Business headshot photography is endlessly fascinating. It might not feel like it at the time of shooting, from either side of the lens. But if you go deeper, the choices we make about how we represent ourselves to an online public can be wonderfully telling.
I confess I am addicted to LinkedIn profile pictures. It’s true, sorry. I could scroll through People You Might Know (or whatever it’s called on LinkedIn) for hours, forever. I don’t have to know the people I might know and usually don’t. But the endless stream of people’s faces, and sometimes not people’s faces, for me it holds an endless appeal. (I met my wife before Tinder arrived).
But it holds such an appeal because it is a professional platform. Most people (excluding a few fake or ghosted accounts of people far too important to worry about it) have selected these images to represent their work selves. And work is usually taken seriously, at least in public.
The LinkedIn profile picture is a more serious existential statement than the quickly changing goofy Facebook profile picture, because LinkedIn is where you must be serious, sober and level-headed. This is me, a cool calm professional, an approachable expert, here I am.
This is your professional reputation on the line, your livelihood at stake.
LinkedIn profile pictures offer an incredible instant insight. Grainy holiday snaps, date night snaps in low lit restaurants, pictures of a pet or a cartoon. This might not be best practice. It’s worth remembering that some users might not have used LinkedIn for years, forgotten about it entirely. But it still exists and is out there in the digital ether, connected to their identity.
For me LinkedIn profile pictures are an endless stream of amusement – why did that person ever think…? And sometimes inspiration. You can always see new ideas, even in a headshot, a way of lighting or styling, posing or setting, which you might not have considered before.
Headshot photography, like most types of photography, is riven with subjectivity. The amount of variables is literally infinite.
These variables and the amount of choice can be paralysing. Different types of light can strike a face from all angles and through all filters, softboxes, grids, strobes, flashes, the sun at various points in the sky.
How do you want to use them? How many lights do you want to use? How do you want to position them? Do you want a rim light? Flashes of white light slapped on one or even both sides of the head seem quite fashionable at the moment. What colour background? White? White is professional. And how about making it a black and white shot? Black and white is most professional and sympathetic. Up the whites and make it bright so we can’t see much detail in the complexion. That’s what people do. Is ALL shadow bad, or can it add a certain something: drama, atmosphere? Smiley or serious? Arms cupped or folded or held behind the back?
Business headshot photography can be overwhelming, but it’s also why all the choices, whether consciously made or not, are sort of fascinating. They can all send some sort of message. And it’s worth remembering that any image can be criticised, if you really want to. If you’re dead set on being picky, you can find a flaw or something you personally find disagreeable in any photograph.
Not forgetting that we are all hypersensitive and borderline body dysmorphic when it comes to pictures of ourselves. Some more than others. We might always hate the picture, however artfully it’s executed, however painstakingly it’s edited. However many times it’s taken and retaken. Some people don’t like how they look, and don’t like looking at pictures of themselves.
[Read the Composed piece: I Hate Having My Photo Taken]
There’s a common corporate consideration of consistency, having everyone in exactly the same pose. It could be argued that this supports brand recognition and consistency is key for branding. It could equally be argued that it’s unnecessary, your company won’t be judged on whether everyone stands with their left or right shoulder leading towards the lens, and people should be able to stand however they feel most comfortable. Although if time is of the essence, this might not be helpful.
Stop and think and don’t be swayed by peers or trends or your friend’s new picture. Think beforehand about what you want from your business headshot photography, and what accurately reflects you. Of course you want a professional quality photograph, but don’t get hung up on fashion or style, (unless you’re a fashion and style blogger). Consider what’s right for how you’d like to be perceived. What uniquely reflects what you do.
Maybe even just relax a bit about it all. If you’re comfortable with your smartphone selfie and feel it appropriately reflects where you’re at and what you’re doing right now, who is to say it’s wrong?
Ok, there are some basic rules to business headshot photography. Get your subject in focus, expose it correctly (although there can be ambiguity there. Some like it dark, some like it bright. Both can be sympathetic). But that’s about it really. You don’t even have to frame the face bang in the centre. There is no prescription for business headshot photography, it’s a freeish country (for the moment) and we’re all allowed to think for ourselves. Be brave, make decisions, go with it, relax.
Need a new set of headshots for yourself or your business? Please get in touch.
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