Perfect Headshot for Brand Strategy

Headshots are the new Handshake

There are two kinds of people: those who update their headshot regularly out of pure necessity and those that simply don’t have one. As a photographer who specializes in people, it’s rare that I meet someone who treats their headshot with as much care as they do their logo design or office decor. In an age when we e-meet long before we ever actually shake hands, it’s important that your first impression – your online one - is your best impression.

Here are a few ways to ensure you have the perfect headshot:

1. Keep your attire simple.

When in doubt, wear a shirt that matches the color of your eyes, and focus more on fit and form than what is stylish or current. A professional cleaning or pressing can go a long way in contributing to a polished and proper fit.

When choosing your attire, make sure to try it on and observe how it fits around the shoulders and neckline when you move. Put your hands on your hips, cross your arms and shift your weight between both feet.Watch for bunching, puckering or anything you wouldn’t want to see in your final image.

A wider neckline will lengthen the neck and slim the face, and a well-fitted blazer adds instant polish and professionalism, not to mention variety if a change isn’t an option. Even if you’re only planning on being photographed from the waist up, dress from head to toe and wear shoes that will make you feel comfortable, yet confident. These details contribute to how you feel, which comes across in the final product, even if those details themselves aren’t visible.

2. Think natural when it comes to hair and makeup.

I often recommend women with longer hair to schedule a styling or blow-out before the shoot, just for an extra confidence boost and to have one less thing to think about. Hair down or loosely pulled back is often most flattering and timeless, but it’s important to look like you. Keep it simple and consistent with how you typically present yourself when you want to look your best.

Executive Headshots for Brand Positioning

3. Avoid complicated backgrounds.

There’s no need to get too conceptual.. You should be front and center, not the background or setting. In my business, I offer a natural light studio option with a simple white backdrop or on-site sessions at a home or office. I typically stay away from any setting that is identifiable as this can take the focus off of you.

What matters most is the quality of light, a calm and confident expression, and few-to no distracting elements. Trying to communicate too much with the setting yields a cluttered image. Your headshot should draw people to want to know more about you, but it should not serve as your elevator pitch.

4. Communicate with and trust your photographer.

Make sure to work with a professional whose work you can identify with. They will offer poses and feedback, consistent with the style you see in their portfolio.

Just because you don’t like being photographed from a particular angle by your friend or spouse, doesn’t necessarily mean that your photographer will offer the same result. Lenses, lighting, and slight changes in body language make significant differences that can only be seen from behind the camera.

Choose a photographer based on their body of work, and then trust them and their process. Communicate what sort of message or brand you are wanting to convey. then trust them to guide you along the way and let the process take it’s natural evolution.

Executive Headshot for Brand Reputation

5. Take time to warm up.

Every professional athlete, successful artist and musician needs to warm up, and likely so do you. Almost everyone starts their session a bit unsure of what to do, overly aware of their hands and apologizing for being awkward. With a lighthearted attitude and the right music this often wears off within minutes, so allowing yourself a window of time to warm up is important to the process. A relaxed, comfortable environment is key to creating pictures that present the best version of yourself. Consider how long you plan to have this image be a part of your brand reputation (personal or business) and give the process time.

If posing guidance is important to you, make sure to ask your photographer how they approach this before you book. Some people respond well to posing specifics, and others are more comfortable getting into their own groove. Each body is unique and photographs differently, but there are tell-tale body language cues that work well for everyone.

Before your shoot, relax your jaw and soften your forehead. Let your shoulders drop comfortably and lift your chin. These positions all express comfort in “the real world” and will translate into a calm confidence in your photos. Notice how this feels in your body and remind yourself of these cues throughout the shoot. I often remind my clients of these as they move through posing sequences, and encourage them to act like they’re in a conversation with the camera. Relaxed body mechanics with an engaged conversational expression, sparkly eyes and a warm smile are the perfect recipe for a natural, engaging headshot.

6. Channel your inner superhero.

Whether it’s nailing your acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize or being interviewed about your rise to stardom, channeling that inner superhero creates the indefinable spark that will make your headshot stand out. Before your appointment, take a moment to reflect on your brand strategy. Are you representing a consulting firm where quick insight and direct communication is key? Are you a counselor who needs to reflect an intuitive, gentle listening ear? Whatever your brand’s superhero may be, embody it and embrace your first impression.

Sarah Doliver is a portrait photographer based in Austin, Texas. You can follow her on Instagram at @new_handshake or like her Facebook page to receive the latest updates on all things headshots.

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