A.I. can save you hundreds of dollars on professional headshots—but avoid these 2 mistakes, experts say

Professional photoshoots can sometimes run in a price range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Gcshutter | E+ | Getty Images

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand dollars.

These days, professional headshots can range from $25 to $2,500. And in an age of digital workplace tools like Slack, LinkedIn and Zoom, it's harder to get away with not having one.

"With remote work, it's all the more important to remember that whatever headshot you choose, whatever avatar you choose, that's going to be your first introduction into the company and perhaps for some people, the only image that they can correlate with who you are," Marissa Morrison, Vice President of People at ZipRecruiter, tells CNBC Make It.

But not everyone has the cash to spare for a professional photo of themselves — that's why some TikTok users are now turning to artificial intelligence.

Apps like Remini have been taking off for their AI photo-generating capabilities. The technology can take a series of selfies, analyze the person's features and render their face onto a portfolio of professional stock photos.

Remini offers a three-day free trial before charging $9.99 a week. That can lead to hundreds of dollars in savings for the user who gets their one-time AI headshot.

But like nearly all new AI technology, the results may vary.

Amanda Augustine, a career expert at TopResume, is optimistic about the potential of this new tech but warns users against "catfishing prospective employers." Morrison agrees that the best headshot is the one that is polished yet authentic, whether it's AI-generated or not.

Stay away from these two mistakes to make sure you get your AI headshot right:

'Never rely solely on AI'

Overall, experts agree there is a time and place for AI headshots.

Amit Bhatia, CEO and cofounder of recruitment analysis firm Datapeople, says that AI-generated photos shouldn't be used in resumes or "public-facing social media," but may come in handy for online professional profiles like LinkedIn where an overwhelming majority of recruiters tend to scout potential candidates.

"For a long time, professional photography has been overly cost prohibitive for candidates," Bhatia explains in an email to CNBC Make It. "AI has the ability to lower the barriers for candidates who can now get close to professional-quality headshots at lower costs and also with lower effort."

Morrison and Augustine also agree that before you go with an AI-generated headshot, always gut-check the output.

"Never rely solely on AI," says Morrison.

She adds that tools like ChatGPT and headshot generators are "useful," but the candidate's priority should always be to convey an authentic version of themselves.

To do so, Augustine suggests commissioning a second pair of eyes: "Look for the best friend who will always tell you the truth and say, 'Does this really look like me?'"

You want that friend's answer to be that the photo looks like you "on a good day," says Augustine. If they say it just looks like a photorealistic illustration of you, it might be best to drop the algorithms and go all natural — maybe just ask that same friend to use a phone to take a clean picture of you against a blank background.

"I think there's nothing wrong with using a headshot that was taken the old-school way that more authentically represents who you are," says Morrison.

To avoid going "overboard," as Augustine puts it, she recommends using these AI photo apps to "to make slight tweaks" to a natural photo of yourself rather than "creating a completely photorealistic version of you."

She also says not to take an AI headshot at face value. Instead, shop around and see what you like best: "There are a lot of different platforms out there right now. Try a couple, try a few," says Augustine.

Avoid 'misrepresenting yourself'

For better or worse, your headshot sends a message.

That means you want a photo that is not only professional and polished but is also truthful to your personality.

Losing yourself in a headshot isn't always the fault of an AI algorithm gone rogue. It can happen in a real-life photoshoot too, says Augustine. For example, she adds, if a professional headshot is the first time you ever put on a formal business suit, the photo might turn out uncomfortable and inauthentic.

"It's supposed to be a genuine reflection of what it's like to work with you on a day when you probably have an important meeting," Augustine says.

Of course, it's not always easy to tell how someone might interpret a given picture — fortunately, there is an app for that.

For anyone intending to use AI to generate a headshot, Augustine recommends using Photofeeler, which uses AI and crowdsourced human feedback to analyze images and tell you what kind of message it sends. It tells you if you need a more muted background and how gives you a score on how competent, influential or likeable your headshot makes you look.

"There are some tools out there that can help you truly understand, 'Are you choosing the right photo for you?'" Augustine says.

DON'T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Take your business to the next level: Register for CNBC's free Small Business Playbook virtual event on August 2 at 1 p.m. ET to learn from premier experts and entrepreneurs how you can beat inflation, hire top talent and get access to capital.

Why this CEO thinks experience can be overrated
Why this CEO thinks experience can be overrated