How to get a great professional headshot for cheap

Posted By on Jun 2, 2017 | 0 comments


Bryant Burciaga Headshot

Bryant Burciaga Headshot | ©2017

A good professional headshot is extremely important because people judge you on your credibility online, and a nice picture can be the difference between someone actually opening a message/email from you or not even reading it. It can be a difference maker for people trying to start an online business or get hired. However, professional photographers can be expensive and may not know your “best angle”. So how do you remedy that?

Do what I did:

1) Have a professional photographer at a business event take a few pictures of you.

My current profile picture was taken at a scholarship event I attended as a member of the alumni committee for the organization that gives the scholarship out. I, along with other alumni, were invited to give a presentation about networking for existing students and share any personal insights or stories on how we have learned from networking mistakes and turned them into successes. In fact, you can see that presentation here ( After the presentation was over, a professional photographer for the organization was taking photos. He took group and individual pictures that turned out really well. I’m assuming he also edited them and published them to his photography server where I was given access. I downloaded this great image with good lighting, good angles, and cropped it to a square ratio to be able to post it on my LinkedIn, AngelList, Podcast, and website.

Depending on the event, you could pull this off too. Just need to communicate with the photographer if it would be possible that they take a few nice pictures of you. If it’s a similar event like I mentioned above, where the photographer is incentivized to make the event and attendees look good, it should work really well. It should probably be a day event rather than an evening event because natural lighting will always look much more natural than any dark rooms, flashes, or fluorescent lighting. You should know which side you prefer to be photographed so that you position yourself before you ask or right after you ask. Having a simple professional background behind you is ideal. Avoid having windows, other people, and other insignia behind you so that you can maximize the usability of the picture. Finally, be sure to remove any name tags or indicators that you are at an event. If you pull it off right, the photographer will agree to snap a few pictures to get the best one, you’ll have a good background behind you (they may even make recommendations), good lighting, and no one would be the wiser that you got this picture at an event. Don’t forget to ask where you can see the final pictures of the event so you can download for later. You may have to do this more than once at different events until you get something good.

Total Cost: $0

2) Have a journalism/photography/media major take your picture (especially if they work for school newspaper or magazine)

I’ve had this done before, although the results were less than what I anticipated. I asked an acquaintance if she could take a few headshots for me in exchange for helping her with something else business related. She agreed. Although she is talented, l don’t think headshots where her strong point. Not to mention, we used big lights from a studio she rented out and she photographed my from angles I wasn’t a big fan of. I should have communicated with her more on what I wanted, and I ended up never using those pictures. I did learn from that though. I also asked other photography students at the newspaper I worked at how much they would charge me for the same thing, and they rightfully quoted me something over $100 each time. Although I think photographers aren’t valued for their work all the time, I think $100+ was way too steep for me as a student at the time. Plus their quote included giving me a disc with all the images. Why would I want that? Just take good pictures and edit them and upload them somewhere I can download them. But I digress.

If you’re good buddies with other photography majors they may be able to hook you up with great pics for a better price. Worth a shot.

Total Cost $0–100+ or barter for other services

3) Business schools may offer professional photographer headshots before networking events, specifically for your LinkedIn.

My business school, prior to big networking or hiring events, offered a pro photographer on site for $5 a picture. She had a spot set up next to big natural lighting windows and asked which side you preferred left or right and helped tilt your head and place your body before snapping the picture. Once she took a few she let you look at her screen and pick. If you only wanted one she wrote down which one it was and asked for your e-mail. You gave her $5 and went on your way. Not bad. The picture was ok, but I think I would have gotten something really good if I had communicated more with her and spent a couple more minutes playing with the right picture. Also should have spent an extra $5–10 to get a final 2–3 pictures instead of just one. But still a great way to get a good picture.

Total Cost: $5+

4) Shop around on CL or Linkedin

Shop around on FB, Craigslist, or LinkedIn. Someone might do it for barter as mentioned above, or do it for a reasonable price. Note: Keep in mind that photographers have to eat too. It takes knowledge and skill, not to mention quality equipment, and time to take good professional photographs. Be sure to have that in mind when looking for a photographer. I’ve heard of friends finding photographers that take LinkedIn specific pictures for $65. That is certainly reasonable.

Total cost: ~$65+

5) Snap your own

If you own a nice camera and tripod, it’s worth playing with if you have the aforementioned good lighting, background, and nice clothing on. I did this initially when I first started off. It was definitely not the best, but it got me through. It was also 100x better than a selfie. I didn’t have a clean white background I could use at the time so I used the side of a white dryer as my backdrop. I had to snap a few variances because there was a reflection, but I managed to make it look somewhat decent. I don’t recommend this, but it’s an option. Probably the last option.

Total cost: FREE

What do you think about my advice? Drop me a line on Twitter @bryantburciaga or here as well: Bryant Burciaga

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *