5 Tips From a Professional Photographer on Posing for Headshots

Photo Source: Nina Robinson Photography

Photog Nina Robinson wants you to have the best headshots possible—just relax!

When posing for headshots, you’re putting yourself in the hands of the photographer you’ve hired. Hopefully that photographer will make you feel (and look) your best, but things can go awry. In case that happens, here are a few tricks that Nina Robinson has up her sleeve that you can try using to save a session—and your shots.


Usually when you take a deep breath, it tends to relax you a little bit. But what I’ll also do is I’ll say, “Give me just a moment; I’m fixing my camera.” And if you have your camera low and start shooting, they’re usually completely relaxed because they think you’re not shooting. I sometimes tell my subject to forget that I’m even there and have them sit how they normally would sit. If people are too posed, it does not look genuine. I want my subjects to be as genuine as possible in these images.


I always have them come wearing nothing too distracting. No clothing that distracts from the face. And a simple up-do or just down, flowy hair, for girls. In headshots you want people to see how you normally look. You don’t want to do glamour shots from the ’90s. You want people to book you.


If they’re not relaxing, I’ll shoot a few frames until I get the shot in which I believe they look their best. Then I’ll go over and show them and say, “This is what I want from you. You look relaxed; you look like you’re not trying.” And I tell them to give me that same look. And usually that tends to work because they’re becoming aware of their facial expressions. Also, actors should know their bodies and know their facial expressions. Practice in the mirror. As vain as that sounds, it works.


In case the subject is giving me dead eyes, I try to make them laugh. Usually I’ll tell them a snarky joke or a filthy joke, depending on their personality. Or I will just flat-out say, “This isn’t working; I need such-and-such from you. You need to really relax, and we’re going to sit for a moment.”


I find that with a lot of actors and models, they think way too much, and they think what they’re giving me is what I want. But it’s not always working. Why do you want to have the same pose in your portfolio every time? You need variety. So I’m honest, but I say it from a good place. I never approach a situation in a way where they’re going to be insulted. I always say, “This is working for you, and I think you should continue working on these facial expressions.” You have to be honest because they’re your client, and you need to make sure they have the best images and their personality shines through.

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