Real estate agent headshots—which are used by the NAR and unaffiliated agents alike—are the keystone of your brand, which is why we’ve assembled 32 tips from experts to make sure your headshot is as professional as possible. These tips show you how to convey trustworthiness, confidence, and professionalism that will attract more clients.
Admittedly, it can be hard to take a great photo that you are happy with in all respects. Instead of spending hours trying to capture the perfect shot, you can use BoxBrownie’s portrait retouching service to ensure a flawless agent headshot. Experts will enhance your image by adjusting the lighting, removing blemishes, and smoothing skin for $4 per edit. Sign up for free on their website.
How to Look Trustworthy in Your Real Estate Headshot
1. Smile for the Camera
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people who looked happier in photographs were viewed as more trustworthy while people who looked unhappy were viewed as less trustworthy. Both happy and unhappy looking people were viewed as equally competent, but when asked who they would choose to be their financial advisor, test subjects chose the happier-looking person every time.
Studies from photofeeler.com came up with virtually identical results; people who smiled in their headshot were seen as far more likable and influential than those that didn’t, but only slightly more competent. The takeaway here should be obvious: Smile for the camera.
How to Look Competent in Your Agent Headshot
2. Choose the Right Background
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a background is to make sure it doesn’t distract from the focal point of the image—you. Scott R Kline, an executive portrait photographer in San Francisco, says that pure white is the best color for headshot backgrounds. According to Kline, a white background makes it easier to “read” your face when it is reproduced in tiny profile pictures on Gmail, LinkedIn, Zillow, and other sites. It also makes it easier to swap out the background for something else down the road.
If you do choose an image for your background, make sure it reflects your personal brand and the area you work in. If you work in the city, an artfully blurred street scene or brick wall can look great while not distracting from your face. If you work in a more rural area, your future clients may respond more to something like a blurred forest or pastoral scene. Whatever you choose, make sure the colors blend well with your outfit, eye color, and hair color.
3. Dress for Success
Know Your Target Audience & Dress Accordingly
Think of what you would wear to the first meeting with your dream client. You’d dress formally, but depending on where you work, “formal” can mean very different things. In Chicago, you wouldn’t dream of showing up in anything less than a charcoal gray or navy blue Brooks Brothers suit. On Cape Cod or Key West, that same suit might come across as too stuffy.
Avoid Busy Patterns & Excessive Jewelry
Busy patterns and jewelry will take attention away from your face. You want people to remember you for how trustworthy, competent, and confident you look, not for your great taste in paisley scarves or loud ties. If you do go with patterns, make sure they’re subtle, and remember to pair them with solid colors. For example, if you go with a classic gray Prince of Wales Check blazer, pair it with a solid shirt and tie.
Use Color Strategically
Both men and women should avoid wearing black as many people associate black with funerals or evening wear. Instead, go with navy blue, gray, or charcoal as they are considered universally professional. Men should use the color of their ties to help reinforce their personal brand.
Bring Several of Your Favorite Outfits to the Shoot
Everyone has a dynamite outfit that makes them feel confident and assured. Wear your favorite outfit to your agent photoshoot to help you project a positive image and professional feel. Bring several outfits to your photo shoot that range from casual business to very professional so that you will have a choice during your headshots.
Make Sure Your Clothes Fit Properly
That baggy three-button blazer may be comfortable, but it hasn’t been in style for decades. A well-fitting suit jacket should be snug but not restrict movement, and always remember to match the width of your tie to the width of your lapels.
If you need more advice on how a suit should fit, this guide on Esquire.com can help.
4. Wear Makeup But Not Too Much
According to a study from Proctor and Gamble, makeup increases people’s perception of a woman’s likability, trustworthiness, and competence. Smartly applied makeup can also help men look better in pictures. Don’t overdo it though; according to the study, people who wore “glam” makeup weren’t seen as trustworthy, and makeup should never be noticeable on men.
