What I Learned From Taking My Own Headshots - A Photographers Perspective

Ten years of guiding people through their session in front of my camera has taught me a lot about posing, but not quite as much as 20 minutes in front of my own camera did. I swear I forgot how to human when I was in the "hot seat".

Here is the progression of faces in the first few minutes:

  1. Realized my lighting was NOT slimming my face, changed my lighting

  2. Forgot how to human, lip is trying to makes its escape off my face

  3. Trying to make "normal" faces, looking like a half smoldering half "I'mma kick your butt" face

  4. Landed on something I like, even though I as looking at a stain on the carpet, just slightly off camera

Edited version:


I want to be very candid with you. I'm going to show you the good, the bad, and the beautiful.

Because every person at every shoot ever, has probably had more images that they hate than ones that they love.

Most photos we see are carefully selected and then edited, so in the spirit of honesty, I wanted to share some images SOOC (straight of out camera) vs. edited.

Btw, makeup really helps a lot. My favorite way to bring out my eyes in a shoot is FAKE. LASHES. They will make such a difference in your photos.

Now, reality check! Before getting to that pose up there that I like, came this awkward glory below:


This. THIS is why photographers may not want to show you the back of the camera. Heck, even during my own shoot I was hesitant to see the back of the camera, because I didn't want to see a photo of myself that I hated, and then be obsessing over a double chin, or squinty eye during the rest of my session.

Above is a shot my hubby snapped of me. I feel like this "what I really look like". But below are some images I snapped once he left the room, and I felt more comfortable hamming it up for the camera. You will see the difference. You guys, thank goodness there isn't video footage of me fake laughing, leaning into the camera, tossing my hair around, etc. I'm sure I looked ridiculous, but I landed on some photos that I feel look like me at my best.

My point being, don't be afraid to really go for it at your session. Those will be the best shots. You think those instagram models are nailing it on the first shot? Here is secret: hell no they ain't! They are patting the side of their hair, looking strangely slightly off camera, and "candidly laughing" for several attempts before nailing a photo that they love.

Fake nose crinkle, and fake laugh. Also, fake lashes.

Is it still me? Yes, but its' me striving to create a flattering/approachable looking. Me if someone just happened to snap me in the middle of a cute giggle. 

Even these "natural" looking shots that I love, actually felt super uncomfortable when shooting. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, angling my chin out, turning my shoulder slightly to the side, sucking in and laughing, or throwing out my best big smile.

This photo is totally random because my daughter decided to crash my shoot, but I'm putting it in here because...how adorable is she?! Answer: the most adorable!

The shot I love, vs the awkward one that came a split second before it:

Can you handle the cringe?

So, all awkwardness considered, here is a roundup of my top ten tips to help you pose for your own headshots. 


  1.  It's hella awkward

- for everyone, so don't be shy! Get in there, and have fun.

      2. It takes practice

- you won't nail it the first time. That's okay! Keep shooting until it get's better.

     3. Sit on the edge

Scoot to the tips of your chair or bench, turn slightly to the side, you don't want to have your shoulders squared to the camera completely. If I am facing the camera straight on, I'm typically leaning with my hand sin my lap, or running my fingers through my hair. Not flat staring straight into the camera like a deer in the headlights. 

     4.When you're uncomfortable, it probably looks good.

-Again: sitting, leaning, sucking in,  pouty lips and all that... it may be a little uncomfortable to hold that pose, but it might end up being the one that's your favorite. 

     5. You will have to loosen up -release your inner supermodel!

-Don't be afraid to play with different faces, or poses, or even throw out a giant fake laugh. Your photographer will love that you're changing it up, and you will land on an expression that you adore. Feel free to strike a pose. Do what you need to do, crank up a great playlists, or involve a glass of bubbly in your session.

     6. You're going to look silly, and that's good

-for myself, and for my clients, I've seen that the best moments happen in a split second in between silly or awkward moments. Go through some poses that don't work, to find the ones you love.

     7. You don't want to see the back of the camera

-Seeing yourself caught in an "awkward" moment can be a major hit to your confidence. Keep striking poses, and trust that your photographer will deliver the best images to you, ones that you will feel great about

      8. Know when to reset

Feeling stiff, and taking images you don't love? Time to reset. Stand up. Shake it out. Take some deep breaths. Close your eyes, breathe deep. exhale, open your eyes, look into the camera, and snap. 

     9. Play with your hair or pockets

- hands can make or break your shoot! It's so hard to know what to do with them! Here is my advice, put them to work. Play with your jewelry, run your finger through your hair, rest a hand on your neck, or hook your thumbs in your pockets. This give you something  to do and adds a candid playful feel to your photos. 

   10. Gather Inspiration

Before you start, look on Pinterest  or social media to gather ideas of poses you like and practice different  looks in the mirror if necessary!



One second (captured above) me looking human, a half a second later, me malfunctioning in front of the camera.

Duck lips live on! 



Did you enjoy this? You might also  like : tips for photographing kids

I own a photography business based in San Antonio, TX and I specialize  in story telling sessions for families and teaching moms how to photograph their kids! Want to connect? Contact me here.  


No comments posted.