Your realtor headshot should be the keystone of your personal brand. If you are spending money to advertise your profile on places like Zillow Premier Agent, it’s even more important.
In this article, you’ll learn 25 tips from professional photographers, body language experts, and data from photofeeler, to make sure your realtor headshot is sending the right message about your brand. For our industry, that message should be that you are trustworthy, competent, and confident enough to help people through one of the most important decisions of their lives.
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How to Look Trustworthy in Your Realtor Headshot
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 unhappier were viewed as less trustworthy. Both happy looking 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 very slightly more competent. The takeaway here should be obvious.
How to Look Competent in Your Realtor 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 Scott, a white background makes it easier to “read” your face when it is reproduced in tiny profile pictures on Gmail, Linkedin, Zillow etc. 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 and 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 and excessive jewelry as they will distract attention away from your face. You want people to remember you for how trustworthy, competent and confident you look, not 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, and vice versa.
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, Grey, or Charcoal as they are considered universally professional. Men should use the color of their ties to help reinforce their personal brand.
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.
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.
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 to stick with a style you know works instead of experimenting with a new look.
Men should visit their barber to tidy up their hair, and make sure facial hair is neat and trimmed. Remember to keep it simple. A dramatic change in hairstyle can make you feel less confident.
How to Look Confident in Your Realtor Headshot
Unlike choosing the right background and wardrobe, looking confident comes entirely from within. Many people hate having their picture taken, and that anxiety can show up in the finished product, making you look less confident. Try some of the following tips to look more confident in your headshot.
6. Tilting your chin and pushing your face forward makes you Instantly More Photogenic
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.
Squinching, another great posing tip from Peter, 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 actually 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 How to Smile Naturally
Many people associate confidence with being severe and serious. For real estate agents, nothing could be further from the truth. Confident agents are happy agents, and happy agents smile.
Like acting, smiling naturally in pictures is something you can learn. Sure, some people are born talented, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work to get better. Over at Lifehacker, Adam Dachis goes through simple techniques that you can practice so smiling naturally becomes second nature; a skill that will help in many areas of your business.
9. 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.
10. Liquid Courage: Have a glass of wine before your shoot
Think of your favorite photos of the people you love. Chances are, quite of few of them were taken after a great dinner and a few glasses of wine. 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
***Important note: Please remember your limits and make sure you are not driving yourself home after the shoot!
11. 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.
12. Relax and Remember to breathe
We know, telling someone to “relax” generally makes them even more 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 (in this business you should), try some of these quick breathing exercises from Time.com
13. Hire a Professional Photographer
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. Though it looks easy, portrait photography is highly technical and requires a special skillset that takes years to develop.
The good news is that finding a great headshot photographer doesn’t have to be a chore. You can use a directory like smartshoot to find studios in your area, ask friends or coworkers for recommendations, or find other realtor’s head shots you like and ask for a referral. Like realtors, photographers rely heavily on referrals for work, so most people will be happy to pass along a name.
Here are some things to consider before hiring a professional photographer:
Make sure they have a great portfolio that includes headshots or portraits. Are their head shots 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.
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.
Personality In order 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 breaking the ice that much easier. Before you settle on a photographer, spend a few minutes chatting with them to see if you click.
How Much Should You Pay? Your headshot can cost anywhere from $50 to several thousand, but depending your location I would expect to spend around $250.
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.
Know what you’re paying for Most photographers offer a few different pictures from the shoot to choose from, but will only retouch your final choices. Always ask what’s included in the price.
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.
14. Trust your Photographer
Since you followed our advice above, your photographer is a highly skilled professional that knows what she’s 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 looking into the camera. You wouldn’t give your lawyer legal advice would you? Relax and let your photographer do her job.
In photography, cropping means zooming in on a certain area of a picture to highlight it. If you ask 5 photographers what the best way to crop a professional headshot is, you’d probably get 9 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, like the icon for your gmail account. This is especially true on mobile devices.
16. The Three Shots Every Realtor 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 environmental shots as well. These can be useful for advertising, flyers, billboards, press mentions, or more creatively designed websites.
17. Ask Your Photographer for High-Resolution Copies of your Headshot
Though 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 flyers, posters, or even billboards at some point in the future.
18. Don’t be Scared to Tell Your Photographer What you Like and Don’t Like Before the Shoot
David Genik, a New York City-based headshot photographer, reminded us that: “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.”
19. 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 get in the right mindset to look confident. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before your shoot so you can look and feel your best.
20. Take an Environmental Portrait Along With Your Headshot
An environmental portrait is simply a picture of you in your working environment. An action shot 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.
General posing tips
21. 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. Remember that crossing your arms can make you appear powerful, but closed off or defensive. If you find crossing your arms fits your personality best, Patti recommends crossing your arms loosely.
22. Should You Cross Your Arms?
According to Communications Expert Karen Friedman, though 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”.
23. Angle one shoulder away from the camera
Caleb Keiter, a professional headshot photographer in Richmond, VA, 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. Trust me here- angle your shoulders.”
24. Tilt Your Head Slightly
Peggy Farren, a professional photographer from Naples Florida, recommends “tilting you head (ever so slightly) toward your lowest shoulder. That’s considered the “power pose” or “masculine pose”. It helps exude authority and confidence.”
25. Get a second (and third) opinion
Since your own picture is almost impossible to judge objectively, try and 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.
Be very aware of your energy and engagement levels – once they drop it shows in your eyes and you get that dead behind the eyes look that so many headshots suffer from. During a session I never stop talking and always keep the conversation going – that way character can shine through.
The Bottom Line
A great headshot should be the keystone of your personal branding efforts. Taking the time and effort to hire a professional photographer, working on your confidence, smile, wardrobe and pose, can offer a great ROI, and put you one step further down to path to achieving your goals.