I hope you can use some of these tips in the future.

DC Crowleys profile picture DC Crowley says:

Clever and to the point… And it’s how to succeed in life ???? use what you have and measure it kick ass. But my tip is… Diagonal! Shoulders one way, face the other and do not shoot straight in front of anything if you can

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

Cheers! “Diagonal posing” is a great tip too — angles are key, so thanks for sharing.

Mathew H,s profile picture Mathew H, says:

Diagonal Posing it is!! Thanks for the tip!!

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

You’re welcome! Have fun with your shots.

Cuteeks profile picture Cuteek says:

Really good tips thanks. I hope to implement them for my new LinkedIn profile photo.

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

Glad you found it helpful — I hope you end up with a stunning LinkedIn image!

Vinces profile picture Vince says:

Stunning models throughout this article.

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

We only hire the best.

Edmonton blog roundup: Sept. 7, 2015 | Seen and Heard in Edmonton says:

[…] Butler offers tips on how to take a decent head shot with your […]

Jerry Mikielski, Jr.s profile picture Jerry Mikielski, Jr. says:

Sharing this out on LinkedIn!
2 cents: Where are the Social Media Sharing buttons on your site?!

Jen Salamandicks profile picture Jen Salamandick says:

We’ve had them in the past, and they were widely unused. They slow things down, and since we removed them we have seen a significant increase in comments on blog posts. Thanks for sharing on LinkedIn, Jerry!

www.mosumartdesign.coms profile picture www.mosumartdesign.com says:

Dear Emma,
Thanks for this valuable and very informative post…I’ll try this DIY!Keep posting..

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

You’re welcome, I hope you end up with some solid results!

Lisa Tserings profile picture Lisa Tsering says:

Great advice, I want to try all of these.

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

Go for it — there’s no such thing as taking too many photos, so keep shooting until you end up with a winner!

Faylinns profile picture Faylinn says:

Tomorrow, I am taking headshot pictures for my friend and I am a bit nervous about doing that since I don’t have any camera equipment. Yet, I do have a phone and so I am hoping that I can use your tips to help my friend come up with the best photos. I especially like your point on not using direct lighting. In the past when I have used a camera, I have always done pictures closer to a window for the effect of natural lighting. One of the tricks that I also used was to move my hand around to test out where the lighting was best. I’ll probably play around with the lighting when I’m taking the pictures with my phone as well.

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

Awesome Faylinn! Natural lighting is the way to go. It sounds like you already have a good handle on how to approach taking headshots on a phone — hopefully these tips help you nail that shoot tomorrow!

Gregs profile picture Greg says:

Yes! Thank you! This is perfect to send to our partners who think .5kb images taken in the dark on a 1995 computer cam are just fine.

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

Haha I hear you — hopefully these pointers help!

Side Business 101: Avoid Common Problems Getting Started says:

[…] Taking a decent headshot with your phone. […]

Erick Granadoss profile picture Erick Granados says:


Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)s profile picture Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss) says:

Thanks for these tips. Lighting can be really tricky to get right.

I agree about standing in shade, but I’d also say make sure the background isn’t too bright (e.g. because it’s sunlit) or the person might come out underexposed. (I must say, my 1st reaction was that a plain background and even lighting can make for a boring shot! But then I realised they’re the safest bet for decent results.)

Great tips about contrasting with the background, and taking several shots – not things many people think of!

I did a makeover of a headshot for use on a speaker-bio PowerPoint slide. Would love to hear what you think.

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

Cheers for sharing your thoughts — it’s always imperative to be aware of not under(or over)exposing any image. I took at look at your PowerPoint slide headshot makeover, and the “after” is definitely an improvement, nice one!

Rachels profile picture Rachel says:

While I’d love to get a professional head shot done, it looks like taking one on my phone could be a great option as well! I’ll have to keep the lighting tips in mind, because I find that’s something I struggle with when taking photos. Thanks for sharing!

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

You’re welcome! Lighting can be tricky, but if you take the time to get it right it’s often the major difference between an amateur or a more professional looking shot.

What You Need to Know About Making a Killer Freelancer Profile says:

[…] there is no need to shell out hundreds of dollars for professional photos. You actually can take a professional-looking headshot on your […]

Emily Francis Stewarts profile picture Emily Francis Stewart says:

This was an awesome and helpful article. Thank you very much for sharing..

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

You’re very welcome!

Job Hunting? Here are 5 Best Kept Secrets to Get a Recruiter’s Attention on LinkedIn says:

[…] camera phone and good lighting can do wonders. Just make sure someone else takes it! Here are some great tips for mastering the DIY […]

Manny Bes profile picture Manny Be says:

Thanks for this valuable and very informative post!!

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

No problem, hope you found the tips useful!

TOM Coms profile picture TOM Com says:

nice sharing!! thanks for this helpful post. great ideas.

Emma Butlers profile picture Emma Butler says:

You’re welcome, hope they come in handy for you!

Ellens profile picture Ellen says:

Really appreciate you sharing this post. Great info!

Clayton Thomass profile picture Clayton Thomas says:

Thank you all for the comments and tips. Have a wonderful day!!

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