Should I wear glasses in my headshot or portrait?

by scottrkline on April 1, 2014

Gil Zeimer

Copywriter Gil Zeimer of Zeimer’s Advertising Shoppe proudly wears his glasses in this headshot. 

Should you wear glasses in your headshot? Yes. If you normally use eyewear, you should wear them in your headshot. Since a headshot is used as an identity photo, whether it is on social media or your website, you want people to recognize you. There are several issues with glasses in a flash photo, the biggest being reflections. Here are some tips on getting a natural look. (Get more tips for looking great in your portrait here.)

- Make sure your glasses are in good repair.

- Make sure the lenses are clean.

- Bring more than one pair of glasses to the shoot.

- Try to bring a pair that does not have transitions or dark lenses.

- Get some shots looking away from the camera.

- Tilt your head down and away from the light.

- Move the light up high or to one side.

- Get a photo without the glasses.

Make sure your glasses are in good repair.

Bent metal glasses look terrible in a photo. If they are not symmetrical, you look bad. Plastic frames on older glasses will lose their shine in some spots or have pockmarks. Any scratched lenses will take away from a clean and polished look.  Make sure you avoid all these problems and bring your newest, cleanest pairs of glasses.


Marketing Leader Lisa Busby  tilts her head down to reduce glare on her tortoise-shell glasses.

Make sure the lenses are clean.

This goes without saying, but bring a lens cleaning cloth in case the photographer does not have one handy.

Bring more than one pair of glasses to the shoot.

If you have multiple pairs you wear frequently, why not be photographed in all of them? It can help show your personality and individual taste. Also, I have found that some glasses are more easily photographed than others. For instance glasses with a slight downward tilt, or that are less convex throw fewer reflections. It’s great to have a backup pair if these problems pop up. If you have a pair with non-reflective lenses, that can help too.

Try to bring a pair that does not have transitions or dark lenses.

I wear transitions lenses. But I don’t like the look of darker lenses in my photos. It gives off a slightly nefarious air. At the same time it can be artistic or exotic. These are all fine, but it is good to have a pair without color or darkness in the lens. If you don’t have another pair or just like those glasses with transitions, have the photographer turn down the model light so that the glasses have minimal darkness. Transitions always get dark outside, but usually are ok in a dark studio.

Jayne Heggen looks away from the camera to reduce reflections.

Advertising Guru Jayne Heggen of The Heggen Group looks away from the camera to reduce glare on her glasses.

Get some shots looking away from the camera.

Point your nose away from the camera. Besides giving some variety in your choices, it can help get rid of reflections. If the light is off to the side of the camera, you can actually look right into the light. This gives great light on the face, but eliminates the reflections. You can turn the head slightly back to the camera until the reflection appears. Leaving the model light on can help the photographer see when the reflection comes back. Leave your nose turned away and then move your eyes back to the lens for a couple of shots.

Tilt your head down and away from the light.

This can eliminate the reflection and give a sly or coquettish expression. Aim the reflection away from the camera. Get several shots in slightly different tilts to insure you get at least one good look.

Move the light up high or to one side.

Moving the light up high does the same thing as tilting the glasses down. Also moving it off to the side. Of course, it also casts more shadow on the face. I like to see a catch light* in each eye. So the light must be visible to both eyes of the subject. With glasses if the light is too high the top of thick frames can cast a show on the eyes eliminating the catch light.

*A Catch Light is that sparkle or reflection you see in the eyes of the subject. It is where the eye catches the light and reflects it to the camera.

Get a photo without the glasses.

Snap a photo without glasses for an insurance policy against reflection. Then edit the part of the eyes that was in a reflection back into the photo. Make sure that you get all head angles and expressions. Serious eyes in a smiling face look very weird. This is really a last resort. Invariably your favorite photo will be the one where someone was laughing and tilted their head to make a reflection in the glasses. We used this technique with Gil Zeimer at the top of the blog.

The bottom line is that glasses really reflect a person’s taste and style. They should be used in headshots and portraits whenever possible.

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Lincoln MillerBlack and white headshots are a nice way to stand out from the crowd on social media. In our recent interview with Yumi Wilson, of LinkedIn, she stated a preference for black and white in some instances. Black and white, ironically, can say you are more creative or that you think outside the box. Here are some tips for Black and White headshots.

- Take the shot with black and white in mind.

- Think contrast rather than color.

- Use a white or black background.

- Use the right conversion techniques in Photoshop

Take the shot with black and white in mind.

Tell your photographer you are thinking about black and white.  This may help in selecting backgrounds and clothing.  A white background will look better for someone with medium or dark hair, setting off the subject from the background. If you have very light hair, you may want a darker background. Different colors play as grey in a black and white. Some blues can look almost white. Red can become medium grey or even black depending on what filters are used in photoshop to process the image.

Photographer tip: If you know your photos will be used as black and white, shoot with your camera showing you a black and white image on the screen.



Think contrast rather than color.

While a cyan blouse against a red backdrop might be really dramatic, in black and white it may be two identical shades of grey. Make sure there is a difference in the darkness and lightness of items. There is no reason to do black and white if everything is medium grey.

Use the right conversion techniques in Photoshop

This section is for photography geeks. There are countless ways to perform black and white conversion, but here is what I like. In photoshop, after you have performed all your other techniques like retouching, spotting, global adjustments, etc., use the Black & White adjustment layer. Hit the auto button on the adjustment panel. This often does a very good job of balancing the black and white adjustments based on the colors in the spectrum. Play with the color sliders to get the image looking the way you want. If the subject has a blue shirt, for instance, play with the blue to make the shirt as dark or as light as you want.

Next add a curves layer. Increase the contrast in the image to make it pop.  I like to set a point in the middle of the curve, then pull the upper half up and the lower down. Move them around until it looks the way you want.

Finally, group these layers into one group. Label it B&W.  Then you can shut off all black and white conversion layers at once if you want to save a flat jpg for color and one for black and white. By having the separate contrast layer for Black and White, your original color photo is unaffected by your changes and you only had to save one layered PSD file.


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