How To Prep for Your Best Professional Headshot

How To Prep for Your Best Professional Headshot

How to Prep for Your Best Professional Phoenix Headshots with CMQ Headshots

Booking your professional headshot session is an investment in yourself, your career, and your future. At CMQ Headshots, Phoenix, AZ, I draw on years of experience to help every client look and feel their best during their session. To make the most of your investment and capture the best version of yourself, it can help to prepare. In this article, you can find a selection of the best ways to prepare for your professional headshots with CMQ Headshots your local professional studio.

Why Preparation is So Important for Your  Headshots

A little preparation for your professional headshots can help to make your session a more relaxing experience. When you feel calm and confident, your face shines and brings out the best of your personality. Planning can also avert many last minute problems or panicking around the details.

Create an easier experience during your photo session by taking some time to plan for the following:

  • Scheduling
  • Rest and sleep
  • Shaving
  • Hydration
  • Hair and makeup
  • Clothing choices

Below, we take a look at how planning for each of these can help your session go smoothly and help us to create the best results together.


The day you choose for your headshot session can make a big difference to the results of your pictures. To give yourself the best chance of presenting your best, avoid booking your session on days when you have:

  • A busy schedule: Feeling comfortable during your session is vital for bringing out the best of your personality. If you have multiple appointments or meetings scheduled the same day as your session, you are more likely to arrive stressed, late, or worse, miss your appointment altogether.
  • Very limited time available: At CMQ Headshots, we take as long as we need during every session to get the best pictures for you. Schedule your session with a good window of time around your appointment so that looking at your watch doesn’t become a distraction.
  • Excess sun exposure: Immediate redness or patchy color changes people experience after sun exposure can create uneven skin coloring for your headshots. To achieve a smoother skin tone, limit sun exposure the day before your appointment.


In order to look and feel your best during your session, being well rested makes a huge difference. Where possible, aim to get a good night’s sleep of at least 7-8 hours the night before your appointment.

Shave Prior to Your Shoot, But Not Immediately Before

When to shave and what length to style facial hair is a common concern before a headshot session. The most important factor is always that your headshots look like the best version of you. For some people, that means shaving and for others it can mean waiting for facial hair to grow in fully before your appointment.

To avoid shaving bumps and redness appearing in your pictures, do not shave directly before your appointment. Depending on your personal hair growth rate and shaving reactions, shave either early in the day, or the night before your session.

If you are currently growing facial hair but it is still in the stubbly or patchy stage, consider either shaving for a clean look or scheduling your appointment after your facial hair is at a more even stage of growth.


We all glow a little more when we are well hydrated. Stay hydrated before your headshot session to avoid signs of dehydration in the face like dryness and exaggerated dark circles under the eyes . Keeping up with hydration also boosts your mood, helping you to feel more relaxed and confident during your session.

Choose Your Clothing in Advance

There is a difference between beautiful clothing and clothes that work well for headshots. During headshot photography, we aim to highlight the features of your face. Your clothing should complement your headshot and not provide a distraction. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when selecting clothes for your session.

  • Stay solid: As we highlight your face, eyes, and expressive personality, solid color clothing provides a better backdrop than patterns or floral designs that distract the eye.
  • Choose a style to fit your niche: Our style says a lot about us when giving a first impression. If you intend for your headshots to boost your corporate career, staying formal is recommended. For small business owners highlighting their personal brand, select clothing that presents an image you want to last in customers minds.
  • Avoid logos: Unless you plan to wear your company branded clothing, avoid wearing items with logos, lettering, or other companies branding.
  • Stay wrinkle free: Even if you are not a fan of the iron and lint roller on a daily basis, making sure your clothes are wrinkle free for your headshots helps to create a seamless look.
  • Wear regular glasses where possible: Some modern glasses technologies such as blue light reflectors and transition lenses can affect your headshot results. Wear glasses with regular lenses to your headshot appointment.

Hair and Makeup

Some clients prefer to hire a hair and makeup artist for their headshot session. This can help you to look your best and make the day more of a special occasion. For others, fixing their own hair and makeup feels more natural or keeps their headshots within budget.

