Sunday, April 11, 2010

If a picture is worth 1000 words, what’s your current headshot saying about you?

Whether you're a small business owner or are employed by a large company, you know the ever-growing need for websites, social media, business cards, and general marketing correspondence as part of your career or business success plan. It’s absolutely critical that you portray an attractive and well-put-together professional image on any and all interactive outlets where you will be promoting yourself.

If you use LinkedIn or Facebook then you know exactly what it's like to come across someone without a photo – their existence seems dubious and you don’t care to get to know them any better, am I right? Lack of a photo is starkly unprofessional and says the individual couldn't be bothered to make an effort... could they be hiding something?

Of course what’s worse is when a person puts up a bad picture, one that’s outdated, unclear, unflattering, or misrepresentative in some other way. I've actually met people in person who looked nothing like how they portrayed themselves in their online profiles. Not only did I NOT recognize them when we finally were face-to-face, but I formed a professional opinion of them which was not nearly as strong as it could have been. We don’t want that to happen to you.

Put Your Best Face Forward

Your professional photo must sum up everything about you in a five-second glance. In most cases, people who see your headshot haven't met you yet and you want them to trust you enough to do business with you, hire you, or simply get to know you better from your photo. Trust starts with being honest and up-front about the person you are. And while of course there is more to you than a good haircut or well-groomed eyebrows, your initial outer appearance is truly the deciding factor as to whether or not people will feel compelled to get to know you on a deeper level.

In other words: however shallow it seems, image really does have the power to make or break your business networking efforts. People are going to draw instant conclusions about your personality based on the picture they see online, in your brochure, or on your business card. Like it or not, but you better believe it!

Do-It-Yourself vs. Professional Photographer

So does it really matter if you grab your digital camera, stand in front of your dining room wall, smile on the count of three, and put your amateur photography skills to work instead of hiring a photographer?

Well, here’s the scoop - it depends on your goals. There are three main things to consider.

1) If you’re blogging or using social media strictly for fun, then photographing yourself with a basic digital camera is fine.

2) If you use any form of media for business to network with others in your industry, or to facilitate your job search then you must consider a professional photographer with a backdrop, proper lighting, and a high-quality camera. If funds are limited, at least consider a place that can produce passport quality photos. Although most passport photos lack character and can feel like a mug-shot, they’re usually better than in-home staged photos. Passport photo sessions typically only offer one or two shots to choose from.

3) Anyone with a website or who seriously wants to use social media to land a better assignment, impress potential clients or build an online presence, should not settle for anything less than hiring a professional photographer!

Common photo faux-pas that weaken your professional image

  • An outdated photo. If it was taken more than ten years ago and you don't recognize yourself in it, don’t post that photo anywhere. Failing to update your picture after significant aging, major weight loss or weight gain, drastic changes in hair styles, or noticeable cosmetic surgery makes an on-looker question your integrity. Are you hiding something or simply embarrassed by the way you look now vs. then?

  • An unprofessional photo. If it was taken with a digital camera as you sat at your desk in front of a cluttered shelf, don’t use it. Anything that distracts in your photo makes it unsuitable for professional purposes!
  • A poor quality photo. A photo that’s blurry, grainy or was taken in poor lighting is no good for your professional image. Same for low-resolution or pixilated images. None of these will print properly on a business card or brochure, nor will they impress people who visit your website.

  • You're wearing a distracting and/or unflattering outfit in your photo. Perhaps it's horizontal stripes that emphasize your width or maybe it's a dated look, formal wear, or a swim suit. Anything that leaves people questioning what you have on in the photo is a poor choice of business attire to wear on professional picture day.

  • WOMEN - You're not wearing makeup, or your makeup is poorly applied. Distractions are detrimental to your professional image. You want to appear neat, perspiration-free, with clear skin, and tasteful makeup that accentuates your best features. There are many products (including Photoshop!) that will allow you to display a professional photo that puts you in your best light.

  • MEN - You’re improperly groomed. Keep in mind your audience or the people you want to connect with. Impeccable grooming is imperative! Men with three-day stubble, a “uni-brow” (eyebrows that nearly connect in the middle) that has no definition or a really bad comb over will instantly suggest that you’re just as unprofessional when it comes to doing business.

Selecting a Professional Photographer

If you decide present yourself in the best possible route by hiring a professional photographer, you’ll want to keep several points in mind. First, choose someone with a portfolio you can review in advance. Ask if they will include photo retouching in their price and be sure they will give you high-res (for print) and low-res (for web) photos. You really want a true professional with proper lighting, equipment, and references! Also be sure to ask the photographer for a recommendation for a professional makeup artist, most pros will have someone they work with regularly. This isn’t a deal-breaker. If they don’t have a name for you, head to a reputable makeup counter. There is no point in hiring a photographer if you haven’t been properly made up!

Preparing for Your Photo Shoot

Here are a few important tips to keep in mind on the day of your photo shoot:

  • Wear clean, wrinkle-free, well-fitting clothing.
  • Do not try a new hair stylist just before a photo shoot.
  • Request a morning appointment; most people look fresh & energetic before lunch.
  • Bring your outfit to the shoot with you, don’t wear it there.
  • Arrive to the shoot 15-20 minutes early.

When it comes to what to wear for your professional photo shoot, it’s more important that you know what to avoid! No busy prints or patterns, nothing shiny, sheer, or lacey. A monochromatic outfit close to your skin tone will wash you out and plunging necklines that show too much cleavage are distracting and inappropriate. If you wear glasses, don’t wear reflective lenses with ½ frames hitting below the eyebrow for your shoot. Choose a full-framed, non-reflective pair instead.

For the best results when it comes to your professional image in a photo and in person, get a consultation with an image expert like KL Moore. Visit KL online where you can view impressive before and after photos in the photo gallery at

Copyright KL Image Group 2009

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