Job Applications: Taking The Perfect Headshot

You are just about to start applying for all those high paying jobs and visualising the phone constantly ringing with interview invitations…but then you ask yourself “is my application up to scratch?”.

Presentation is of the utmost importance in the world of HNW employment and before submitting your application you really need to make sure that you are visually representing yourself.

Have you hired a professional photographer to take a few great shots or have you attached one of those 5 year old holiday photos, or, even worse, a selfie?

Having worked in recruitment for a number of years, I can’t even tell you how many awful photos of jobseekers I have seen; not to sound horrible of course! It is totally unprofessional to attach a blurred selfie and pictures taken God only knows where when you are looking to be employed by an UHNW individual or a luxury company.

I have seen THOUSANDS of professionals attempting to apply for top jobs paying top dollar with poorly executed photos.

Now, think about it. Is the photo you are using a good representation of who you are? Do you look professional? Do you look like you take your career seriously? Do you look like you are respectable, trustworthy and friendly?

Would you consider interviewing you if all you saw was that one picture and you didn’t know anything about you at all? As unpleasant as it might be, first impressions are usually based on looks and wealthy people are no exception here.

They pay vast amounts of money for the highest quality services and want their employees to be excellent value for money in all aspects; including presentation! And, let’s face it, the competition is extremely high, so they will be flicking through a lot of applications… Everything about YOU has to be immaculate and professional from the very first point of contact to immediately catch their eye and plant a seed.

Do you want to be perceived as someone who is just applying for a job, or someone who has really gone the extra mile to be considered for the vacancy.

If you have a bit of spare cash to spend on a professional photo shoot, go for it. Even your local supermarket such as Sainsbury’s offer digital photo services.

However, if you’d rather rather have a go yourself, there are certain things you can do to get some professional looking photos of yourself in your own home. Having done photography for 12 years, I believe that I know a thing or two about taking pictures – and now I am going to share a few tips with you to ensure that you are indeed ready to be applying for the very top paying jobs!


Firstly, let’s talk about the equipment you will need.

1. A friend and/or a tripod

You will definitely need a friend or a tripod! A friend would be much better but if no one is available, get yourself a tripod. There are plenty on the market now – even a small one designed for mobile phones will do, you will just have to set it on a table or somewhere high enough so your camera is a few feet away from you at about eye level.

2. Camera / Smartphone

You will of course need a camera or a smartphone. As a person who does a lot of photography, I am tempted to say that a camera would be, of course, preferable, but these days mobile phones are so advanced that pictures taken with a phone can look very decent. If you know nothing about photography, a mobile phone would probably work even better for you as the automatic settings are superb and you won’t need to fiddle with things like shutter speed, ISO settings and so on. Also, stay away from web cameras! The quality on those is terrible!

3. Background and lighting

Thirdly, you will need a plain wall as a background and a few additional lights. White walls always work best as they create an impression of the picture having been taken at a professional photo studio. You need to make sure that there is nothing in the background as we are trying to achieve the maximum professional level here. You want NOTHING to take the attention away from you, so there must be no distractions. There should be no furniture, no paintings and especially no windows behind you! A window behind is a killer! Unless you want to have a dark silhouette instead of your beautiful self on that photo, do not under any circumstances stand in front of the window when having your photo taken. That applies to holiday photos as well:). So, ideally, you need a plain white wall in a room that doesn’t have direct sunlight coming in through the window right onto you. As much as we all love the sunshine, it can be very harsh and completely unforgiving to your looks. Extra lights can be very handy but if you haven’t got any, we can live with that.

4. Respectable clothing

A few different outfits will also be required. Find the clothes that fit you well, look respectable and suit you. Opt for classic and professional. I would not recommend wearing aggressive red for a number of reasons. Firstly, it often doesn’t photograph well! Secondly, it is an intimidating colour that might put some people off.

Wearing green is not always a good idea either because it can make your skin colour look pale and unhealthy if you don’t set the lighting right, so in my opinion it’s best to avoid. Beige is a no go too because it can make you look naked at first glance! Blues, greys, browns and pastel colours are probably your best bet here depending on what suits you. I wouldn’t recommend bright patterned or shiny fabrics – they can be distracting and the shine doesn’t photograph well.

Also, ladies should work on their make-up properly, if you’re not confident about how you’re looking or if you don’t know which look to go for, you should consult a local beauty salon nearby where they could advise you on the best course of action for a photoshoot to ensure you are looking your best. I use my local Chester beauty salon whenever I get my photos done

Remember that sometimes you need to apply a bit more make-up for a photo shoot than you would normally wear.

Make sure your eyes, eyebrows and lips look good and are actually visible on the picture! And please avoid glittery stuff… Shiny skin never looks good, so washing your face just before the shoot and/or wearing a bit of concealer might be a good option. You don’t want to look sweaty and greasy!

