Unless you’re under six years old, preternaturally gregarious, or in a profession that frequently finds you in front of a camera, you may find it difficult to relax during your headshot session. 

Who cares, right? You’ve been in plenty of high-pressure situations and emerged with flying colors. You’ve closed the big deals, slayed in the board room, presented to audiences who never guessed your knees were knocking. Headshots? Easy-breezy!  And when you flash that megawatt smile, no one will know your palms are sweating.

The camera knows.

Even if you fool your photographer–which is tough if you’ve hired a seasoned professional–the camera is unusually good at spotting tension. When it comes to anxiety, most people have a physical “tell,” however subtle – and the camera somehow picks it up most of the time. What’s a “tell,” you may ask? If you want to take a two-minute entertainment break, Teddy KGB and his Oreos will demonstrate a tell beautifully in this clip from the movie “Rounders”:

John Malkovich shows his tell in Rounders

No time for Malkovich? We’ll cut to the chase.  These are the most common “tells” we’ve observed through the years:

    • The chin tuck (which has the unfortunate side effect of making you look like you have a double chin)
    • A lean-away
    • The “over-smile” or fake smile
    • Eyes that shift away just when the camera goes off
    • Tension around the eyes and mouth
    • Exaggerated opening of the eyes (deer in the headlights)


5 Tips to banish “tells” from your headshot

Fear not! Follow our simple tips to get a relaxed, confident headshot. 

1. Practice. As silly as you may feel, spend a few minutes in front of your bathroom mirror reheasrsing. You’ll be surprised how much easier it’ll be when you get in front of the camera.

2. Chat with your photographer, before and during. The more comfortable you are with him or her, the more relaxed you’ll be during the shoot. This should be one of your criteria when you’re in the process of hiring your photographer.

3. Take a breath or three. Shut your eyes. Deep breath in, long exhale. This not only is calming, but it literally relaxes your face.

4. Screw up. Yep, we mean that. Screw up! Who cares? Even if your session is relatively short, you have a lot of clicks coming your way. So screw up, laugh, and move on.

5. Be yourself and no one else. If you’re not a person given to big grins, definitely don’t paste one on your face for the shoot. If you tend to laugh a lot, don’t hold back. And if the photographer suggests a pose that doesn’t feel like you, you can try it – but don’t feel like you have to stick with it if it doesn’t feel authentic.

Do these tips work? Why yes, yes they do. At least that’s what our clients have told us frequently over the years, and why our repeat business is so high.

Tip 5 tops ’em all:  Be yourself and no one else.

A headshot is not supposed to be a photo of a perfect you. Perfection is overrated — who among us is perfect? Besides, “perfection” is fundamentally uninteresting — so release that notion. The very best headshots capture that special something-something that you bring into the world every day. Look at the different personalities in these headshots — all different, all authentic, and all a little (or a lot) nervous before the shoot.

Female Corporate Headshot in Studio

Senior executive headshot in corporate office

Corporate headshot in company headquarters

Male corporate headshot photographed in NYC











So accept the jitters, employ the tips, and let the camera focus on the wonderful, unique person you are. Your headshot will thank you!  Want to learn more ? Check out our Guide to Great Headshots. And when you’re ready to schedule your photo shoot, we’re here for you.

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