How to Look Confident in Your Real Estate Headshot
5. Take a Trip to the Salon or Barbershop
Marie Papp, a professional photographer in New Jersey, recommends women have their hair and makeup professionally done before the shoot. She also recommends planning your hairstyle and makeup along with your outfit a few days in advance and sticking with a style you know works instead of experimenting with a new look. This helps convey a sense of confidence.
6. Tilt Your Chin & Push Your Face Forward
According to Peter Hurley, one of the top headshot photographers in New York City, accentuating your jawline instantly make you more photogenic. The trick is to tilt your chin down slightly and push your face a tiny bit forward, which will result in a more confident look. This technique will also instantly eliminate the dreaded double chin. Check out Peter’s amazing video for more detailed instructions.
7. Learn to Squinch
Squinching is based on the idea that people with wide-open eyes look fearful, while people who squint very slightly appear more confident. Believe it or not, this works. According to a study done by photofeeler, people who squinched in their profile pictures were rated as more confident and more influential than people who didn’t.
Check out Peter Hurley’s viral video on how to squinch properly and remember to practice in the mirror before your shoot.
8. Learn Power Poses to Trick Your Brain Into Feeling Confident
Even if your biggest deal of the year fell through the morning of your shoot, you can still trick your brain into feeling confident with power poses. Power poses are how confident people naturally position their bodies. Putting your hands on your hips, crossing your arms, and holding your arms above your head like Superman are all examples of power poses.
You’re going to feel silly doing this but raising your arms above your head like Superman for a few minutes has been shown to increase feelings of power and confidence. Spending even a minute or two before your shoot in a power pose can increase your confidence and result in a better picture. For more advice on power poses, check out Amy Cuddy’s inspiring TED Talk on the link between body language and confidence.
9. Have a Glass of Wine Before Your Shoot
If you like wine, consider drinking a glass or two before your shoot to help you relax and feel more confident. For a great example of how wine can affect how you look in pictures, check out artist Marcos Alberti’s viral photo series of his friends after one, two, and three glasses of wine.
10. Sit or Stand Up Straight
Your mother was right. People judge you based on your posture. Professional portrait photographer Mark Liflander recommends standing or sitting up straight in your shoot to project confidence and professionalism.
11. Relax & Remember to Breathe
Telling someone to “relax” generally makes them anxious but staying relaxed during your shoot is crucial to looking confident. Meditating for a minute or two before you go in front of the camera can do wonders for your nerves. If you don’t have a go-to meditation technique, try some of these quick breathing exercises from Time.com.
General Posing Tips for Great Real Estate Headshots
12. Practice Your Pose Before Your Shoot
Body language expert Patti Wood, MA, CSP recommends practicing several different poses in the mirror before your shoot to find one that fits your personality. If you find crossing your arms fits your personality best, Patti recommends crossing your arms loosely.
13. Decide On Your Stance
After practicing several different poses, decide on the one that seems most natural. But keep in mind: According to Communications Expert Karen Friedman that, although it is often considered a power pose, “crossing your arms can also signal defensiveness or resistance. When they are open at your sides, you appear more approachable.”
14. Angle One Shoulder Away From the Camera
Caleb Keiter, a professional headshot photographer in Richmond, Virginia, told us that angling one shoulder slightly away from the camera slims your body profile and creates a photo with a bit more depth. “DMV-style photos do not make great first impressions,” Keiter says. “Trust me here—angle your shoulders.”
15. Tilt Your Head Slightly
Peggy Farren, a professional photographer from Naples Florida, recommends “tilting your head toward your lowest shoulder. That’s considered the ‘power pose’ or ‘masculine pose.’” It helps exude authority and confidence.
16. Stay Engaged
Be very aware of your energy and engagement levels—once they drop, you get that dead-behind-the-eyes look that so many headshots suffer from. During a session, keep the conversation going—that way character can shine through.
17. Don’t Pose With Animals
Unless you’re selling eight-figure homes in the Hamptons and have a pocket pooch who’s been featured on Page Six, a headshot with your dog is just going to look unprofessional. You want to convey a message that you can handle any real estate transaction with expertise. Your dog does not speak to your real estate expertise.
