DIY: At Home Headshot

You might be asking, "Do I really need a headshot?" Trust me, you do!

I have actually been thinking about this DIY project for a while now, because over the past couple years there have been several occasions when I did need a headshot!

We still tend to associate headshots with actors and models, but really it is something everyone needs (realtors realized this years ago). Before the pervasiveness of the internet, printing full color images was costly. Times have certainly changed. On the internet adding images costs nothing! This has led many companies to include pictures of their employees online and many young professionals are choosing to add images of themselves to their resumes. Not to mention all of the professional and social networking sites that include profile pictures.

Even though more and more people need professional pictures, I find that many are reluctant to invest in a headshot. Take for example my profession--academia. Each history professor and graduate student has their own webpage complete with resume and picture. Last year when I presented a paper in London, they asked for a picture to publish with my bio. This summer when I was awarded a grant, the grant committee asked for a picture to include with the announcement of the recipients, and to place on the website. My page has a profile picture... I could go on and on. Yet very few academics have professional headshots taken. Their solution? Take an awkward selfie, crop the family out of your latest vacation photo, or have someone take a quick (and usually awful) photo of you on their camera phone. I too am guilty of these! So I decided it was time to do something about it!

I realize having professional headshots taken is expensive, and for many being the subject of a photo shoot would be torture. So I started thinking, how could someone achieve a professional looking headshot in the comfort of my own home?

First I must state that I am not a trained photographer and this is an amateur's guide to taking your own photo. I welcome any and all feedback from anyone with photography skills!

What you will need:
1) Large white foam board (this will serve as your background)
2) 2 industrial clamps/clips (if you don't have a high-backed chair, you will need these to hold the foam board) You can get these at Home Depot for 99 cents.
3) Camera and a small tripod (camera must have a timer)
4) Computer (or laptop) with camera
5) Light source (any lap with a shade will do, you just need to direct the light on to your face)
6) Small white poster board

How I did it:
I set up my foam board on the back of my desk chair, with my camera (on a small tripod) facing the chair on my desk. I clipped my bed-side reading light on the top of my computer and focused the light on the foam board. I placed my camera in front of my computer so I could use the computer camera to see the screen of my handheld camera. That way I wasn't shooting blind.

I then set my camera timer for a 10 seconds delay and to take 8 shots (you have to take a lot of pics to get one good one!). To make sure there were no shadows, I held the smaller white poster board about of foot below my chin (so I could crop it out) to reflect light. Then I just took a ton of pictures until I got a couple I liked!

Using this method you get a pretty good photo of yourself. Plus since you aren't paying a photography you could do this all day with tons of different looks!

I would recommend one final step to really make your pictures look professional: editing!

Here is what my picture looked like before and after editing:
I used Photoshop to adjust the tone, color, and contrast of the photos. I also used the repair tool to remove stray hairs and cover blemishes. Finally, I sharpened the eyes and the reflection on my bottom lip (this is a trick I learned as a graphic designer). Even if you don't have Photoshop, lots of photo editors can adjust these basic components. I realize some people might prefer the unedited version, but as a graphic designer I can't leave well enough alone!

All and all, I am happy with the results! But when I finally publish (one day...), I think I will reward myself with a professional headshot :)

Which do you prefer, glasses or no glasses, smiling not smiling? Anyone else going to try this at home?