September 01, 2022

Headshots: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Headshots. While they may seem fairly straightforward, rarely do we stop and think of all the little details.

What color shirt should I wear? Is my chosen background too distracting? Will it look professional? Do I still look like my headshot? These are all questions that must be considered when going to get your headshots done. To some, this can feel overwhelming, especially if they’ve never had professional photos taken before. To help demystify headshots, I reached out to a local photographer who has done headshots at our school, Sara Beasley of Sara Beasley Photography to get her opinion on what makes a good headshot.

Sara Beasley graduated from Purdue University in 2016 with a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts with a focus in Photography. She fell in love with photography after taking a dark room class in high school and since then that love has only grown stronger. That passion for photography pushed her to pursue a career in it. In the last year, Sara made the decision to start her own photography business and while it was scary to make the jump, she has no regrets. Sara loves what she does and this came across very clearly when I was interviewing her.

Sara has been in the photography industry for close to five years now and knows all the tips and tricks that go into making a professional, high quality headshot. I asked her some common questions floating around about headshots and listed her thoughts on them below.

Q: Why are headshots important?

A: A headshot brings to life the person behind all the experience that’s listed on your resume, it shows potential employers who they might be working with and makes your linkedin profile, website, etc. more personal.

Q: What makes a headshot good?

A: A good headshot is well lit, shows a little of your personality, and has a background that isn’t distracting so the focus is completely on you!

Q: How often should you update your headshot?

A: Every few years is ideal. It’s important that your headshot looks like you in the current moment.

Q: Is it better to have no headshot or a headshot that isn’t quite professional?

A: Having something is definitely better than nothing but I’d say choose wisely. If you can’t afford to pay to have a professional headshot taken, ask a friend to snap a photo of you on their phone. Dress how you would have for a professional, google a little about poses that might be flattering and try to set yourself up for success that way.

Q: Is there any clothing, make up, or accessories someone should avoid when getting their headshots done?

A: Wear something that you feel great in and make sure that it’s appropriate for going to work in whatever field you’re searching for a job in. I’d also consider the background, if you’re being photographed on a black or white background I wouldn’t wear the same color top.

Q: What kind of background is best?

A: Anything that’s not too distracting

Q: Do you have any additional advice you’d like to share?

A: Find a photographer who makes you feel comfortable in front of the camera. For many, it’s an uncomfortable experience but part of the photographer’s job is to get you to open up and show a little of your personality, talk to a few options before picking the one that makes you feel most comfortable - that’s the difference between an okay and a great headshot.

Besides just answering questions, Sara was kind enough to provide examples of good and bad headshots alongside reasoning as to why they may or may not be the best.

This is an example of a bad headshot. The shadows on the face are distracting and the background is too similar in color to her hair, creating a confusing effect.

This is an example of a good headshot. The lighting is flattering and the background is fun without being distracting. This photo also tells us something about the subject. It says she is kind and full of joy, and allows her to show that she is a chef, rather than having her say it.

This is another example of a good headshot. Again, the lighting is flattering and the background matches their occupation as a farmer. The clothing is appropriate for their field, and they look inviting and fun.

Headshots are meant to be a way to display who you are to employers. A good headshot can show that you put in the extra thought to make sure all the little details are good and that you understand the importance of image. During the pandemic, a headshot can act as a first impression and you always want to put your best foot forward. Putting the extra time into getting a good headshot can set you apart from your competition and make you stand out to potential employers.

If you are interested in photography or have more questions about headshots, you can contact Sara at or instagram @sarabeasleyphotography


Sydney Brown

International Affairs, 2025