18. Don’t Pose With Technology
Posing with technology can be a turn-off for potential customers because it says you value online relationships over offline relationships. You might seem too busy to some buyers who are interested in scheduling a showing and too technical for other buyers who are not tech-savvy. It is best to leave your technology—like your computer or smartphone—out of the picture to avoid seeming distracted or too busy for clients.
19. Don’t Pose With Family
Your agent headshot is not the time for a group photo. You need to be the focus of the image, and your brand should be conveyed to the client clearly. Pictures of children with parents or spouse do not say “professional agents focused on helping people find their ideal home.” These types of photos are best saved for holiday cards.
20. Avoid the Selfie Shot
Some agents use selfies for headshots. However, a quick-click selfie is too intimate for a real estate shot and doesn’t best represent your brand. You need a professional photograph that portrays qualities like trust and knowledge of the real estate industry—in other words, your ability to help a buyer or seller find the right property and close a deal.
How to Make the Most of Your Photoshoot Session
21. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Not sleeping well the night before the shoot will not only make you feel and look tired but can lead to increased anxiety, which will make it hard to look confident. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before your shoot so you can look and feel your best.
22. Check Out Other Real Estate Headshots
Review other local real estate agent headshots to see what you like and what you do not want. While you do not want to look like all other agents, you can get ideas about how top-performing agents are branded by their headshot pose and expression.
23. Trust Your Photographer
Your photographer is a highly skilled professional who knows what he or she is doing. There is no need to panic and try to take over the shoot just because you think it’s going poorly. After all, you’re not the one taking the shots. You wouldn’t give your lawyer legal advice, would you? Relax and let your photographer do her/his job.
24. Get the Three Shots Every Agent Needs
While the head-and-shoulders portrait is the most versatile picture you can have in your branding arsenal, ask your photographer about doing full body shots or shots staged outside as well. These can be useful for flyers, billboards, press mentions, or more creatively designed websites.
25. Take an Action Shot Along With Your Headshot
An “action shot” is simply a picture of you in your working environment. This might be you sitting at your desk on the phone, standing over a conference table in a power pose, standing outside of a listing that fits your personal brand, or behind gorgeous local scenery that speaks to your target audience. This shows you engaged, passionate, and confident.
26. Tell Your Photographer What You Like
David Genik, a New York City-based headshot photographer, reminds us: “This is a business transaction. Just because the photographer knows what they’re doing, that doesn’t mean you have to like it. Speak up, and no one will get offended. Let us know your expectations, intentions, and what kind of look you’re going for.”
27. Take a Break
Everyone wants to make the most of their time at a photo shoot, but standing for hours in different poses, changing clothes, and trying to find the right angle can be exhausting. Take a break about halfway through and drink some water to refresh yourself. A light snack (be sure to brush your teeth after) can give you the energy to start again.
28. Ask Your Photographer for High-resolution Copies
Although the primary use of your headshot may be for your website or Zillow profile, it makes sense to have high-resolution copies on hand for other uses. You may need your headshot for print ads at some point in the future, and low-resolution photos will make them look blurry and unprofessional. Be sure to ask your photographer for both high-resolution and low-resolution versions of your headshots.
29. Make the Most of Cropping
In photography, cropping means zooming in on a certain area of a picture to highlight it. If you ask five photographers what the best way to crop a professional headshot is, you’d probably get nine opinions. To play it safe, a standard head-and-shoulders shot will work well in almost every situation. If you crop your headshot differently, it will be harder to read as a smiling face when reproduced in very small sizes, such as the icon for your Gmail account.
30. Don’t Overuse Photo-editing Programs
Light photo editing is important to help agents erase physical issues or even out lighting/technical problems. Using a photo editing program like BoxBrownie to help you bring out the best in your photos is a great idea; however, overusing photo editing programs to adjust age or physical characteristics can cause a break in trust with clients.
