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How to Get a Headshot that Says 1,000 Words

By on Apr 14, 2017 in Communication Strategy | 1 comment

Just for fun.It seemed like a simple request from my client. She wanted a serious headshot and one that showed the lighter side for her website. But how often is it simple when it comes to photos?

My last headshot was taken more than two years ago when I had shorter hair. In the one before that, I had almost curly hair and fewer worries. Neither fit her goal. Besides, they were no longer quite accurate, which means they aren’t quite authentic. And went it comes to online marketing, authenticity matters.

I know that a headshot is a powerful tool. It shows people who you are and helps to convince them that they should do business with you, or at least consider the possibility. It matters as much, and maybe more, as your words. With that in mind, I was feeling a bit stressed out. After all, this would represent me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and my website among other places. And, based on past experiences, it will be there quite a while.

What should I wear? How should I pose? Where should I have it taken? I wanted something natural and fun yet somewhat serious. I wanted a photo that says this person will get the work done and make sure everyone has a good time doing it. No pressure, of course.

I turned to headshot guru John Munson, owner of Beacon Photography for guidance. He offered some suggestions to keep in mind whether you’re having a friend take the photo or hiring a pro.

Here are the Don’ts:

  • Wear narrow stripes and large bright prints. They will be distracting and draw attention from your beautiful face.
  • Don’t wear large pieces of jewelry, unless that’s your typical style. The focus should be on you more than your accessories.
  • Crossing your arms tightly across your chest. This sends a “stay away” signal. Arms down at the sides is generally the most flattering pose.

Here are the Dos:

  • Think about the image you want to project and the audience you want to attract. Friendly? Serious? Competent?
  • Wear clothes that represent the image you want to portray. If you run a serious professional business, dress in formal attire. But nix the tie if you run a more casual business.
  • Smile, but not too much. You want to project a welcoming image but smiling too widely can narrow your eyes and make you look goofier than you might like.
  • Wear colors that complement your coloring. That could be black, white, purple, light blue or puce. No strict rules.
  • Look for a simple background with a color that complements your skin tones. If the background is busier, make it blurry. This can be done by putting the subject about 10 feet away from the background and having the camera no more than five feet from the subject.
  • Think about the season of your clothes. Will that winter sweater seem out of place when people are looking at your photo in July?
  • Pay attention to lighting so there aren’t extreme shadows. For outside photo, take them on an overcast day and avoid the midday sun.
  • Be in a good mood following a good night’s sleep when you have your photo taken. If you’re tired or unhappy, it can show in the picture.
  • Look at the camera. It’s usually most flattering to have your torso at an angle to the camera, but look straight into the lens.
  • Beware of wind when you go outside.
  • Relax. Think of meeting someone and trying to put them at ease.

Try this:

  • Have the photographer stand on a step stool or ladder so they’re just a few feet taller than you.

Some previous poses. Notice the shadows on the first one. And with the others, chin up or chin down? It makes a difference.

Jennifer Powell

Ready to take your marketing efforts to the next level? Join us for a workshop on April 28th to get started.

    1 Comment

  1. Jen: This is all spot on. True for being on TV as well.

    Don Kelley

    April 14, 2017

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