Medical School Headshot: Is A Professional Headshot Worth It?

medical school headshots

Every year, new batches of medical students and residents are required to present a professional photograph. This is either for the application process in which case it is called a medical school application headshot or medical residency headshot. Or it could be for other purposes like course registration, exam registration (green book) in which case it’s a medical school headshot.

Lots of medics when asked to get a medical headshot often mistake it for the normal selfies we take and upload on our pages on Instagram, Facebook, or other social channels. But a medical headshot is supposed to be higher placed than those. It’s actually meant to be a professional portrait specially taken to meet the minimum standard and specifications of the Electronic Residency Application Service (For resident doctors).

Medical school application headshots are not just for medical students who are trying to gain admission to study medicine, it is also a requirement for doctors who are planning to enter a residency program (medical residency headshot). The main purpose of the medical school application headshot is for identification although strictly speaking, it could affect your chances of being accepted into the medical school.

Table of Contents

Why do you need a killer Medical Headshot?

Officially, the major reasons for medical school headshots are for the identification of medical school applicants, medical residencies, and fellowships applicants. Also, medical residency headshots if well taken displays your professionalism, competence, and friendliness.

But beyond the official reasons why medical school headshots are needed, there are some bonus points that your medical school application headshot can score for you, and these include;

It Helps You Make A Good First Impression

It is said that the first impression matters a lot. Have you ever wondered why you just see someone’s photograph for the first time and then immediately liked or disliked them?

You probably do not know why you felt that way about them, but the truth remains that some people are so emotionally intelligent that they can easily generate the first impression of other people in split seconds. And of course, the first impression they generate about these people is what will influence their decision about them such as;

  • If they would like to work with them
  • If they would like to hire them, buy from them, or even listen to them in an interview.

So this is one of the reasons why you should never mess with your medical school application headshots or your medical residency headshots.

A Good Headshot Can Display Your Strengths and Weaknesses

A medical residency application headshot is one of the most important headshots in your career as a doctor. It is also one of the parameters examined by the team of doctors who will review your application. And as such, a headshot can easily give away your core strengths and weaknesses.

For example, if you are a confident person, it could be easily made out from your gaze, smile, and posture, same for people who are not confident. Having a good photographer can greatly influence these features on a medical residency headshot to turn out in our own favor.

A Medical Residency Headshot Can Also Give Away Your Specialty

Some expert photographers have argued that they can generate different impressions from a particular person’s photograph to match whatever specialty they choose. I am not that emotionally intelligent to detect this, but when I go through some headshots from these professionals, I could imagine the kind of specialties each residency applicant will most likely be headed for.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Your medical school application photograph can also give away your personality type. This is why it is advised that you keep your appearance as conservative as possible in your medical residency headshots. You should dress professionally in clean well-iron clothes, and most importantly, stay away from clothes with busy patterns and bright tones.

There are many professional photography agencies that specialize in helping you come up with a decent medical school application headshot or your residency headshot. Some of them include:

Also, Read; Career Opportunities After Medical School In Nigeria

How do you do a professional medical school headshot?

As earlier stated, just a regular photograph or selfie with your smartphone might not work. You will need to find a nearby photography store in your area that specializes in taking headshots for medics. Some of the agencies are listed above.

But before going for your medical school application headshot, you should try and prepare your mind and body so that you can be in a perfect state for an awesome photograph. You should try and;

  • Get some sleep, exercise, and adequate sunshine in the week before the photography session
  • Ensure you briefly wear your desired outfit for the headshot a few days before the session to make sure that they still fit you perfectly.
  • Take a look at some prior photos of yourself and see if there is anyone of them you like. When you get to the studio, show your photographer these pictures so that they can help you find a suitable angle you prefer.
  • Most importantly, you should have an overview of the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) headshot requirements. The photo requirements from ERAS include;
    • Photos must not exceed 2.5X3.5 inches in size
    • File size cannot exceed 100KB
    • Resolution should be 150dpi
    • Photo must be in color
    • Photo must show a full front view of the person’s head and shoulders, with full face centered in the middle of the photograph.
    • It must have plain white or light colored background. Dark-colored backgrounds do not display well in the program’s software.
    • Wear professional business attire…you are applying for a job.

