People often ask me how I got into photography and my answer always starts out the same way: “it saved me in high school.”
I took my first camera, an Olympus OM-G, with me everywhere. I spent hours in the dark room at school, or pouring over books about my favorite photographers, such as iconic portrait artists August Sander and Diane Arbus. Of course, this was long before I started taking professional headshots.
What was true (in part) for me then is even more true for me now as a professional photographer, though: I am interested in creating and understanding meaning through images.
I know what you’re thinking... “I didn’t sign up for a philosophy lesson.”
But stick with me because you don’t need to be a philosopher to understand the power of images. And when it comes to capturing your professional headshots, you want that image to send a powerful message.
Here’s how I make sure your authentic and honest self shines through in your headshot photos:
1. I believe in the power of professional headshots as business portraits.
At one time, a “headshot” was the term thrown around mainly by actors and models to refer to a traditional portrait used by their agents to land auditions and contracts (Think: Glamour Shots. Remember Glamour Shots?).
Then, the digital revolution happened. And headshots became candid snapshots or DIY selfies taken without much thought about light, background, composition, clothing choices, etc.
Fortunately, professionals across all industries now see the value in having high-quality headshots as marketing tools. As a consequence, they see the benefits of hiring a professional photographer to capture their true selves.
These modern, professional headshots are perhaps better described as business portraits.
Everything from the light and composition, to the clothing and accessories, to the hair and makeup is a conscious decision. The goal for today’s professional headshots is to create an image specially designed to help you stand out and convey to your target audience that you are the one they want to work with. Sounds powerful, right?
In other words, business portraits are about more than taking your picture. They are about capturing you in your element. They are about marketing, branding, and portraying you as a leader in your industry. Business portraits are a visual representation of your competence, skills, and talents.
2. I believe we all need current and professional headshots online.
Another consequence of the digital revolution is that we are now far more likely to encounter someone virtually before we meet them in real life (IRL).
What do you want potential partners, clients, or employers to find when the Google you?
Your LinkedIn profile, more often than not, is your best chance to make a strong first impression. You want your profile photo to feel authentic and honest. Of course, you also want it to actually look like you, so make sure it’s current (i.e., no more than a few years old).
While the buttoned up, serious, corporate look has mostly given way to a more relaxed and approachable style, professionalism continues to rule the day. As trends in professional clothing change with the times, so too trends in professional headshots.
My best advice for riding these trend waves: choose clothing that feels like “you.” And wear what makes you feel your most powerful and confident.
If you want to try something “outside the box,” ask your photographer what they think. Especially if you’re in a creative field or own your own business, developing your brand might well take you a bit outside the norm, which could make a real splash.
Are you a yoga teacher? Get some professional photos of you in your favorite yoga pose in a spectacular location, for example.
3. I believe a photoshoot should be fun.
I’m also a firm believer in giving yourself permission to be playful, laugh, and have fun during your photo shoot. Actually, I see it as an essential part of my job as a professional photographer to put you at ease. If you’re feeling tense (“I really hope these shots turn out okay”) or awkward (“What do I do with my hands?”) or unsure (“I don’t like having my photo taken”), it will show in your photos.
By contrast, when you trust your photographer to guide you during the shoot, knowing your look is on point, and feeling confident, you will be more at ease and the camera will capture that.
In addition, if you’re feeling at ease and natural during your professional headshot session, the last thing you want is for your photographer to come in and retouch the life out of your photos.
Overly retouched photographs and fake backgrounds are not your friend.
So, leave the details to the professional. All you have to do is relax and have fun with it!
Quick Tips to Make the Most of Your Headshot Session
And because everyone loves a little how-to list, here are six tips for a successful headshot session:
Schedule the photo session for when your life is a bit calmer, e.g., don’t schedule your shoot for right after you travel or close to a big deadline.
Plan ahead for a haircut, color, and styling. If it feels like “you,” find a professional makeup artist too.
Think about what you’ll wear ahead of time and discuss it with your photographer—take that suit to the dry cleaners now!
Invite a friend, colleague, or stylist to come along, if that will help put you at ease.
Stay away from the wine (or other alcohol) the night before. Drinking too much will make your face look puffy for your session.
If you feel even slightly sick the day of your headshot session, please reschedule. Even the greatest photographer cannot make you look 100%, when you’re feeling crummy.
So, there you have it: my recipe for making sure your headshot photos convey your authentic and honest self, while creating a strong visual presence online.
But really, my professional headshot philosophy can be distilled down to one simple headline:
Keep it natural. Keep it real. And keep it “you.”
If you’re ready for professional headshots that are natural, real, and all “you,” contact me and let’s talk about how to best capture you in your element!