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Recently, I asked a simple question on Linkedin and a couple of other platforms: What is stopping you from getting a professional headshot? 

As a professional photographer, I already had an idea of what can hold people back, but in my mind it was mainly to do with cost, with people’s insecurities about their body, or a complete aversion for sitting in front of a camera. What I didn’t expect, was that many of you thought that getting a professional headshot could appear as vain, frivolous, embarrassing and you didn’t want to come across as “too corporate” or “trying too hard”. In my quest to demystify the professional headshot, I thought I would address this point first, and show you how headshots come across from the client’s viewpoint instead of your own viewpoint, and yes, there is often a discrepancy…

While doing my research, I came across a brilliant tool called Photo Feeler which allows you to get some unbiased opinions on your headshot. You can use it in various contexts: Business, Social or Dating. Obviously for the purpose of this experiment I chose the “business” context, which gives you rating for the 3 following traits: Competent, Likeable and Influential.

For this article, I have enlisted the help of my long-enduring husband, Dave.

I asked Dave to take some photos himself and also dug around my photo archives to find various photos of him, to try and represent the most typical photos I see used as profile photos online, particularly those which are not professional headshots. I also took a professional headshot of him to compare.

If you’re a reluctant poser, you’ve maybe tried some of these:

1. The Selfie

Quick and cheap, you can do it yourself. Now, in Dave’s defence, he’s not an expert at selfies… He probably could have made a better use of the light and tidied up the shelves.

But nonetheless, this shot has the distinctive “selfie look” not the most flattering as the wide angle causes a distortion of the facial features. Selfies tend to rate lower on the “competent” and “influential” traits, possibly because they imply you didn’t think it was worth investing too much effort or money on making a good first impression. 

2. The Wedding Guest

You really can’t face taking a photo so you rummage through your archive and find this photo of you, it was taken by a professional and you’re in a suit, that will do ;-)

Except you’re at a wedding, not at a place of work. Once again it’s not really giving the right impression and confusing the viewers. 

3. The Party Shot

Taken at a social event, this one is a typical example of choosing a shot because you like the way you look in it rather than really thinking about the effect on the viewer.

Party shots are often part of a larger group shot that has been cropped, which could potentially work well for a dating profile but doesn’t really come across as professional.

4. The Holiday Snap

You’re very camera shy and hate being photographed, the thought of having your face on display fills you with dread so you find a candid shot taken on holiday with your face partly obscured, sometimes with sunglasses.

Just be aware of the impact it has on the viewer, it doesn’t really achieve the goal of making you recognisable to a potential client you’ve met in the past or gives the right impression about how professional you are. Your profile photo is, after your name, the first thing people will see on your LinkedIn profile. Would you talk about your holidays on the first line of your CV?

5. The DIY White Wall Shot

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have seen some lovely DIY shots and if you have time, it’s certainly worth giving them a go.

It might just take many attempts before you get anything you’re happy to have as your profile picture. And if you’re not the type of person who feels comfortable in front of a camera in the first place, chances are you will struggle to get a great expression on a DIY headshot.

6. The Mystery Man (Or Woman?)

Ironically, this one is probably the most risky approach of all. No profile pic. What conclusion do you draw when you come across a LinkedIn profile with no photo?

My first thought is: this person created their profile but don’t interact on LinkedIn, I am not going to bother connecting with them as I probably won’t get a response. Am I even looking at the right profile, there are 99+ people with the name I am looking for…

7. The Professional Headshot

Dave gave me 2 minutes to grab a quick headshot. I guided him through the posing to look engaged, and the background has a relaxed feel.

How formal or casual, conservative or creative your headshot looks should of course be adapted based on your line of work. But overall, most people want to appear both professional and personable.

If you are still not convinced, I invite you to try Photo Feeler for yourself. Even if you don’t upload a photo, maybe just try rating a few photos through their website and you might be surprised to see how our brain assesses a photo and draws conclusions on a stranger’s personality and professionalism.

Having a decent headshot isn’t about being vain, it’s about having a photo that represents you in the best light. We’re not talking about lots of airbrushing to make you look 10 years younger, or forcing you into an overly corporate or cheesy set-up. It’s about having a photo that is flattering and still 100% you, and makes you feel confident about the image you’re putting across in a business environment.

Do you need help? Getting a professional headshot is not as complicated as you think. Try Googling “Headshot photographer near me“, check the reviews and take a few minutes to go through the photographers’ portfolio to make sure they’re a good match for you.

You can get in touch to book your headshot session in St Albans (Hertfordshire), more info on my website: https://www.stephaniebelton.com/professional-headshots-st-albans/

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