Whether you choose to hire professional help or prepare your own hair and makeup, try to follow some simple guidelines for the best pictures.

  • Choose your best hair day: People often ask whether they should wash their hair the day of their photoshoot. The answer is different for everybody. If your hair looks its best after a wash, plan to wash your hair the day of your appointment. Similarly, if your hair tends to look better in the days after a wash, arrive at least a day after washing your hair.
  • Water is an excellent alternative hair product: When clients arrive for professional headshots with CMQ Headshots, I often remind them that we only need you to look your best for a short time. Water can solve many stray hair and styling problems without any need for products for a short time.
  • Stick to natural makeup: When we want to look our best there is a temptation to go overboard with makeup that looks brighter, bolder, and more “made up” than usual. The goal of our session is for you to look like the best version of you. Keeping your makeup natural results in a better headshot and often offers a more authentic image.
  • Avoid sparkle and shimmer: Catching the light in unnatural ways, excessive sparkle, including shimmery eyeshadows should be avoided. We use a lot of light during our session and your skin will look radiant naturally.

Finally, Relax

While it is a good idea to try to prepare for your headshots for the best results, there is no need to worry if some things don’t go to plan. As a professional headshot photographer in Phoenix, I have years of experience producing individual and or corporate headshots, and professional pictures for actors.

I can promise you that not everybody’s preparation goes smoothly – and we still produce wonderful pictures clients are proud of!

If you didn’t get enough vital sleep, your favorite shirt was in the laundry, or your day started with aggravation, don’t panic. At CMQ Headshots, clients quickly learn that the true magic of successful headshots is in communication with the photographer.

How are CMQ Headshots Different for professional headshots in Phoenix?

Superior communication and years of experience putting people at ease are vital pieces of the puzzle when taking headshots that clients love. CMQ Headshots is a studio that sees every client as an individual with a story to tell and a personality that shines through their face. By trusting CMQ Headshots with your Professional headshots you gain a partner committed to your individual success.


When is the best time to schedule headshots?

Selecting a day free from appointments, meetings, or other stressful events allows you to take the time you need to get the best from your headshot session. For the best results, schedule your appointment at a time you are more likely to feel relaxed, confident, and calm.

Is it normal to be nervous before headshots?

Many people feel self conscious or awkward before their headshot appointment. Remember that your photographer is a skilled expert at not only taking pictures, but helping clients to relax and allow their personality to shine. If you are feeling nervous or insecure, simply let your photographer know and they can help you warm up to your session slowly.

Should The Photographer Photoshop You

Should The Photographer Photoshop You

Should The Photographer  Photoshop You?

Editing and retouching pictures with Photoshop or other professional software is often part of your headshot session service and a big part of your photographer’s skill set.

The first job of a headshot is to bring out the best version of you. A chance to have your personality shine from your eyes and make the best first impression possible. With a few targeted changes in the editing phase, we can elevate your pictures to the next level.

Just like the difference between home selfies and professional headshots, the trained editing skill of your photographer often separates their work from your at-home editing efforts. Below, we explore the difference between editing and retouching and what this additional skill does for your headshots.

What do editing and retouching mean after a headshot session?

Used interchangeably, these two services are actually slightly different vital skills, resulting in getting the best headshots in your hands after your session. Editing your photos refers to making slight changes to the overall aspects of your picture, like the lighting, contrast, cropping, and color.

Retouching is where we focus on your face and make improvements to the look of your skin tone, stray hairs, and the color of your teeth. Without removing any of the personality from your face, we can reduce some fine lines and wrinkles while eliminating picture-day spots.

What kind of retouches can your photographer make?

An expert photographer knows how to retouch headshots with precision. But it is equally important to know when to stop. Some changes we can make in this process include:

  • Skin retouching: In the retouching process, some lines and wrinkles are reduced, and pesky random breakouts can be removed. 
  • Teeth whitening: A light editing touch to the teeth can bring out the vibrancy of your smile without mistaking you for a dental office advertisement.
  • Color and exposure editing: The most central part of the editing process. Clients rarely notice or have the chance to appreciate how minor changes to the lighting and exposure of your picture can elevate it.
  • Stray hair removal: Even the best headshots can suffer from the distraction of stray hair in the frame. Retouching offers the chance to remove these distractors, keeping your look neat and professional.

