So you need a good portrait of yourself, perhaps for a website, profile, resume, LinkedIn or any number of other uses. More often than not all you need is a well executed head and shoulders portrait against a white background, sometimes called a Headshot. But you want a portrait not a mug shot, there is a difference. The type of photo that comes to mind when I think of mug shot photos are passport, Skype screen grab, police lineup, or worse still a drivers licence photo, you know the type, stunned rabbit caught in the headlights, one eye half open looking slightly off camera a little lost. That's sort of ok when the only people likely to see it are sympathetic friends or the occasional official, after all they just want the facts. Most of you will have your own personal shame buried deep in your wallet or bag where it needs to stay.
So what makes a good headshot, let's break it down. Good photos, regardless of how straight forward they might seem are a combination of many small decisions made by you and the photographer, so it goes without saying it's worth your while to take the time to find a good one. When you view their web site, look to see what their main game is, some photographers are great at lighting a can of beans or a TV set but mightn't be as strong photographing people, can they produce well executed, engaging portraits, whether that be straight forward head and shoulder photos or something more expressive such as an editorial style environmental portrait suited for use along side a magazine article, online profile piece or perhaps a website, so give some thought to potential uses for your portrait, you may want to discuss this with your photographer because this will determine whether you need a simple head and shoulder portrait or something a bit more expressive, in which case it might be worth investing a bit more time and money.
The next thing to consider is grooming and what clothes to wear. At the very least I recommend you bring a couple of outfits to the shoot, again you can discuss this with your photographer before hand, maybe one formal and another more casual and beware of strong colours it might look good this year but could look a tad retro before you know it or may end up clashing with a future web site colour scheme etc. usually mid tones work best. You'll want to be able to get the best use from your photos for the longest possible time, mind you, not so long that people start questioning if that is really you. Stubble on guys can look good in person but sometimes doesn't look so good in a small profile photo, something to consider, for women it goes without saying it ain't a good look. If your going to get you hair cut do it a couple of days beforehand, do you need hair and make up done professionally on the day? Generally it's not necessary, just pay attention to details and you should be fine.
During the shoot, which for a straightforward head and shoulders portrait shouldn't take to much time at all....... RELAX, remember it's only a photo, not the dentist, there's no drill involved. The key to a good looking portrait is a combination of angle, lighting, clothes and a natural smile, not just with your mouth but with your eyes as well, the two go together, one technique I find good for achieving a natural smile is to breath in before each frame is taken and let the air rush out as you smile, when you do it right you almost feel a little rush of blood and your smile will look more natural. A good photographer will gently nudge you during the shoot to get the best looks, you can assist by altering your body position every couple of frames, this only needs to be slight variations, I'm not talking about a full on (work it baby) style fashion shoot, try putting your weight more onto one foot so as to change your shoulder angle, moving your head slightly to the right then to the left, chin up a little etc. this will give you more variety of photos to choose from. It's surprising how little combinations of movements can make quite a difference to how a person can look, if you just stand there looking straight at the camera, don't expect to have a lot of variations to choose from. Think of it like panning for gold, you've got to sift through a lot of what they call pay dirt to find the two or three specs of gold, not every frame is going to be a winner but by applying all or some of the things I've talked about you'll be assured of creating two or three portraits that really hit the mark.