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Snapping Your Own Professional Head Shot

Are you looking to spruce up your LinkedIn profile with a great new head shot? Don’t have the time or money to invest in a professional photographer? Have no fear! Thanks to technology and online step-by-step tutorials, taking your own head shot is completely manageable. Grab a friend and a camera or smartphone and you are ready to go!

Selfies Are a No-Go

In a world where we are constantly snapping selfies and sending them to friends over Snapchat, it’s safe to say that we are selfie pros. While you might be a professional at taking selfies, keep the selfies off of LinkedIn. Have someone else take your picture to ensure that you are giving off a professional presence. Instead of a selfie that shows your face, have a friend snap a waist-up photo a few feet away. Be sure to dress the part!


You can take your head shot photo shoot inside or outside! If you are planning on staying inside, make sure that you have a solid backdrop. This allows you to be the center of attention in your picture. Try to find a blank neutral wall or hang up a sheet to stand in front of.

For those wanting to go outside, location matters even more. Thankfully we have a beautiful campus that has many great photo opportunities!

Here are a few:

  • Sky tunnel connecting Krannert and Rawls

  • Purdue University arch

  • In front of the Purdue Memorial Union

  • Brick wall outside Young Hall

  • Jedi Room

  • Engineering Fountain

  • Purdue P Statue


This is where most DIY head shots go wrong. Experts suggest that the best lighting for head shots is indoors, away from direct sunlight and in front of a solid background. Fluorescent lighting can be harsh and cast dark shadows over faces. Mimicking natural light is key to taking a great head shot.

Choosing to shoot indoors gives you the most control over the lighting in the room. Turn off all fluorescent light sources, find a blank wall next to a window, choose a time where non-direct light comes into the room and take the shot. These conditions will give you the best lighting options

The best lighting for an outdoor shot is one where you are standing inside a shaded area but facing the light.


Your body should either be angled to the left or right with your head facing the camera. Try both ways and see which direction you like best. The picture should show you from your chest up.

Eye Contact

Making eye contact with the camera is the most important and influential part of a head shot. Making eye contact with the camera makes you exude confidence and grab your viewer’s attention. Your eyes are one of the most expressive features on your face. Use that to your advantage!


Give yourself plenty of options when choosing which head shot to use. Snap around 30 or 40 shots while you are taking pictures so that you won’t have to get ready more than once. Try different facial expressions and head angles. Look at the pictures throughout the shoot to see if you want to change anything about the picture or try something new.

Have Fun

Remember to relax before you take your picture! Have some fun and play music so that your smile and energy come off as being natural. Have your friend tell some jokes or read a funny story so that you can smile and not have it be so forced.

Photo Editing Apps

Once the photo shoot is over, look through all of your pictures and find your favorites. If there is one that you like but the lighting is a little off or there’s something in the background that you want to blur try one of the editing apps listed below. These apps can help you control color tone, exposure, brightness and many other aspects of a picture:

  • Snapseed

  • VSCO Cam

  • Afterlight

  • iPhone editing

Make sure that you are only using these apps to enhance your picture. Over edited pictures will come off as tacky and not genuine.


Check out a few DIY professional head shots of student workers in the CCO:



Remember to stay true to yourself! You should look like yourself in your head shot and use it to give future employers an idea of your personality. Keeping your image updated every one to two years will show that you are active on job search sites and make it more likely for connections to happen. Small steps like this can go a long way in landing that summer internship, job and networking.

As always,


- Lilli Cole

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