Levels of retouching

Headshots are valuable tools for increasing visibility and moving the needle forward in your career. Every career path is different, and everyone has a different idea of how they would like their new pictures to look. Models and people in glamorous fields may want a more refined edit than professionals who need to keep an authentic look to their photos.

Knowing when to stop during the editing process

The most vital editing skill photographers can have is knowing when just the right amount of retouching is reached. That “no more and no less” point of perfection is a major reason professional headshots can elevate your image so quickly.

Retouching errors can make for disastrous pictures. Some common mistakes to stay away from include:

  • Overdone skin retouching: Although the idea of completely flawless skin can be tempting, photos with every line, blemish, and freckle removed appear unnatural at best and unrecognizable at worst.
  • Changing facial shape: Carving a new jawline or altering your face shape stops you from celebrating your true self and can confuse people who meet you in the real world.

Communication during your headshot session

The biggest key to successful headshots is communication with your photographer from start to finish. Don’t be afraid to talk!

Trained to bring out the best in you for your poses and your retouching process, being clear about the result you’d like is the best way to ensure headshots that look modern, authentic, and unmistakably you.

Which Side Is Your Good Side?

Which Side Is Your Good Side?

Which Side Is Your Good Side?

You’ve probably heard people talk about catching their “good side” for photographs. You may have even noticed that some of your pictures look better than others taken on the same day. But what is this mysterious good side? And how do you find it? Prepare for your upcoming headshot session by getting to know your features a little and seeing whether you can spot your good side.

What is the good side?

Scientists studied this phenomenon and confirmed what photography experts have known for years. One side of a person’s face does tend to be more photogenic than the other.

It turns out, one side of our faces is often slightly more expressive than the other. The expression we show on our faces helps us to connect with other people, show our feelings, and convey our personality. Showing this more expressive side of our face often leads to more photogenic pictures.

Capturing the good side

Taking pictures that capture the good side of your face is a little more nuanced than simply turning your head to the side. Most of us have a tendency to tilt our heads one way or the other when we talk to people. This natural response shows our most expressive side to others as we engage with them, helping us to build a connection.

You can sometimes spot the more expressive side of your face by taking note in the mirror which side has features like:

  • Slightly bigger features, especially the eye
  • A greater curve in the lip when you smile
  • More pronounced lines around the eye when you smile big

These small, asymmetrical differences in your face are barely noticeable to everyone around you, but they can help your photographer capture your most personality-filled expressions and help you connect with people immediately.

Communicating with your photographer

Despite fancy cameras and the expertly-trained eye of the photographer, communication is one of the best tools available to you during a professional headshot session. It is the key to capturing the best pictures possible both now and in the future as you learn how to relax and pose effortlessly.

Talking honestly with clients about what is on their minds helps us to quickly help them with any issues and find solutions. To help your photographer find the best angles and bring your personality out during your session, communicate openly with them about your feelings, including:

  • Any thoughts on your best side or angles.
  • Nervous feelings that you fear may get in the way.
  • Particular blemishes you would like retouching after the session.
  • Your past experiences with photo shoots and what has worked or not worked for you.
  • What image, message, or personality traits you would like to shine in your new headshots.

Confused by it all? Don’t worry

Still not sure which is your good side and feel overwhelmed with the terminology? No worries! Thankfully, easing a client’s nerves and making each headshot session a fun experience is part of a professional photographer‘s skill set and we always work to produce pictures that look and feel like the real you.


For Men – Grooming, Color and Clothing tips for a headshot session

For Men – Grooming, Color and Clothing tips for a headshot session

Grooming Tips for Men’s Headshot Session

  • Make sure that on the day of your photo session, you get a very close shave.
  • Do not use moisturizer with SPF.
  • A week before the headshot session get a haircut so it looks its best.
  • Trim your eyebrows, ensure no stray hairs (don’t forget between the eyebrows)
  • Trim ear and nose hair
  • Trim and clean fingernails.
  • Bring a comb or hairbrush for touch-ups during your session.

