The idea of taking a professional headshot can strike fear into the heart of even the strongest business leader. Most of us are just not very comfortable in front of a camera. The idea of posing in front of a real camera (one not equipped with Candy Crush – do people still play that?) gives us flashbacks to school picture day.

I can remember all too well the uncomfortable posing, my awkward grimace of a smile, face spotted with acne, and hairstyle full of equal parts Aqua Net and regret. These memories and the resulting horrific photos, cause most of us to avoid having professional pictures taken at all costs.

What I remember of the direction given to me by every school photographer ever.

What I remember of the direction given to me by every school photographer ever.

When having professional photos done is seen as such a painful and uncomfortable experience, it’s no wonder that so many people opt for LinkedIn profile pictures of themselves posing with their pets, relaxing on vacation or posing for a selfie in the passenger seat of a parked car. I know I would much rather grab any other acceptable photo of myself than relive my school picture day experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in your field or applying for your first internship, it’ll be up to you to decide how you would like to make your first impression (online) in the professional world. Professional photos do not need to be stiff, formal and lacking personality, they simply need to be a good, quality representation of who you are.

The good news is having professional photos taken of yourself can be a fun and comfortable experience.

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If you are interested in having professional headshots done or plan on taking your own, here are a few things to consider:

  • Wear clothes that you feel great in, and that fit you well
  • Choose a photographer that helps you feel comfortable
  • Feel free to share inspiration and ideas with your photographer
  • Avoid clothing with busy patterns
  • Try to drink plenty of water beforehand, and be well rested
  • Make-up (if wearing) should be clean and natural
  • Avoid distracting objects in the background
  • Choose soft natural lighting when possible, for a more flattering look
  • Experiment with different poses, angles and locations

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Above all else, have fun. Professional headshots do not need to be the awkward experience you may remember from your adolescence.

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I recently had the pleasure of working with a local chapter of TD Bank’s Women in Leadership to help them put their best foot forward as they work toward advancing their professional careers. I enjoyed meeting so many strong and confident women who truly love what they do.