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4 tips for a perfect LinkedIn, passport, or visa photo

professional headshot
Take the perfect professional headshot with these tips. Source: SHVETS production/Pexels

Chin up, shoulders back, smile! As we move to social media platforms, finding the right angles for your photos has become more important than ever. While this used to be largely limited to more social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, it’s now beginning to permeate into professional settings. 

Enter the professional headshot. This is a photo you’d likely be asked for during job applications, or while you’re setting up a LinkedIn profile. If you’re a student who’s about to graduate, you’ve probably heard your peers talk about getting one done.

It’s proven to generate results, as well. It was found that LinkedIn profiles with professional headshots tend to get around 14 more views and are 36 times more likely to be contacted. There’s a simple reason for this: when employers are searching for candidates and come across your profile, your headshot will be the first thing they see. This can greatly alter their perception of you, depending on how professional-looking your picture is. 

More than that, your professional headshot can be useful for a range of other things, as well. Many students need professional-looking pictures for their visa applications or passport, for example. Or maybe you’re part of a student organisation and need to supply an appropriate photo for your website. 

Either way, getting a professional headshot done is always a good idea. Most people do this by hiring a professional photographer who knows how to get the right angle and lighting. They are generally more able to direct you to pose appropriately, generating optimal results. 

The downside is that they tend to be really, really expensive. There are less costly methods that can be found, especially if you’re looking through Airbnb experiences

If you don’t want to spend any money at all, don’t fworryet. Luckily, there are many ways you can get yourself a professional headshot — all for free. 

Here are some tips and tricks from experts on taking a top-quality professional headshot: 

The right smartphone can go a long way in generating great photos. Source: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP

Professional headshot on a budget: 4 tips

Use a smartphone with a great camera

The most important aspect of getting a great professional headshot is the camera you use. Most professional photographers will use actual cameras, but the right smartphone can go a long way in capturing the perfect photo for you. 

Try using a smartphone with a setting for portrait mode. You can find these in the latest iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones and the OPPO Reno8 Pro. The Google Pixel Five and Xiaomi Mi 11 are good shouts, as well. 

Don’t own a smartphone with a great camera? No problem. The great thing about university is being able to meet and make friends with lots of different people. One of them will have access to a great-quality camera, so don’t be shy about asking to borrow it for a quick photo. 

Get a good background

Looking clean and sharp or having a perfect face of makeup will make no difference if you don’t have a good background to stand against. In a recent campaign, OPPO and expert photographer Shane Taylor broke down the must-dos for every student looking to take a professional headshot. 

“With headshots, you want the subject to be the most dominant element in the frame,” Taylor was quoted saying. “So often, the easiest way to do that is to find a clean, neutral background which doesn’t distract from the star of the shot.”

A solid background will help produce a great photo. Source: OPPO

Know how to compose your shot

Unless you’re a self-taught photographer, have some photography experience or regularly take influencer-ready photos for Instagram, you’re not likely to know about the rule of thirds in photography. Simply put, this is a composition guideline that generally leads to more compelling or visually-pleasing shots.

“The rule of third is all about using equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines across your photo to create nine squares,” say OPPO and Taylor. “For example, people are drawn to the eyes in a photo, so having your eyes sit across the intersection of the gridlines.”

OPPO and Taylor have a simple solution for this: turn on the gridlines function in your smartphone’s camera. This way, you’ll be able to position your subject more accurately to produce a great photo. 

Join free photography sessions

Still unsure about how to take your professional headshot? Find out if you can attend a free photo-taking course or session instead. 

Some organisations may partner with certain universities to offer this for free. For example, OPPO’s Futureproof campaign centred around giving university students the chance to have their headshots taken by professional photographers using its new smartphone. 

You can explore other avenues, too. Contact your university’s photography society or ask if anyone in your network might have some picture-taking experience. A little can go a long way in securing that perfect professional headshot.