Help! I can’t afford professional headshots right now…

Professional headshots can be expensive.  Many people who set up their own business do it on a tight budget and have to seriously prioritise what they spend their carefully set aside money on.  (If you ever saw my first logo, you’ll know that I was definitely in that start-up category!)

Don’t panic.  

You have an awesome fledgling business, are well on the way with your website, social media accounts and business cards, but need some photos to show your potential clients who you are and what you do.  You start looking round for a photographer and realise that the packages being offered aren’t quite within budget just yet.

Where do I start?

Firstly, if you’ve found a photographer who’s style really speaks to you, have a chat with them. 

They may be in the middle of promoting big Branding Photoshoot Sessions that are hours long, and involve many outfit changes and multiple locations. 

You don’t need this right now.  The few photos you need might not be as pricey as you’ve assumed.  You’re also paving the way to establishing a working relationship with your ideal photographer for when you are in a position to upgrade your photos, so a friendly conversation is always a win-win starting point!

The chat was lovely, but I’m still stuck!

Then you’re in the right place.  Read on for my Dos and Don’ts for DIY Headshots.

1. Don’t settle for a hand-held selfie

In fact, don’t even use a selfie stick. Ask a friend, companion or colleague to help you.  At a pinch you can set up a timer (more on this later).  The key is: stand back from the camera!  You’ll get much better and more flattering photos this way.

2. Don’t use a blurred shot

It can be tempting, I know: you have a picture you love, but it’s not quite right.  It’s a bit blurry, not quite in focus.  In my opinion, it’s better to have no photo on your website than one that isn’t sharp.  It shows you care about how you present yourself.  It shows attention to detail.  It shows professionalism in what you do.  Always focus on your eyes (or the eye closest to the camera).  This will draw people in.

3. Do use a digital camera if you have one

That said, phone cameras are pretty nifty now, and as you won’t need your images to be super big, it is possible to take a reasonable photo with your phone (check out my alternative instagram feed where nearly all the images are taken with my iPhone, and you’ll see what I mean). So if a phone is all you have, don’t despair.

4. Do prepare yourself

Give yourself a bit of a pamper.  Take time over your hair and makeup.  Wear something simple that you feel great in (try to avoid busy patterns if you’re unsure).  But most importantly, be authentic to you and your brand.  Your photos will work out much better if you’re feeling awesome and confident.  (Equally, you probably don’t want to be dressed in a ballgown if you’re advertising your yoga class!).

5. Do use natural light

This doesn’t mean you have to go and stand outside.  Position yourself in front of a window or open door (out of direct, blazing sunlight).  If outside suits you and your brand better, make sure you’re standing in even shade (not direct sunlight or dappled shade).  An overcast day is perfect!

6. Do think carefully location

Where do you feel most comfortable?  Most like you?  What fits your brand and your business best?  If you can, go to where you feel your vibe, but….

7. Do Keep It Simple!

Simple, uncluttered backgrounds work best.  You don’t need to over-think, over-plan and make it hard for yourself.  A cool and simple trick is to position yourself at a distance from your background.  This way, you’ll be nicely in focus, and your background won’t distract from you (but can still add that little burst of individuality).

Bonus Tips

Timers and Phone Set-ups

If you don’t have anyone you can ask for help taking your photo, you can always experiment with the built-in shutter timer. 

It can sometimes be tricky to get images in focus, and you may have a bit of trial-and-error to get yourself positioned right, but it can definitely work.

Tripods are ideal for this kind of selfie-at-a-distance photography, but you don’t need to rush out and buy one. 

Positioning your phone or camera on a flat, level surface at the right heigh (pile of books on a desk) can work well.  Bonus points if you can get the camera/phone to be slightly angled down at your face (it’s more flattering).  Phones can be a little more tricky to position, but you can use tape or rubber bands to hold it in place against an angle-poise lamp or other handy structure (just be mindful about what tape you use – it needs to be strong enough to support your phone, but also removable!). 


Don’t worry about Posing.  Be you.  (And yes, I know that can be a little tricky when there’s a camera pointed at you!).

Stand – or sit – up tall. 

Take a few deep, calming breaths. 

Scrunch your shoulders, and relax. 

Shake your hands out, and relax.

Think of something that makes you happy (some awesome progress you’ve made with your business, or a hobby you love), then look at the camera. 

Or not.  You don’t have to even look straight down the lens. If you find it too intimidating, or keep ending up with the same Camera Face, try looking off to the side, thinking of something that makes your heart sing.  If it’s still not working out right, try to get a photo of you doing what you do.  If you make jewellery for instance, why not go for a shot of you at your workbench, making something.

Photograph what you do

As well as the all-important photo of you, you can also take photos of things that are relevant to what you do. 

What are the tools of your trade? 

What is your workspace like? 

Where do you meet clients? 

If you are an interior designer, how about some simple shots of fabric swatches and scissors.  If you are involved in catering, a basic set-up with some of your best creations would work.  If you’re taking photos yourself, there are some tricks you can use to get your hands in shot (like setting the shutter timer on your phone camera and holding the phone in your teeth.  I’d advise caution with this, but I have done it myself and it works!).   


There are plenty of free or cheap editing tools where you can tweak the brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows of your photos.  Phones include these basic image-tweaking features.  Don’t feel you must edit your photos, however.  If they look fine as they are, don’t fiddle!

Be Brave, Be Bold, Experiment

Try a few random things – quirky angles, lighting, backgrounds. Bin whatever doesn’t work – no one has to see them!  After all you only need around 3-5 photos for a simple website, and you can afford to have a bit of fun capturing them.  You might even surprise yourself.

For more information on packages I offer, drop me a line.

Phone set to 3 second timer, and firmly gripped between my teeth
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