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"Me in the Mirror" by johnny z.

On a daily basis, I use a desktop application called TweetDeck to check out my twitter account.  In addition to seeing what is being said by those I “follow“, I’ve also setup keyword searches for my organization, the associations I’m apart of, as well as conferences/seminars I have or will be attending.  In addition to seeing what people are tweeting, the application shows me the pictures of the tweeters (assuming they’ve posted one).  I’ve been struck over the last several days how odd some of these pictures are.  The composition of these pictures run the gantlet from furry animals, self-portraits in the mirror (flash optional), pictures of cartoon, sports, or music icons, or my favorite the photo where someone else has been cropped out.  While I’m well aware that most individuals aren’t thinking about self promotion or how these images are impacting their professional aspirations, I can’t help but wonder why would they choose these images.

Almost ten years ago, the creative services department for my organization arranged for professional headshots be taken for all employees.  The vast majority of the workforce was surprised by this effort, and many question the intent for the headshot.  The director of marketing, at the time, explained that they wanted headshots to share with media outlets and the company’s own website when a story ran that referenced employees.

To day, headshots are more widely used than just for celebrities and aspiring theater majors.  According to Miles Austin, in an article titled “You Need a Headshot If You Want to Make an Impact”, one recruiting outfit he interviewed indicated that “a 70% increase in response rates after a photo is added to a profile.”  Apparently the mediums leveraging headshots today are those of social media.  Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc, all have the feature to add a photo.  The question is which photo to choose.  The answer for those who leverage social sites for professional purposes is simply a headshot. This sentiment is echoed by Adam Koller with Marah Creative, in a blog post entitled “if you are in business, you need a good headshot.”  Adam states, “If you are a professional anything, you need to have a quality photo that represents you and your brand” (emphasis mine).

But the reality is that good headshots aren’t cheap and the process can be lengthy.  First you schedule a sitting, then you grab your choices of clothing, and on the day of the shoot you spend 60 to 90 minutes, dropping between $200 to $450 for the session.  Then you wait for a couple of weeks while the photographer works his post-production magic to “retouch” the pictures.  So many of us on the frugal side of things opt for the DIY (Do it Yourself) Headshot task.  But are we taking the time to really do it justice.  No the quality won’t be professional, by it shouldn’t be amateur either.

Nancy S. Juetten, with Nancy S. Juetten Marketing Inc, offers the following advice in an article entitled, “Self-Marketing Tip: Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot with a Do-It-Yourself Headshot.”

  • pay attention to lighting
  • use a neutral colored background (be at least 3 feet from the background, preferably 6 feet)
  • makeup should be, and use more blush than usual as not to appear too washed out
  • hair should be neatly styled
  • Clothing should be timeless with solid, medium to dark,  business attire
  • Posing should be set so your body is away from the camera with your head turned to look into the lens, arching your back and with your shoulders back as well
  • Framing is critical, from the breast plate up, capturing a couple of inches of background above the subject and wide enough to include the shoulders

While these recommendations may not capture your zany side, with bold prints and shaggy scruff, the question is whether it captures who you are as a professional.  The reality for me is that I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve spoken enough at conferences and had sufficient requests for a photo during interviews, that I wish I had one headshot at the ready that not only could I provide it when asked, but that I could use with the various online social sites.


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