What type of clothes should I wear?

This image will be used to represent you so you need to dress accordingly.
You’ll want to wear attire that is classic and timeless so you can use your photos for an extended time.

Bring 3 different looks;

  • Bring a nice casual shirt or sweater.
  • Bring a sports jacket for a different look.
  • Bring a suit jacket, dress shirt, and tie.

Bring 5 different shirts that are clean and pressed that you have tried on and they fit you well.

The Men’s Wearhouse is very helpful if you don’t know what color you should wear they can answer all of those questions regarding the right fit and colors for men.

These are  just a guideline

It is best to wear long sleeve shirts for your headshot/portrait, without an undershirt.

You also want to be somewhat comfortable in what you’re wearing or your picture will look stiff and unnatural.

Clothing that wrinkles easily will look sloppy and unflattering.

Men wear your nicest fitted shirt. If your shirt is baggy it is unflattering and the camera will only make it look worse.

Also if it is too tight it is not attractive. Invest in a tailored shirt if you can.

What colors photograph best/worst?

Solid colors photograph best, and most people look good in mid-tones (green, blue, medium grey, etc.). You want to wear a color that enhances your skin tone and brings out the color of your eyes.

A crisp white shirt under a suit jacket with a tie will look great, on a medium to dark complexion man. If you are pale-skinned and have light-colored hair go for a crisp beige or light blue shirt.

Avoid wearing clothing with patterns or accessories that distract from your face.

Avoid bright reds, yellows, and oranges as they can be distracting.

Keep this in mind when considering which ties you bring to your session.  Again they shouldn’t be too bold or demand too much attention.

I love a royal blue or charcoal grey suit jacket with a crisp white shirt, they are flattering for the majority of men. Men shouldn’t shy away from pinks and mauves if they have a dark complexion or grey hair.

If you are fair-skinned and haired and have blue or hazel eyes, I would recommend, a light grey or navy blue suit with a pale blue shirt. The tie can have a subtle pattern with both colors in it.

Why hire a professional headshot photographer

Why hire a professional headshot photographer

Everybody knows them — that relative or family friend who’s really into photography but has no intentions of ever quitting their “day job.” It’s a passion or hobby they reserve for evenings or weekends; they show you their photos regularly, and their work is pretty good. They shoot mainly urban and nature scenes and perhaps have had some of their work published. They may even own the latest and greatest in camera equipment and the best lenses and accessories.

If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t), when it comes time to find a headshot photographer, you may naturally consider enlisting your friend or relative. They’ve offered their services to your family many times, always at a reduced rate… but before you choose an amateur over someone offering professional photography, take heed: when it comes to your professional image and career it may be costing you more than you think.  It may be causing you to be overlooked for a higher position, it may be losing you, clients.  Saving a bit of cash instead of professional photography just isn’t worth it. Here are the top reasons to hire a professional photographer:

  • Education

A professional photographer will have had years of training and/or schooling in the art of photography. They’ll know their equipment inside and out. They’ll be able to set their camera to the proper exposure intuitively, without having to stop and fumble through a manual. Being aware of the latest trends in lighting, posing, and guiding expression is something they do every day.

  • Lighting Techniques

Lighting is key to successful photography and is a whole topic unto itself. It can take years for a photographer to master lighting techniques both in the studio and in outdoor settings. A professional photographer can adjust camera settings quickly and fluidly based on diverse or changing lighting conditions. Knowledge of how the camera interacts with light is key to compensating for over- or underexposure, but sometimes photographers must rely upon their experience instead of the camera’s readings. My colleague, Matthew Hamilton says, that a professional photographer should also be adept at creating unique and customized lighting scenes and can expertly supplement natural lighting with their professional lighting effects as needed.


