Headshot Tips for Executives

  • by SalientMG Team
  • Jan 23, 2019

At the start of a new year, we encourage you to take stock of your digital presence and find the areas that require a refresh. Maybe you’ve changed roles, or you’ve lead your company to develop a streamlined vision and mission; if any of these, then update your LinkedIn experience and descriptions to show that. Or have you googled yourself? What comes up? What about your other social handles like Twitter? When was the last time you sent out a tweet?

Perhaps you checked all of those things, but you’re missing a key item. Something that is often overlooked for the things previously mentioned is your headshot. This headshot should be the same across your social handles and show up in the top image results under your name in search results. Consistency is key, but more importantly, when was this headshot taken? As we dive right into 2019, it may be the best time to get your new headshot taken.

We had the opportunity to interview an expert on this — Heather Crowder, a seasoned photographer from Lightbox Studio based in Annapolis, MD. Below she tells executives and other professionals everything they need to know about their headshot.

General Questions About Headshots

SalientMG (SMG): Who needs a professional headshot?

Heather Crowder (HC): Virtually anyone who is, or wants to be employed and viewed as a professional in their field. Whether you’re a medical professional, attorney, entrepreneur, sales or corporate executive, YOU are your brand, and your image is one of your most important business tools. Social media is now the driving force of marketing for businesses of all sizes, and imagery is a big part of that. More than just a flattering photograph, an updated, professional headshot is important in conveying who you are to your target audience, and what you want to communicate to your potential client.

SMG: At what stage of someone’s career should they get a headshot?

HC: At any time, but in today’s market, with social media and imagery driving things, the sooner the better.

SMG: How often should you update your headshot?

HC: As often as “you” change. For most people, this may be every 2-3 years because even a subtle change in the way you wear your hair or makeup can make a difference in your appearance. If your audience changes, this is also a time for an update — you want to be sure that your image “speaks” clearly to the audience you’re trying to reach.

SMG: How many different headshots should someone take?

HC: Variety is key in today’s social media and image dominated world! You don’t necessarily need a different image for each platform, but variety across those platforms is great. And some images work better in some cases than other — i.e. the amazing ¾ body shot “environmental” shot that you have of yourself on location that works for your website, may not work for LinkedIn, where ‘real estate is small’ and the background should be solid and uncluttered so that all of the focus in your face. In addition to a variety of expressions and ‘poses’ I also recommend a variety of clothing options. Your day-to-day look may be business casual, which may be fine for your clients, but if you’re asked to speak at a industry convention, you should have an image with a more buttoned up look. An arsenal of 4—10+ unique images is ideal. We call this “personal branding.”

Photography Elements

SMG: What are the elements that go into a great headshot? (Lighting, colors, overall “vibe”, etc)

HC: First of all — hire a pro! A pro is going to know how to create the best lighting, ‘move’ you into positions that are going to be flattering and appropriate for the audience you’re reaching and will ask a lot of questions about what you want your images to “say” — i.e., what vibe are you looking for.

Key elements include — lighting, wardrobe, location/background, ‘polish’ (pro hair and makeup), and most importantly a pro who can put all of this together, make you comfortable in front of the camera and bring out your best

SMG: What is the best background?

HC: Depends on the audience — simple is always great for ‘standard’ headshots, LinkedIn, etc because the focus is on the face. Environmental (on location) images are great when taken in the right setting, to create images for a specific audience.

SMG: Is there a certain time of day you should take your headshot if you want an outdoor scenery?

HC: This really depends on the scene… most importantly avoid harsh light (shooting on the water at high noon), but if you’re working with a pro, they’ll find and know ideal lighting, and can modify it or augment as necessary to create what lighting is needed

SMG: What about lighting?

HC: An executive (in my opinion) should put enough emphasis and importance in their professional image that they should hire a pro and let them handle the key element of lighting.


SMG: How do you showcase your professional attitude and personality in the headshot?

HC: RELAX! If you’re being photographed professionally, the photographer should cue you through the process of getting comfortable in front of the camera, while at the same time finding your best angles and expressions. To be relaxed, schedule in the morning before the madness of your day starts, or at the point in your day where you can let work go for a bit.

SMG: What should an executive wear for a headshot? (men and women)


First — Professional Hair and Makeup styling and application is really a must for a polished, professional look, (unless you’re really great at doing your own). The time you give yourself to have someone do your hair and makeup gives you a great opportunity to relax before being photographed, and adds so much confidence because you know you’re looking your best in front of the camera. If you’re doing your own, style your hair as you normally do, go a little heavier on makeup (eyes and lips) than usual. Don’t stress about blemishes, etc those things are easily addressed in retouching.

Jewelry and accessories go far, but I suggest not wearing a long necklace as they tend to get cropped right around the bust-line and then don’t look quite right in your finished images.

Be conscious of the neckline of what you’re wearing

Don’t be afraid of color, pattern and texture — all contribute to the finished image! Don’t think too traditionally — ie a blazer and button down! Most importantly, consider your audience, you should be wearing what they “expect” you to wear — so that you appear approachable and in the “right” space for what you do.

SMG: How can execs’ headshots stand out, but remain professional?

HC: #1 Pro hair and make-up (this is also #2-10) makes an incredible difference. Clothing, accessories and styling go far — think a little out of the box (see above). If appropriate, an on — location image or unique pose can go far as well — another reason to hire a pro — they know how to do this!

SMG: Are there any colors an executive should avoid wearing?

HC: Anything that doesn’t look good on them — be mindful of skin tone and hair color and wear what looks good on your — not what you “think” you “should” wear.

SMG: Should executives have color or black & white (or both) photos?

HC: This is ideal, but really personal preference. And definitely talk to the photographer — lighting a black and white photograph can be different than lighting a color image

Technical Questions

SMG: What size should a headshot be (in pixels) and resolution?

HC: This really depends on where it’s been used — but larger the better so you don’t lose the quality. Go for as big as the platform will allow on pixel ratio and resolution.

SMG: Is there a certain file type the headshot should be in?

HC: Typically .jpg is what most entities will ask for.

Online Presence

SMG: Where should someone use their headshot?

HC: EVERYWHERE! And tailor the image to the platform — website, social media, any industry specific websites where you can have a listing, etc.

SMG: What other photography should executives consider having on hand/using?

HC: If they have a great workspace images of that are nice, but not necessarily ‘cliche’ at their desk images. Key team members should be photographed as well — it gives them a boost and also puts their most professional face in front of clients, etc,

SMG: Why should executives use a professional photographer?

HC: In the end, not only does it result in the best images possible, but also makes the experience easy and ‘complete.’

Top Things to Avoid

SMG: What are the top things execs should avoid doing when getting a headshot?


  • Do not crop yourself out of a vacation or family photo
  • Be photographed in the best lighting possible
  • Wear something appropriate to your industry
  • Spring for pro hair and make-up — it makes a HUGE difference
  • Capture a variety of looks, poses, wardrobe — variety is key in today’s world HIRE A PRO — they know how to do all of this and more, and will guide you when shooting to create images that are perfect for you and your audience



Categories:Executive Visibility

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