31. Get a Second & Third Opinion
Since your own picture is almost impossible to judge objectively, try to get a second opinion. Once you have a few headshots you like, send them out to friends and colleagues to see which one they like best.
You can also upload your headshots to photofeeler to get unbiased opinions from their 60,000 users. Once you upload your picture, photofeeler users anonymously rank it according to three categories: competence, likability, and influence. If you’re having a hard time choosing between two options, photofeeler can be a great way to get unbiased opinions.
32. Update Your Real Estate Headshot Frequently
Some real estate agents take a headshot, but then forget to update it for five or 10 years. The reality is that buyers and sellers trust an agent based on their headshot. If your physical characteristics have changed over the years, then you should get a new headshot taken to reflect your current image. As a general rule, get a new headshot every three years.
6 Considerations for Hiring a Professional Photographer
Just like a great lawyer or mortgage broker, a great portrait photographer can be an asset to your business for many years to come. Since you wouldn’t hire an amateur lawyer, don’t hire an amateur photographer. To hire a great photographer, ask for referrals and recommendations, make sure you review each photographer’s portfolio pictures, ask for examples of retouching skills, consider their personality, check out their pricing, and understand copyright restrictions.
1. Ask for Referrals & Check Online Sources
Finding a great headshot photographer doesn’t have to be a chore. You can use a directory like the smart shoot to find studios in your area, ask friends or coworkers for recommendations, or find other real estate headshots you like and ask for a referral. Like agents, photographers rely heavily on referrals for work, so most people will be happy to pass along a name.
2. Make Sure They Have a Great Portfolio
After you pick your top photographer candidates, review their portfolios. Are their headshots well composed and properly lit? Do the subjects look relaxed and natural, or stiff and uncomfortable? Remember, a photographer’s portfolio highlights their best work. If you don’t like what you see in their portfolio, move on.
3. Check Out Their Retouching Skills
Ask to see examples of their retouching work. An example of a headshot before and after retouching can tell you a lot about a photographer’s skill. Do the “after” pictures look natural, or do they look airbrushed and fake? A good photographer can remove dark circles, blemishes, and stray hairs without anyone knowing the picture was altered. Make sure your photographer can do the same.
4. Make Sure Their Personality Is a Good Fit
To look your best, you need to feel your best. A great portrait photographer can make most people smile naturally for a picture, but working with someone you already get along with will make you relaxed, which makes your photo even better. Before you settle on a photographer, spend a few minutes chatting with them to see if you click.
5. Ask About Price
Your headshot can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $1,000, but the average is around $250. Most photographers offer a few different pictures from the shoot to choose from, so you will have choices. Always ask what’s included in the price to make sure you understand all charges.
Think of hiring a photographer like ordering wine in a restaurant; the cheapest option may be acceptable, but if you spend a little more, you will get something much better. Once you get past the middle of the wine list, however, you will usually start to see diminishing returns. Unless your headshot is going on the cover of Vanity Fair, you should be perfectly fine hiring a mid-range photographer.
6. Ask About Copyrights
Generally speaking, a photographer maintains all copyrights to your headshot unless you sign a contract that says otherwise. Most photographers understand that you will be using your headshot all over the web and may offer a copyright transfer agreement. That said, there are certain situations where a photographer may want to claim the copyright to your photo. To avoid confusion down the road, always ask about copyrights before hiring your photographer.
Bottom Line ― Real Estate Agent Headshots
A great real estate agent headshot should be the keystone of your personal branding efforts. Take the time and effort to hire a professional photographer and work on your confidence, smile, wardrobe, and pose. If you do, you’ll get a headshot that takes you one step closer to building your brand, landing clients, and growing your business.
That said, it can be hard to get a perfect real estate headshot—even with a professional photographer. BoxBrownie gives agents the power to tweak their headshots and get the best results. Find out how you can enhance your real estate headshot for $4 per edit and present the best overall appearance that will help you gain new clients.