Need a professional photo? In pandemic times, you can do it yourself

If you take job application photos with your mobile phone, you should pay attention to the focal length, as a wide-angle lens will often distort the face. — dpa

A good photo is an important part of a job application in many countries. But as the pandemic stretches on, it may not be possible to get a professional one done. Here are some expert tips for doing it yourself at home.

In many countries a good looking CV is not complete without a photo, and of course, that’s the first thing that catches the attention of recruiters. A picture that is too old or of poor quality won’t create a good impression, and lockdowns and ongoing virus surges around the world mean help from a professional may not be readily available.

But fear not — you can also take your own decent pictures at home without additional specialist equipment. All you need is daylight, an assistant — and a bit of patience. Here’s an overview.

The technology

You don’t need an expensive camera, particularly if you are sending your CV digitally (which is usually the case). "Theoretically, a smartphone is enough," says photographer Alexander Vejnovic, though he cautions against using older and cheaper devices.

You will also have to be aware of your phone camera’s limitations. "Mobile phone cameras have an unfavourable focal length," says photographer and instructor Roland Artur Berg.

The wide-angle lens can distort your face in portrait pictures. "You can get around this by keeping more distance”, he says, adding that a camera with two or more lenses is preferable.

If you are inexperienced, you can safely shoot in automatic mode, and ideally use a lens with a focal length of 50 millimetres or more, which represents the proportions of the face as realistically as possible. A lens with a fixed focal length is best, says Berg, but zoom lenses can also be effective. A tripod is not necessary as it rather restricts freedom of movement.

Consider your lighting

Alexander Vejnovic advises taking your picture outside. "It is usually too dark indoors," he says, and recommends finding a location without direct sunlight for the photo.

If you decide you want an interior setting make sure there is an indirect light source. "It is best to photograph the person directly in front of a window on the north side of a building," says Roland Artur Berg.

Framing and background

There are various possibilities here, depending on the effect you want to achieve. “You can opt for either a framing that includes only the shoulders, neck and face, or choose to show the upper body and hands as well," says Katrin Plangger, who works as a job application coach.

When taking the photo don’t be too restrictive with the framing — you can crop the image to the ideal size later. This leaves all options open, for example, if you want to have square or rounded head shots on your CV instead of a photo in a more conventional format.

A neutral background is essential. Bumpy lines or bright colours bring unrest into the picture and are distracting. A plain background in cool colours is the ideal.

If you want to be photographed outside, you can also stand in a garage courtyard or sideways in front of a building front. "A blurred background with depth is better than a solid grey or white area like in a passport photo," says Plangger.

It's best to position yourself at a slight angle to the camera and then turn your head towards the photographer, standing up.

"Intermediate tones make the best photos," says Vejnovic. If you have a fixed grin at the camera, you may not look particularly likeable. It can help to alternate between serious, neutral and laughing facial expressions while the photographer continues to snap, allowing you to choose the best picture afterwards.

Roland Artur Berg’s suggests saying hello in a friendly way as the photos are taken, as this results in the face being in motion, and relaxed. ”The psychological component should not be underestimated,” he says.


Minor flaws such as incorrect exposure, colour cast or a shiny forehead can be changed in post-processing, as can the background. Besides well-known free programmes like Gimp, Berg recommends apps like Snapseed or Facetune, which are easy to use.

However, photographer Alexander Vejnovic advises caution when editing, emphasising that you don’t want the image to be smoothed out and too perfect. "I want to sell myself as a personality, not look beautiful," he says. – dpa

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