The Perfect Executive Headshot: 9 Characteristics


In less than 1 second, we have made our first impression according to Vanessa Van Edwards, a human behavior expert. More than ever before, we are making first impressions while they are home sleeping! That's why it's important to have the perfect executive headshot. 

When we see a profile of a stranger and a picture is there, don't we spend our first second looking at the picture? It's the same when people view our profile pages.

Will we be perceived as professional, knowledgeable, intelligent, confident, pleasant, engaged, and proactive? Will people want to connect with us, work with us, hire us, pay us for our services?

9 Characteristics of the Perfect Executive Headshot

1. The Perfect Executive Headshot Engages Potential Connections – We should peer into the souls of people who click on our profiles. They should be connecting with us, even though we might be grocery shopping 10 or 1,000 miles away. They might be able to help us in unimaginable ways.

Our executive headshots shape strangers’ opinions of us, and they do so in less than 1 second. Are our profile pictures engaging?

2. The Perfect Executive Headshot Shows a Genuine and Settled Us – Real smiles, ranging from hints of a smile to full-on toothy smiles. A great photographer will draw genuine reactions from us, not simply tell us to smile.

But you should also look settled, not like you’re cracking up or moving around erratically when the picture was taken. There’s a split second where people’s big smiles are fading, but the energy is still there. Are our expressions fake or caught in the middle an expression change?

3. The Perfect Executive Headshot Shows Our Faces – The typical real estate given to an executive headshot is small. Our faces should fill a large portion of the frame, around 60% of it. If much more than our head is in the frame, people will not be able to connect with our eyes.

4. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has No Distractions – Our executive headshots should be about our faces. Distracting clothing, backgrounds, or hair going in a weird direction can take our viewers’ eyes away from our eyes. It does not convey professionalism. Where do viewers’ eyes go in our profile pictures?

5. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has a Great Camera Angle – Profile pictures shot from above diminish us, making us seem inferior to the viewer, and it often distorts our shoulders, sending them out of the frame in a way that makes us look larger. Most of us don’t want to add weight in our photo.

A picture shot from a little bit below eye level both represents how people typically meet us: face to face (not from above!). And it is empowering, as the viewer is looking up at us, just a touch. Do our profile pictures look like it was taken from a drone?

6. The Perfect Executive Headshot Projects Competence, Confidence, and Approachability – High-end executive headshots convey confidence in the subjects we claim to know, and in ourselves.

We don’t know what we look like at a given moment. A great photographer will educate us on how to look confident in our headshot and work with us to get us there.

Do we look constipated or annoyed? We should look like, at some point in a 24-hour day, we could have a little fun. Is that conveyed in our headshots?

7. The Perfect Executive Headshot Matches a (Good) Professional Brand – We who are serious about advancing in our professional careers have probably thought carefully about our brand: what we're about, what we believe, what we like and don't like, what values we hold closest, how we want people to see us. Our headshots should match our brands!

8. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has Accurate Colors – The color of our headshots should match what we look like in real life. We don’t want to look orange, right? A whole nation could make fun of us if our skin looks orange.

This goes back to accurately presenting what we look like when we meet people face to face.

Are the colors in our profile pictures accurate?

9. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has Amazing Light – The perfect executive headshot will also, of course, be well lit. We should generally avoid shadows to convey openness and transparency, and we should avoid flat light that makes us look dull. We should pop a bit.

Importantly, our eyes should be lit. They are the windows to our souls. Light should be coming from in front of us so everyone can see us, through our eyes.

Thanks for reading! I hope this is helpful.

I hope you have a headshot that checks all these boxes and allows strangers to connect with you within 1 second. If you need a headshot coach and photographer to get your profile cranking, there is information below.

If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, you can get high-quality headshots by booking your headshot today.

If you don’t live around D.C., please connect with me on LinkedIn with a note, or you can click here to contact me. I would be thrilled to refer you to my network of top-notch headshot photographers around the planet!

My name is Jon Meadows, and I am the headshot photographer and expression coach at High-End Headshots based in Washington, D.C. I travel throughout the country. I am honored to be an associate headshot photographer of Peter Hurley, who runs the Headshot Crew