What Makes a Great Headshot?

Judy Wade of Wellpoint Inc.
Judy Wade of Wellpoint Inc., Indianapolis

Lots of elements make for a great headshot, and it’s always a collaborative effort between subject and photographer. Photographer technique aside, though, the most important thing is how comfortable and relaxed the subject is. Whether it’s at the client’s office, or at the studio, tension in one’s demeanor will show through every headshot. I joke with corporate clients that I sometimes bring stuffed animals to make my subjects smile. I don’t, really, but I do engage with my subjects to get us there. Having fun at the session by listening to music and having a few good laughs are a great way to get the best out of someone. The greatest sessions are when I’ve made a new friend by the time we’re done—and I always do.

Because most people aren’t used to posing regularly, sitting in front of the lens often changes one’s demeanor. The following are ways you can make it your best:

• Depending on the location and environment, feel free to suggest your favorite music.

• Even though you’re sitting for a camera, come with the attitude of just hanging out and relaxing.

• Get plenty of rest the night before, avoid alcoholic beverages, and keep a relaxed schedule prior to the session (if possible).

• Practice your best look in the mirror the evening before when you’re most relaxed.

• Don’t sustain your smile during the session if the photographer’s lens isn’t pointed your way. Built up tension will diminish your natural look.

You can contact me to talk about your headshots, and I’d be glad to talk with you about your needs.


I photograph headshot and architectural photography for a living, but I also love shooting street photography, abstract architecture and landscapes - more of it lately with my phone. I've had a camera in my hands for the past 20 years, and I currently work for clients in Indianapolis and throughout the Midwest.