I get a lot of questions about pictures for resumes, postcards, LinkedIn profiles, and personal websites. Whether you plan to include your picture on a resume or not, there are lots of other places to use one. So, I highly recommend you get a professional or really good amateur headshot.
Keep in mind, I am no photographer, but I have been a graphic designer for more than 20 years. I know a good photo when I see one, but don’t know how to necessarily take it myself.
Your best photos will almost always be taken by a professional, but here are some tips for an amateur shot.
If you are taking a professional picture (presumably with a friend), one of the most important factors is lighting. The best way to get great lighting is to go outdoors during the day. Natural light is in abundance and most digital/phone cameras can perform quite well in this setting.
I see lots of pictures taken against a white wall or really light-colored smooth wall. That kind of shot is good if you can Photoshop out the background and add something interesting. But by itself, it looks uninteresting or possibly like a mug shot.
Find a spot where you can incorporate an interesting background. Look for textures and color, and seek a nice contrast with what you are wearing. Trees and bushes adjacent to a brick or stucco building work great, but try several different combinations.
There’s also a tendency to position your head and shoulders straight on – square with the camera. But it looks much better to pose a little and there are lots of ways to do this, so try several things.
For example, look at the camera but turn your body/shoulders to the right or left just a little. You could even try tilting your head slightly in a way that feels nature to see how that feels.
Obviously, it’s important to smile. But you have lots of smiles, so practice in the mirror to find one you feel captures a genuine, yet confident look. Forced and overly-dramatic smiles never come across as genuine and can actually harm your credibility and professionalism. Keep it real, natural, relaxed and comfortable.
I tell job seekers who need a resume or postcard picture to wear what they would wear to a job a job interview. But you could also have a lab coat handy and get some shots for that on-the-job look. You may even want to accessorize with items you work with – pair of loupes around your neck or maybe clipboard. This type of a shot helps the employer more clearly envision you working for them.
For those who are doing more extensive professional photography (mostly for a personal website or other marketing materials), you’ll want to also get some casual and full- or waist-up shots. Consider also some shots interacting with people or speaking to an audience. Those can be more challenging to organize, but also very effective.
A good head shot is important to your career. I think it helps create personal connections with employers and that brings about trust. And trust is a key ingredient to getting hired.
Doug Perry is an expert resume writer and job search coach. He and his wife, Tracie, who is a dental hygienist, created GetHiredRDH in response to the challenging dental hygiene job market and have helped thousands of dental hygienists through tips and individual services. If you need individual, click here to contact Doug.