5. Editing programmes

Finally, you need to have an hour or two dedicated to the shoot as well as a basic photo-editing programme for your phone or laptop. There are plenty of them available as apps to be downloaded onto your phone or online programmes that you can use on your PC or laptop.

Getting started

Once you have carefully chosen your location, removed all the pictures and furniture, we can start. If you have additional lights, a good thing would be to have a couple of them directed at the wall behind your back (but not at you!). This will get rid of any shadows that your body and different objects in the room can cast and add a nice 3D feel to the picture.

Now you can get ready yourself. By that, I mean getting dressed, doing your hair and make-up and practicing posing in front of a mirror! Having a friend with you on this occasion is also beneficial as they can give you their opinion on what works best. Stay relaxed but confident and give them all a charming smile! Passport style pictures on which you are not allowed to smile are never the best representation of yourself.

You have to show openness and confidence and be yourself. You have to stand out and make your future employer like you straight away! But no, seductive poses and hazy gazes are not what we are looking for:).

When you have decided on what to wear and established a few good poses you can get snapping! Make sure your face is in the light by adjusting the lights in front of you if you have any. The lights shouldn’t shine directly on your face but be placed a couple of feet away from where you are.

Two lights on each side of you would be perfect, but if you have only one try placing it in the centre so it is lighting you up slightly from above. If you haven’t got any lights, we will have to rely on daylight and editing programmes. I wouldn’t recommend using flash though.

Flash photography is a rather specific matter, so if you don’t know what you are doing, just don’t use it. Built-in flashes on cameras and phones are far from being the best tools to give you a healthy glowing look! Soft, diffused light is what we need.

If someone is taking photos of you, ask them to make sure that all of you from the chest up is in the frame! You deserve better than a cropped head or shoulders! If you are working with a tripod and setting the timer on your phone, take a few test shots to find the best place for you to stand before starting the actual shoot.

Testing is a huge part and you shouldn’t neglect it. The person taking photos or the tripod with your phone should be positioned precisely in front of you a few feet away with the lens at your eye-level or your chin level ( if you have a big nose!).

The lens should be far enough so not to distort the proportions of your face but close enough to ensure a high-resolution image. Besides, dear selfie lovers, make sure you are using the lens on the back of your phone for the shoot! The quality on the front-facing camera is always much worse!

Snapping away

And now… Get a good few photos to choose from! Experiment with your outfits, angles, slightly tilting your head, smiling in all possible and impossible ways. If you think about someone or something funny when having your photo taken it will look much better and more natural than if you are just saying ‘cheese’.

Genuine smiles are always very special. Another tip: you can stand at a slight angle to the camera for body slimming effect, which is something to bear in mind. Try moving towards the lights a little and stepping away from them. We all have very different facial features so trial and error is inevitable! It may take hundreds of shots before you capture just the right one or two.

Be careful if you are wearing glasses – pay attention to what is reflected in them! You don’t want your half-naked boyfriend being anywhere in the picture. Alternatively, you can position the glasses on the tip of the nose so the glasses are tilted but your eyes are focused on the camera to avoid the reflection.

Also, clean your glasses before the shoot and push them as far back as possible so they do not cover your eyes. After all the preparation and effort put into the photo shoot you simply have to get at least a few pictures that you are happy with! Ask your friends and family for advice on which pictures they prefer and select the most suitable ones.

Editing the photos

Most of us are on Instagram and are used to all the cool filters, but it is not what we are going to be using for your headshots. Adjusting brightness and contrast, shadows, highlights, and getting rid of the red eye effect are probably the only things you will need to do. Possibly, a bit of cropping too, but no need to go overboard with those quirky effects! What we need to achieve is getting a well-lit, clear image showing your head and shoulders and nothing else. Play around with the images but remember that sometimes less is more. Your portrait should look like you! A very professional, positive and reliable you, who is going to become the best employee they have ever had!

To achieve the above, I used Photoshop, yes…I know photoshop is a professional programme, but similar results can be achieved by using apps like Aviary, Snapseed, VSCO and desktop top applications such as LunaPic and iPiccy. Just play around with brightness, exposure and shadows. All are common editable features on the aforementioned photo applications. Experiment…and you might actually enjoy the process!

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About Anastasia Tilston

Born in Moscow, Russia, Anastasia is currently living in a gorgeous county of Cheshire with her husband and three cats. Holding a master’s degree in Languages and Teaching, she spent over 10 years working privately with multiple high-net-worth clients across Russia and then became a Co-Founder of an English language centre for children in Slovenia. Moving on, Anastasia eventually found herself in private education recruitment and used her extensive professional knowledge to build an international educational agency specialising in providing the best English speaking childcare professionals and tutors to VIP clients around the globe. Anastasia is now a Co-Founder and Director of Estate & Manor Magazine; she uses her experience in recruitment to develop the only online magazine dedicated to people working in UHNW households and VIP services. Aside from business, Anastasia enjoys travelling, arts, literature and wildlife.

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