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Research Impact Challenge

Get a Professional Headshot

First impressions count! A professional photo will help you create a positive impression and develop the connections you want.

In this challenge we are giving you a break from all the online profiles you’ve been creating. This week we’re taking a look at one important aspect of creating your professional online presence: your professional headshot.

Not just for actors and models, headshots allow potential collaborators, employers, and others to better connect with you and your work. A headshot also offers consistency between your various scholarly social media accounts. Having the same picture for your Twitter, Linkedin, and Google Scholar profiles (and the additional profiles you’ll be creating later in the challenge) can help build and reinforce your scholarly persona.

For this week’s challenge you will:

  • Get a professional headshot. Keep reading to find out how we’re making this simple and free.
  • Revisit your online profiles to swap out your current headshot with your new headshot.

Step 1: Pick your outfit

The most important thing to remember when getting your headshot taken is to project your professionalism. Dress as if you are going to an interview – whatever attire that means for your discipline. If possible, try to choose solid colors for your outfits. Flashy clothing may be distracting for the viewer, and clothing with patterns may soon look dated. Most importantly – pick clothing you feel comfortable wearing. If you are uncomfortable in your outfit, you will likely look uncomfortable in your photograph. By the way, we think this is good advice for more than just your headshot!

Step 2: Get a trim

It’s often a good idea to get a haircut before having your professional headshot taken. Your cut does not need to be a dramatic change; it can be as simple as a slight trim. They point is to make sure you are looking your best and feeling confident. The confidence will make your photos really pop!

Step 3: Go see a professional

Your headshot is going to represent who you are in the scholarly world, so this may not be the time to help out your second cousin’s budding photography business. Instead, have your picture taken by a professional photographer who has experience shooting professional headshots. A professional photographer will have a solid understanding of lighting, and they will be  able to give feedback and direction during your photo session. Professional photographers also understand the importance of taking multiple photos so that you can choose the one that best represents you.

Fortunately, Auburn University provides professional portrait photography services to university faculty, staff, and students free of charge, for university use.  They also provide professional portrait photography for personal use at a reasonable fee.


The only downside of getting a professional headshot is that it needs to be updated regularly. The longest you want to let it go is two years, and much shorter if your appearance has changed at all. Have you shaved your beard? Have you shaved your head?  Started wearing glasses? If so, you’ll want to get a new headshot as soon as possible. Of course, the price frequent headshots can stack up over time, so jump at any opportunity to get a free one!


We’re keeping this week’s homework simple too. You’re only going to do three easy things:

  1. Choose your outfit for your professional headshot, and do a little practice in the mirror. Test to see what colors and angles look best on you.
  2. Visit Auburn University Photographic Services' website to schedule a session with a photographer.  
  3. Once you receive your headshot, update your Google Scholar, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles with your new photo. Keep your headshot file in a place where you can easily find it, because you’ll be using it again – as soon as next week!

This guide is based on the "30-Day Impact Challenge" by Stacy Konkiel and used here under a CC BY 4.0 International License and the OU Impact Challenge which is also licensed CC BY 4.0.  Many thanks to those authors for creating and sharing these materials.