In this article I’ll share with you my top tips for taking headshots at home. Using only window light, your smartphone and a few cheap accessories. Then how to add the finishing touches using free pro editing apps on your mobile.
I’m Daniel, a professional headshot photographer in Rutland.
Choose the right room
Choose a room with a plain wall to use as a backdrop. Or at least something that will not be too distracting. We’ll be relying on natural window light so make sure the room has a window you can stand in front of. Turn off all other lights in the room. Having mixed light sources with different light temperatures will not help. The photograph below shows the room and window I have chosen for this headshots at home guide.
It’s better if it’s not a bright sunny day, as this can cause you to squint. It can also add hotspots to the skin on your face. An overcast cloudy day will produce softer light. Another suggestion would be to use a room on the opposite side of the house to the sun. That way there will be no direct harsh sunlight, and instead a softer light and shadows.
As a bonus, windows add a nice catchlight to your eyes.
Position the camera to avoid distortion
You want the smartphone to be at eye level with you. A few simple accessories that can help with this are a light stand and a photography clamp. Be sure not to have any horizontal lines in the background running through your head, or any objects appearing to be sticking out from it. Therefore, a plain non distracting wall as a backdrop works well.
Cameras on smartphones typically have what you’d call wide angle lenses. And as such if you position your head too close to the top or the bottom of the photo, you will start to see distortion. I’ve included an example of lens distortion to illustrate what I mean.
Do a clothing check
Do a quick clothing check. Ensuring tops aren’t puckered or creased. Shirts or blouse collars should be fitted around the neck. And generally, make sure your clothing is neat, even and as tidy looking as possible. I won’t go into a complete ‘what to wear’ checklist here but keep it simple and not too distracting. We want the primary focus on you not what you’re wearing.
Relax your neck and shoulders
Once you’ve set up your phone and gone through the other items above. Take a breath. Make sure your neck and shoulders are relaxed and try not to tense up. Roll and shrug your shoulders a few times to release any tension.
Have fun with it. Talk to yourself, pull some silly faces. Maybe have a friend with you who also wants to update their headshots too. Being relaxed will be clear in the photographs. You can always remove the ones you don’t like afterwards.
Position the camera at eye level
Keep you eyes at the same height as the camera lens. Don’t tilt your head backwards as the camera will be looking up your nostrils. Remember the earlier point about lens distortions on smartphones. Keep you head away from the top and bottom of the picture. I will show you how to crop the photograph later, when we looked at editing.
Take plenty of headshots and choose the best
There is no harm in taking plenty of shots. You can always remove the images you don’t like or want to keep afterwards. That’s the beauty of digital photography. Professional photographers rarely get the shot in one take, so don’t be put off by taking 10-20 headshots. Give yourself some time to settle into it. You’ve got this far so keep with it.
In the examples above, you can see I am standing square on. This is my personal preference but not the only option. For people with wider shoulders it may not be the best pose. When I guide my clients with posing we always start from the feet up.
So to try a different pose, first turn your feet 45 degrees. Then twist your waist around and shoulders to follow. Be careful not to turn too far though as this creates lines in your neck.
Set the timer on your camera app to take the photos
Most camera apps on smartphones have a timer function. This will let you press the button to take a photo, but instead of it taking instantly will start a 5-10 second countdown. This gives you a chance to compose yourself and get in the right position.
This is where the use of a lighting stand and phone holding clamp comes in useful. Links below to the gear I used for this article.
Use of a lighting stand lets you take a photo other than what you normally do with a selfie.
Try a variety of expressions
Try to mix up the photos with different facial expressions. Some smiling, some serious, maybe a Blue Steel from Zoolander if you’re feeling adventurous. In all seriousness though, it may help to have a friend with you. Someone who can laugh with you and give you some feedback on the results. If you have 3-4 good headshots you like you’re doing well.
Use a free editing app to add the finishing touches
One of the apps I use for editing as a photographer is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. There is a free version of this app for mobile phones and it has a lot of useful tools for editing.
The first part of editing is to crop the photo with the CROP tool. Leave some space above the head when cropping and keep the shoulders in shot. Headshots consist of head and shoulders only. When you consider most profile photos used on social media are quite small. We ideally want to use as much of those pixels as possible so people can see who you are. I would also suggest changing the crop ratio to 2 x 3.
As a bonus tip. I like to use a circle profile photo in my email signature too. I found a very useful website from Adobe that turns any photo into a circle for you, ready to place into your email signature. Turn your profile photo into a circle.
Changing the exposure. If you’d like to make the photo lighter or darker you can use the Exposure slider in Lightroom found under the LIGHT button. Move the slider left or right to adjust the image as needed.
If you’d like to see how I approach editing a photograph using the free mobile version of Lightroom, look at my headshots at home video. The editing with Lightroom content starts at 5 min 58 seconds into the video.