While executives often use photos taken by professional photographers, anyone can easily produce a professional photo for free. This type of photo is ideal for LinkedIn, job sites, or when requested for student press.

It’s common for students to not have a professional photo and make mistakes the first time one is requested. The most common mistakes in photos from students and new professionals are photos that are too casual or sexy – neither look is what you’re going for.


I have often worked with soon to be college graduates who are fashion majors. While it is wise for professionals in each occupation to tailor their professional materials for their field of interest, it must be done within a professional context. From fashion majors I get a number of full body shots, more revealing clothing, casual clothing, and sassy posing. Fashion majors, make your headshot a blend between traditional, and your industry. Show your style with a waist up instead of chest up photo. Pick a blazer that’s a non-traditional color, or with a pattern. Pick a bold necklace, earrings. Men might chose a pocket square, or unusual tie. Consider it a fashion challenge to not only show your style, but within the traditional headshot parameters.

There are also AI professional headshot generators, but these types of websites are likely to charge somewhere between $15-$40 though. Here are some tips of what we’re looking for, for free.

What We’re Looking For:


      • Composition: Most business photos are taken from the chest up, some from the waist up. For a traditional headshot, don’t go beyond the waist. My rule of thumb is to put your thumb on the photo. If you completely cover your face, it’s not a good photo – they didn’t ask for a landscape or a picture of the park. This is not a modeling shot. Take a step in and try again.

      • Sharp/Clear: Ensure you have decent lighting. If a photo is soft to begin with (which is when the light compromises the sharpness of the resolution you can take with a camera), no amount of graphic design or Photoshop can fix it.

      • Good Resolution: Send a high-resolution photo. If they need to zoom in or print your photo, they don’t want it to be grainy. Also, while you don’t want a photo too far out, you don’t want it too close either – for example if they need your photo in a circle frame or to match other square photos your head may be cut off.

      • Friendly Expression: Smile. No one wants to hire or work with someone who looks hostile.

      • Non-Descript Background: Choose a background that keeps the attention on you and isn’t distracting. Consider foliage or a basic wall. Take a step away from the wall to keep the background the background – the camera focus is you, not the stucco wall behind you.

    What We’re Not Looking For:


        • Inappropriate Attire: Avoid clothes that show cleavage or are too tight or not business appropriate – like items with rips or rhinestones. No sunglasses on your head or Mardi Gras beads.

        • Graphic T-Shirts: While graphic tees are great, they are not suitable for a traditional office or professional role. If you’re not aiming for a formal suit and tie environment, opt for a clean, solid-colored polo. If you don’t own one, go get one.

        • Group Photos: No pictures with friends. It’s distracting, and it’s not clear which one is you.

        • Poor Lighting: Avoid photos taken in poorly lit environments, even if you have a nice smile. Poor lighting diminishes photo quality.

        • Funny Faces: No kissy faces, surprised faces, or silly faces.

      Quick Formula for Getting a Professional Photo:


          1. Put on a nice shirt, comb your hair, and put on lipstick if you want – a five-minute tidy-up.

          1. Ask someone to take the photo using a smartphone.

          1. Go outside at dusk or dawn (times of the day that are usually well-lit, but the sun is not high enough to cast shadows). Stand against an attractive wall or foliage and take a few shots – DONE!

        By following these simple guidelines, you can produce a professional-looking photo that will make a great impression in any professional setting.