This week at work some colleagues and I were planning a panel discussion for a women’s event. The focus was on enhancing your social media profiles (LinkedIn, etc.) to obtain career results. Maybe you want to develop more expertise in an area or you’re looking for speaking engagements or you need to build your external network. There are ways improve your opportunities with social media.
Over the course of the conversation, one subtopic that really sparked discussion was how to get the right headshot. Oftentimes, when you’re not actually seeking a job, you forget about your career profile, and then suddenly you’re asked to speak or write and are scurrying to get a professional picture taken.
For today’s Fashion Friday, let’s discuss the do’s and don’ts of headshots.
Just this week, I received a newsletter from a large women’s organization of which I’m a member. It advertised a couple of upcoming events and the featured speakers. There were three different women’s headshots featured for the events and I was surprised by the wide disparity between them. One woman took what appeared to be a selfie on her sofa. Another one used a grainy image standing against a beige wall in rumpled clothing. The final shot was of a women smiling confidently at the camera in a dark blazer with simple jewelry in high resolution.
People make first impressions off of, well, their FIRST impression. It’s human nature. They make assumptions based on what they first see.
When we are speaking or joining a board or looking for a job, it is utterly within our control to make a strong first impression.
This is not about vanity. It is not about a beauty pageant. It’s about executive presence. Polish. Confidence.
So I went through hundreds of headshots of my connections on LinkedIn and jotted down a few takeaways.
Here Are Some Do’s:
- Smile. Smiles welcome people and exude warmth. I loved staring down at a little picture which smiled back at me. I hate my teeth, always have, but a smiling picture of me is still far better than one where I look apathetic or glum.
- Stick with the classics. Donning a blazer polishes a photo. For some jobs it would look utterly out of place, but even those career women with winning headshots had simple bold blouses that looked polished. Simple jewelry. Gold or silver or pearls – earrings and (or) necklaces.
- Use your head. This may not be true if you have a website where you can take up more photo real estate, but in spots like LinkedIn and conference publications where you’re speaking, there is very little space for your photo. Make it an actual “head” shot.
- High resolution. In an era when everything is shared and copied and snapshotted and emailed, use a high resolution image. A good picture looks less professional if it’s grainy or off-color as a result of an old or low res base photo.
I ran across a truckload of beautiful head shots, but these were some of my favorites (just screenshots from LinkedIn). You can see some went with traditional backdrops and others used outdoors. As long as the background isn’t overbright or distracting, you have flexibility with the venue (and formality) you’re most comfortable in.
(And I will tell you, these woman also look incredibly polished every time I see them in person too. So they carry their executive presence with them well beyond a headshot.)
Here are the Don’ts:
- Selfies. Do not take a selfie. I don’t know what else to say.
- Look like someone else. This is not the time to get a glamour shot that makes you unrecognizable. Yes, fix your hair and make up but not in a way that doesn’t look like you on a day-to-day basis.
- Use it to attract a romantic relationship. There is nothing that will undercut people taking you seriously more quickly than thinking your career headshot can double as your Tinder photo. Don’t wear tight or low cut clothing, heavy make up, or pose suggestively. Women are judged particularly harshly on this but women can be the primary offenders.
- Have others in your picture. This is not the time to show off your spouse or children. And it doesn’t help if you half cut them out so that it’s primarily you but you see someone’s arm in the photo.
- Go bright or dark. Some of the photos I saw, while otherwise professional, were either on very bright white backdrops or in bright sunlight such that it blinded the photo, or they were black and white or very darkly lit so it was difficult to see the person clearly. Remember lighting when you decide what headshot to use.
Go look at your LinkedIn profile or Twitter account or website – whatever you use for your business. Ask a friend or colleague (or two or three) to give you honest feedback on your headshot.
Does it need to be updated?
Does it need to be more professional?
Consider investing in a photographer to really give you a couple of great images you can use for all career purposes. It will pay dividends.