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Anyone with a social media account knows how important a good profile picture is. Not only is it visible on your personal page, it’s can be seen by complete strangers outside your network, whenever you comment on a post. A profile picture can entice people to view more information about you, follow you or decide you look like a complete jackass and move along.

The same is true for businesses.

Including headshots on your website, in social media or to enhance any marketing material allows people to “put a face to the name” and to establish a greater connection with you. Through photos,  visitors, customers and prospects can connect with a person on a slightly deeper, possibly even emotional, level and feel like they “know” the person with whom they are communicating.

Headshots can convey greater professionalism while also presenting a more personal and friendlier vibe. They can project characteristics about a person through body language and facial expression such as confidence, trustworthiness or congeniality.

Unfortunately, they can also forge far more negative impressions for viewers.

Snapping a selfie with your phone just isn’t good enough.

It doesn’t matter how many megapixels your phone’s camera has. It doesn’t matter how many filters you can apply. It doesn’t matter what optical zoom or variable aperture it is capable of. It doesn’t matter if you’ve found a nice backdrop. There are just some things your camera can’t do for you and decisions it can’t make.

You might be able to ask Siri if your red blouse says “marketing genius” but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t really know.

Achieving the most flattering angle, the best lighting, proper exposure, appropriate cropping while ensuring your background is neither overly busy nor contains inadvertent elements of your bathroom can be difficult with your phone, even if you have a selfie stick.

Examples of bad headshots

And utilizing one of these amateur photos can greatly detract from the message you are trying to send. Instead of seeing professionalism, visitors see a business that took the cheap way out, didn’t care enough about their appearance and is otherwise unprofessional and indifferent.

And overcoming a bad first (second or third) impression can be difficult.

But what about my photo high school photo?

Your high school photo probably looks pretty good. Let’s face it, you were young, carefree and you had to go to a professional photographer if you wanted your headshot in the year book.

If you are currently an 18 – 22 year old, this might suffice.

But if you have matured in your career, it’s best to be honest about it.  You don’t want people to be surprised when they meet you and feel they were “catfished.”

Do I need a professional photographer?

Your friend’s/cousin’s/neighbor’s or sister’s vacation photos or pictures of their pooch may appear really great. But there is an art to creating professional and flattering headshots typically using a slightly better camera than a $100.00 point-and-shoot from WalMart.

Trained photographers can provide a variety of services, expertise and advice that not everyone can. For example, a professional photographer can:

  • Find your most flattering angle
  • Advise you on how to hold your head and position your body to for the best results
  • Provide some humor and conversation allowing you to relax and appear more natural
  • Touch up little imperfections (though be cautious, you don’t want to alter your appearance too much…see “catfishing” reference above)
  • Make suggestions on outfits and styling
  • Bring out your personality

You don’t necessarily need to hire a photographer who makes his/her living taking photos. There are some really good photographers who hold other jobs. But make sure he/she has experience, training and proper equipment as well as a portfolio that shows experience with headshots. A great event photographer is not necessarily the best choice for portraiture.

One more tip

For businesses with multiple team members, consider using the same photographer and location or background to create consistency in your materials. Think about headshots as an element of your brand and your brand message. You want to make sure they convey the same message while respecting and portraying individual personalities.

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