Table of contents

How to take a professional headshot

By Dreamwave editorial team



Having a good professional headshot on your LinkedIn, personal website, and more is important for making a strong first impression online. This article will teach you how to make a professional headshot using an iPhone or any high-end smartphone.

You don't need a fancy office or professional lighting. We’ll show you how to take a professional headshot at home that still looks great.

While the photo quality might not match a studio session, the pictures you take using this guide will be much better than most selfies and low-quality profile pictures on LinkedIn.

Note: if you’d like to skip the steps in this guide and get professional headshots from any photos you already have on your phone, check out our AI headshots offering. Upload a few photos of yourself and get back hundreds of professional headshots in a variety of backgrounds, outfits, and more. Our packages start at $35 for 120+ professional headshots in a full range of backgrounds and outfits, so you can quickly find the photo that you like to use as a professional headshot. There’s no need to pose, get dressed up, purchase outfits, spend time to get the lighting right, etc.

Photoshoot prep

Outfit: To make a great first impression online, we strongly suggest not wearing a t-shirt or hoodie in your headshot. A collared shirt, polo, sweater, or anything slightly dressier than casual wear will make a much better impression.

Solid colors are best. We recommend avoiding large logos and bold patterns, as they can be distracting. Ensure your clothes are wrinkle-free and properly arranged (especially collars).

Makeup: If you’d like to wear makeup in your photo, we recommend using simple makeup styles that you’d wear to work.

Hair: Be sure to take the time to style your hair in the way you want it. Having a little hairspray on hand can also be helpful for any stray hairs.

Accessories: Make sure any accessories are small, simple, and not distracting from your main photo.

Facial hair: Be sure to decide ahead of time the type of facial hair look you’d like for your photo.


Our recommendation is to use natural light if you can.

  1. Harness the power of natural light indoors by positioning yourself near a large window with indirect sunlight. Opt for frosted glass to create a soft glow. Face towards the window to maximize the even spread of light on your face.
  2. When utilizing natural light outdoors, find a shady spot to avoid direct sunlight on your face. If it's sunny, ensure that any harsh sunlight is coming from behind you for the best lighting.

If you're new to photography, it's best to avoid using artificial lighting until you have some experience. Achieving a natural and flattering look can be challenging without the right techniques and equipment. However, if you find yourself in a tricky lighting situation or if your preferred background is in a dimly lit area, here are a few quick tips: Try to maximize the available light as much as possible, as dim lighting often results in dark and blurry images. For a softer effect, consider pointing your light source at a wall, ceiling, or a white object.

Photo positioning

Make sure to leave enough space on both sides of your photo for your shoulders, and have a few inches above the top of your head. If any part of your body gets cut off in the photo you submit, you won't be able to add it back later.

If someone else is taking your photo (not a selfie), ask them to take it from the waist up, but no further. Photos taken from too far away will lower the quality.

Ensure that the phone is positioned at approximately eye level. If you prefer a more flattering higher angle, it can be adjusted to the top of your forehead, but it is not advisable to go any further.

How to pose

Tilt your head towards the camera for a flattering angle. Experiment with various shoulder, chin, and head positions to find your best look. Extend your chin forward and downward to avoid any double chin appearance.

How to smile

It’s important to capture a genuine and not cheesy headshot.

When taking photos without a smile, it's important to project strength and confidence. To achieve this, lightly squint your eyes as if you're actively listening to a colleague during a meeting. Maintaining a blank stare can come off as unnatural, so a subtle squint will give the impression of being more engaged in your photo.

A self-timer can also be an easy way to capture a great shot. Waiting for a self-timer can be challenging, but if you have to, try to think of genuine emotions, funny moments, and things that bring you joy. When using a self-timer, flash your smile at the last moment before the camera clicks.

Key Tips:

  • Experiment with smiling with and without showing teeth, and also try out serious expressions.
  • Ensure your eyes exude engagement and liveliness. Soften them with a subtle squint, also known as "smiling with your eyes."

We hope these tips help in creating a professional headshot! If you’d like to skip the posing, and taking time to get the perfect lighting, smile, and more — try Dreamwave’s professional headshot offering.

About Dreamwave AI

Dreamwave is an AI research lab augmenting human creativity with next-gen AI creative tools. Dreamwave has a multitude of product offerings, including professional headshots for individuals, corporate headshots for teams, a creative AI photo generator, and even a free AI headshot generator. Follow Dreamwave on LinkedIn, Twitter, and the Dreamwave blog for company updates and more.

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