I would like to do a photo for my CV, and I was wondering of what I can do to make it look the best. What are the important aspects to keep in mind?


  • Focal length
  • Lighting
  • Background
  • Crop
  • Etc.

Edit: the original question asked about taking a self-portrait, which got some pretty strong "don't do that" responses. So, to expand the question: what if my friend took that advice against the DIY approach, and now I'm the one asked to take the resume portrait of someone else? How should I do it? Thanks!

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Go to a professional portrait-photographer and let him take a decent and normal photo. Never, ever try to be "interesting" on a photo in your CV for a technical job. Maybe if you submit it for the next fancy and ultra-hip future mega-company, but else: resist. \$\endgroup\$
    – Leonidas
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 3:02
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I just wouldn't include a photo on a CV for a technical role at all; but then again, I've been on the other side in the past sifting through CVs and know how I'd consider them... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 9:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rowland: Maybe for where you're at, but remember that different areas of the world handle CVs differently, so that advice may not apply wherever the OP is. In Korea (for example) it is de rigueur to always include a picture (as well as other information that might be 'strange' to Western business culture such as religion)... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jay very true - we have to be careful about all sorts of legislation regarding equal opportunities - it does depend on the industry too - I'd expect to see a photo on a portfolio for a model (which is essentially a CV of sorts) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 19:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 to Rowland Shaw. My feeling is that putting your portrait on a CV or Resume invites discrimination. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frank Hale
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 17:54

3 Answers 3


You are looking for a "headshot", or "business portrait". There are a few different characteristics that define the style, which I will touch on as I go.

Focal length:

The standard "portrait" focal length is about 85mm, but any short-telephoto will be ideal. The idea is that you want to 1) Get a nice closeup of your subject, and 2) Use a telephoto, which unlike a normal or wide-angle lens, will provide "background compression". Basically, this will make the image feel a little flatter, so you can avoid the really long nose look.


This depends on your subject, but usually, Rembrandt Lighting is a good option.


This is also dependent on your subject, but commonly, a dark, neutral background will work well. For some professions, such as an attorney, there is an expected background (bookshelves for instance), but most of the time, you want the background to be neutral and free from distractions.


The standard look is a portrait layout (taller than wide), with the subject centered in the frame, and eye-level placed on the top third mark.

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    \$\begingroup\$ the only answer that actually answers the question! ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Finch
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 10:10

What you're looking for is most often described as either a headshot or business portrait. While it's possible to create one of oneself, it involves knowing a lot about lighting and posing in addition to the in-camera technical aspects of photography. It's hard for many photographers to guide a subject in posing and it's even harder to put oneself into a good pose.

If you're not sure where to start, this would be a case where the best advice is to find a local professional portrait photographer and have them create a great photo of you. You should be able to find someone who can do a standard headshot / portrait for a very affordable rate.


The strobist 101 "headshot in a corner" is a good start for lighting a resume mugshot. For the lenses and all, I will let others add ;)


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