  • Experience

A professional photographer has done it before; they’ve shot a variety of events and portraits and have been exposed to many subjects and conditions. There’s no shortcut to experience, and you take a tremendous gamble with a first-timer or an inexperienced photographer not knowing what to do at various points during your event or shoot. Those in the professional photography world have a lot of experience to draw from; they know intuitively to take extra shots of crucial moments in case anyone blinks or has an awkward expression. They know the ins and outs of posing and can make subjects look natural in any setting. They anticipate angles and approaches for each scene. They have experience in guiding groups of every size for optimal results, interacting fluidly with their subjects to achieve the desired results.

  • Lenses

Professional photographers have an assortment of quality lenses at their disposal as well as the knowledge of which one is best for any given scenario. They’ll have the foresight to be prepared for a variety of situations with a second (or third) camera already equipped with a different type of lens. They know advanced lens-focusing techniques to achieve artistic effects that an amateur would only stumble upon by accident (if you’re lucky.)

  • Lighting Equipment

When it comes to headshot photography, there’s far more to the equation than just a camera and a basic lighting setup. The high-end lights and posing can be crucial to a successful final result. A professional photographer will know ahead of time the kind of lights to set up to enhance you and the look you are going for.  Your friend or relative might show up with a bedsheet and a stool from their breakfast nook; while this could work, you can count on a professional to deliver optimal results.

  • Editing and Software

A professional photographer will also own or have access to the ideal editing software and know-how to retouch and edit your photos, bringing out the very best in each one. The last thing you want is a Photoshop novice trying to retouch photos of your most prized and precious memories.

  • Professionally Invested

A professional photographer is working for you, and they are invested in your satisfaction. You are their client, not their relative or friend, and they will retain a level of professionalism your aunt or brother-in-law may not. They also have the fortitude and commitment to work for long periods without breaks and see the job through so that the best results possible are achieved.

  • The Artist’s Touch

Lastly, a professional photographer does not just “take snapshots”; they facilitate the creation of works of art. A professional will draw from all of their artistic training and knowledge of equipment and gear to deliver the finest-quality photographs possible. An amateur will likely be “winging it” for large portions of your shoot.

There are a lot of ways to save money in life but skimping on a professional headshot for your professional career or business should not be one of them. Invest in a professional headshot photographer to ensure you stand out in the sea of competitors.

What to wear to your headshot session

What to wear to your headshot session

Clothing is the topic I get the most questions about. Try not to get hung up on the wardrobe (pun intended). The most important thing is to bring clothes you love wearing. If you wear something that you don’t feel good in, your discomfort will show in your expression. If you don’t love it, don’t bring it.

I shoot tethered into a laptop during the shoot, so we can usually tell if something looks good or not within a couple of shots. It’s better to bring a few options just in case something doesn’t photograph the way you thought it would. Sometimes it’s the shirt or tie you weren’t planning on bringing that ends up being your favorite look from the shoot!

  • Avoid clothing with distracting patterns and overly bright colors. I love blues, grays, green, and magenta. I think they pop off the background nicely.
  • Be careful with thin fabrics. Studio lights are bright, and it might make them slightly see-through.
  • Be sure to bring appropriate colored undergarments as well.
  • Loose and baggy clothing will make you look unpolished and will be difficult to adjust during the shoot.

A document that shows different necklines of tops and what works best for the shape of faces.

  • Scoop necks can make your shoulders look wider and larger than you are.
  • V-necks and deep plunging necklines tend to draw attention away from the face, which we want to avoid.
  • Properly fitting dress shirts and jackets are essential.
  • Big uneven shoulder pads kill shots instantly.
  • Men don’t wear an undershirt under your shirt.  It will bunch and create wrinkles.

Most jewelry, hats, and scarves can be left at home. You don’t want anything to distract from YOU. If you wear glasses, definitely bring them and any extra glasses you wear. just in case the ones you reflect light badly.

All of that being said, what works for one person might not work for you. So if you’re on the fence about a piece of clothing, just bring it with you. If you don’t bring it, I can’t shoot it!  More is always better.

Feel free to email me to discuss any wardrobe concerns before your session.