According to Hagosphotography, these are the steps they take in getting a professional headshot when you are finally ready;

  • Your portrait will be discussed with your desired specialty and vision in mind.
  • You as well select the desired background for your portrait.
  • Then they will take like 10 to 30 different pictures or more
  • These pictures are displayed on their computer screen, and they will help you choose your best.
  • Then they will add some enhancements and retouching on the chosen portrait to make it look better.
  • Finally, you will receive a professional cropping of your portrait specially for the Eras application.

After all, these have been done, what is now left is for you to upload your headshot.

What do you wear for medical headshots?

You should always keep this mantra in mind while dressing for your medical residency headshot;

 “Dress as you wish to be addressed”.

Generally, you should dress formally like someone going for an official business meeting. You should avoid wearing scrubs for your medical school headshot. Keep your attire as conservative as possible; do not wear stylish suits and dress for the application you want to be approved and not the one you already have or else you are already certain you will get it.

Also, there is no need for those trending poses for a professional headshot. You can go for the minimalist poses.

Apart from the clothes, a study carried out by Dermatology online journal after analyzing hundreds of different headshots discovered certain attributes seen in a headshot had a more desirable and positive outcome. These included;

  • Wearing a suit or jacket
  • Wearing glasses
  • Hair down (for the ladies)
  • Smiling in your photo

What is the best color to wear for a headshot

A cloth with a neutral color is best. Either white, black off-white or gray will be a perfect match. For a background, some people may prefer an outdoor background, but the studio picture is definitely more professional. But not just that, remember that one of the requirements for the ERAS headshot is that the file size must not be greater than 100KB. So after much compression, the headshot will still lose most of these background details that would have made the outdoor headshot look nice.

What should you not wear for a headshot?

The dress code for a medical school headshot should be as simple as possible just as explained above. A neutral colored suit will perfectly fit. Below are a list of things you should not wear for your medical school headshot:

  • A clothing that is too casual or too revealing
  • Avoid wearing your ward coats and scrubs
  • Even though wearing glasses was found to have a more favorable outcome in some studies, it is not advisable to wear them if you do not normally need them.
  • Do not appear too flashy. Avoid hairstyles, facial hair, jewelry, or clothing that will draw unnecessary attention towards you.
  • Do not use a smartphone for your headshot. Always find a professional photographer
  • Don’t wait until the dying minute to take your medical school headshot. It is better to take it as early as possible so that you can have chance to improve on the results when you have time.
  • Be careful and creative in choosing your backgrounds for the headshot. For instance, wearing a black suit in a black background does not go well and can be a turn off for many of your examiners.

Examples of some perfect medical school headshots

After going through the web, we found a series of medical school application headshots and residency headshots which you could use as a sample when taking yours.

All credits go to hagopshotography

Medical residency headshot of a female applicant
 Medical residency headshot of a male applicant
Medical residency headshot of a male applicant
medical school headshot of a female applicant
Medical residency headshot of a female applicant without glasses
Medical residency photograph of a male applicant

How much do you pay for headshots?

A professional medical school headshot in an average studio costs anywhere between USD $65 and $750 depending on your taste and other features and styling that could be added to the photograph.

Also, Read; 25 Essential things You Need In Medical School

Final Words!

Having a professional medical school headshot for your residency application is one of the essential components of your medical career journey. An excellent residency headshot helps you create a good first impression and increases your likelihood of being accepted into the program.

The best practice for getting a professional headshot is to look for a photography agency that specializes in taking headshots for residency applicants. I wish you success in your application!


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Medical School Headshot: Is A Professional Headshot Worth It?

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