Ever look at someone’s LinkedIn page and wonder why the person used such an unflattering, unprofessional photo? “Horrible pictures generally convey a lack of professionalism and minimal self value as it relates to one’s personal brand,” points out PR expert Karen Taylor Bass, who is also a media coach, best-selling author and radio host of the popular, 30-Day Reset Show on Blogtalkradio.com.
Every professional should consider investing in headshots. “In this social media and new technology age, it is now the norm for people to automatically want to see a person’s face as well as the face behind a company they are considering doing business with. It is the world we live in. So since we know this is inevitable, take control. Choose the first visual impression you want to make by presenting professional headshots on your website, LinkedIn page, etc. and perhaps even your resume,” explains professional photographer Joli Moniz, owner of Joli Moniz Design. “A headshot can get you in the door or get you shot down.”
And from a branding standpoint, a headshot is a must. “Branding is exactly that: a consistent experience/impression which is derived from a person or product. With that said, it’s best that the ‘product’ controls the image via headshot and approved photos to keep the image consistent of their brand. If you don’t control and manipulate the image — someone else will. We all have bad hair days, so it’s best to have a hi-resolution image/jpeg to leverage the person/brand,” explains Bass.
Before you take your headshot, think about the image you want and get your wardrobe together. Your clothes and pose should reflect the industry you are in. “A headshot that is appropriate for a bank CEO is not going to be a wise choice for an actress or other creatives. The best head shot keeps in mind your career field’s environment and, within those confines, shows you at your best and really communicates your professional personality. The intention is to give the viewer a tiny glimpse into who you are as a person and as a professional and positively impress them with both,” notes Moniz.
Image is nearly everything–or at least it can make a major difference. “Go for a well-conceived/thought out authentic image which captures a polished look for the respective industry. If you are in the creative field, your look will be different from someone working at a law firm. Bottom-line: Make your style authentic and capture your trademark style via glasses, hair, smile, personal flair,” Bass points out.
Select your look carefully. “Get photographed in the same thing you would wear to the office whether that be a full fledged business suit or simple a button up shirt or blouse– but in a color that best compliments you. And of course, women should keep the jewelry simple and classic. Over-the-top jewelry is not only inappropriate in a business setting; it is distracting in a photo. The focus should be on you and not your earrings. This goes without saying, but women should also keep the cleave tucked away,” advises Moniz.
Make sure the photos are conveying the message you want delivered. “If you are a model or actress, you might want to display your natural beauty and ability to step into different fashion styles or roles, so more of a neutral palette. If you are a hedge fund investor or CEO, you want your photo to project confidence and power. If you are the executive director of a non-profit organization, you want to look professional and also kind so that your photo inspires trust,” Moniz points out.
Not only do you need the right clothes and image, you will need the right photographer for your needs. “An efficient way is to check out the headshots of people who live in your area. If you see one you like, inquire into the photographer’s personality and price range. You want a photographer whose photo style you like, who makes you feel comfortable and whose prices work with your budget,” explains Moniz.
Don’t be intimidated by a professional photo shoot. The process is relatively simple. “Professional headshot shoots typically include two to three outfit changes and last about 30-40 minutes. Most photographers will expect you to arrive camera ready. Having a makeup artist on site can be arranged in advance but will cost you more. Only a few of us [photographers] will help apply makeup if needed, and only for our favorite clients!” says Moniz with a chuckle. “The shoot typically starts pretty quickly with a handful of photos taken simply to warm the person up. Coaching the subject to get the best poses and facial expressions is part of the job, as is making them feel comfortable and confident — a part of the job that cannot be underrated because only when they feel comfortable around you will they be their natural and thus best selves taking their most beautiful (and usable!) photos.”
The price range, again, depends on a number of factors. “Headshot packages include the selection and editing of your best shots which these days are usually furnished in a digital format. Packages can range from $75 to $300 with $200 being about the average. The lowest packages include only one finished photo; but most packages include 20 or more. Prices tend to increase if you throw an additional location or two into the mix,” says Moniz.
Photos, like resume, should be updated regularly. “For most people, renewing headshots every few years is sufficient. However, if at any point your image drastically changes, so should your headshot. You never want to show up for an interview or business meeting looking like a completely different person than in your head shot. Doing so speaks to your credibility as it can be interpreted as a form of misrepresenting yourself, and is not good for you or anyone else,” says Moniz.
Some might think a photo might hurt or hinder job prospects, especially for the Black exec. Not so, says Bass. “Today’s recruiter is looking for diversity, individuality and personality conveyed via photo or video,” she answers. “No longer is it solely about credentials; it’s also about personality/style and believe it or not – ‘unique’ hair.”