One of the most important—but frequently neglected—tools a business professional needs, is a headshot or portrait. As someone who has worked in public relations, and who promotes authors and personalities, I’ve seen many bad headshots and unprofessional photography. What most professionals don’t realize, is how harmful shoddy photos can be to their personal brand.
I find many business people and CEOs want the focus to be on their work. They would rather the media pay attention to their amazing business, product, or their book. What they don’t realize, is this humility is not endearing. It works against them, and it can be devastating.
When I book an interview, get a client placed for a speaking engagement, or get them featured in a magazine, I need professional photography to go with it. Bad lighting, low resolution, only black and white options, old photos, cellphone photos, and styles that are off-brand, are all unacceptable.
What happens when you don’t have professional portraits ready to go when needed? It can literally be the end of your opportunity, or limit future opportunities. Think of it this way, if an editor is doing a story featuring advice from top business leaders, and the photo you give them to go with your quote looks like something taken with a cellphone in 2004, chances are they won’t contact you for their next feature.
Not having professional head shots and photography puts extra stress on your publicist, the producer, editors, and the professionals who put stories and events together. When you give them that 2004 cellphone shot, they suddenly need to try and fix it in Photoshop, or call in an artist, or hire a photographer last-minute, or figure out how to do the project without you. At this point, they aren’t thinking about how endearing your humility is in not having a professional photo; they are thinking how difficult you are to work with.
So, how can you be ready for the next interview, article, or speaking engagement that comes your way? First, put your humbleness aside, and resolve to get professional photos taken. To help you get prepared, and to get the most out of your professional photoshoot, I spoke with Dave Napox, a photographer who recommends these tips when doing your professional photography.
1. First, decide what kind of photo you need. There is a difference between headshots, portraits, and editorial photography.
Actors, models, and entertainers typically need headshots. A headshot is a specific type of photo and is shot with lighting and poses designed to show the subject’s genuine features.
Portraits often convey personality and mood. Professionals might want a portrait rather than a headshot, as it will more effectively capture the look and feel of their personal brand.
Editorial images can be the most creative; you are able to pull in other subject matter, and these types of photos are usually meant to tell a story. For example, a CEO might want to do a power pose standing in front of a desk, overlooking a majestic cityscape, to capture their essence for a high-profile magazine expose.
2. Think about what kind of personality and emotion you want to portray in your photo.
Do you want to be seen as an approachable salesperson? Are you an academic who needs a photo with a scholarly tone? Maybe you are the author of a children’s book who wants to be fun and silly. The important thing, is to stay true to your brand, and convey the emotions you wish to evoke.
3. Find inspiration to determine the poses and imagery you like.
Search online or in magazines for the styles and poses you prefer. What imagery or tone suits you best? You can even create a vision board, or a mood board, and collect pictures that you believe reflect your personal brand.
4. Find a good photographer in your area who has a portfolio you like.
Now that you’ve done your homework, you can find a local photographer to fulfill your vision. All photographers have different styles and areas of expertise. Find one who has done shoots similar to what you’d like for yourself.
5. Share your ideas with the photographer in advance so they can prepare.
Collaborating prior to a photoshoot can be fun and creative. Show the photographer your ideas so they can be inspired and plan for your shoot. They want to give you what you want, and the more you help them see your vision, the better the final photos will be.
6. Decide on the photoshoot location.
Your location means everything. Is it indoor or outdoor? On the beach or in a studio? In your office or at home? Plan where you want the photos to take place. If needed, scout the location in advance. If you want to do the shoot in your office or home, have the photographer visit prior to the shoot so they can evaluate the lighting, background, and props. If your shoot is outdoor, take into account the time of day, where the sun will be in the sky, and how great of a threat rain or clouds might be.
7. Practice poses in the mirror.
Yes, I am asking you to make faces at yourself in the mirror. Do you have a good side? Do you look better with a big smile or no smile? Find the facial poses you like best, and practice them. Not only will you be ready for your photoshoot, but anytime someone pulls out their camera to take pictures, you will be ready to strike the perfect pose.
8. Groom prior to the shoot, but don’t go too far.
The day before your photoshoot is not the day to make a dramatic change. Don’t shave off a beard or mustache, as your skin will be irritated. If you get a major haircut, you may not like the look. Consider just a hair trim to avoid anything dramatic that you might not like. Eyebrows and facial hair should be trimmed and plucked.
9. Give feedback during the shoot to help guide your photographer.
During the photoshoot, your photographer should show you the photos as they’re being taken. This helps assure them they are on track, and it gives you peace of mind so you know you’re getting what you want. Be sure to give them feedback. Also, select at least one picture you like before you leave the shoot, that way you are nearly guaranteed to have one great picture in the bunch.
10. Trust your photographer.
You used good judgement when hiring your photographer. You worked with them to share your vision and together you have planned and collaborated. Now, it is time to trust her or him to do the job. The photographer will see things you don’t. They understand their trade in ways you can’t imagine. Don’t stand in their way. Recognize they are skilled at their craft, and allow them to work their magic.
Dave Napox is a photographer living in Los Angeles. He
specializes in landscape, portrait and headshot photography. He can be found on