Sunday, March 27, 2016

Just how important is a headshot, anyway?

A "headshot" has become a popular topic in recent years. Much of it's popularity can be attributed to Facebook, and LinkedIn. So popular, asking "do I really need a headshot?" is a valid question. First, let's talk about what a headshot really is.

A classic headshot is normally used by actors, musicians, and models, and included with their resume and credits. They are composed as a very tightly closeup of just the subject's face. The subject is very well lit, against a plain background, and is looking directly into the camera. Retouching is kept to a minimum to give prospective employers a natural view of the artist.

Lately, executive portraits have been referred to as headshots, but there is technically a difference. Executive portraits are typically cropped to show much more of the upper torso, frequently down to waist level, and in some cases, full length. The background tends to be traditional studio backdrop, or the executive's work environment.

So, what's the big deal? In case you haven't noticed, headshots (or images matching the cropping format of a classic headshot) have popped up all over social media as "profile images". Every social media site and app provides the option to upload a profile image that displays every time you post a message. For the most part, they range from casual, to whimsical, to humorous. At least they did until LinkedIn allowed posting of profile images. At that point, the game very quietly turned serious for anyone in business or corporate career minded.

It's no secret that recruiters, managers, and employers routinely scour LinkedIn
to check references and associates of prospective candidates. Before profile images, your calling card was your resume. Your experience and job history spoke for itself. Fast forward to today, it's not a stretch to say that your profile image could very easily persuade, or dissuade, an employer or client from contacting you.

If you are in business, and have a Facebook Business Page, you should already be aware of the potential impact of anything you post on your ability to draw new clients. It doesn't take much to tarnish the image of your business, and/or philosophy. Almost all social media experts warn of being fired by a prospective client, without your knowledge, based on something you posted online. On the flip side, I know several colleagues that have been approached by very large corporate clients, that found them on Facebook, watched them for a while, and were impressed with their ability to always project a professional image and presence.

These days, your first impression is no longer set by your first in-person meeting. All too often, it is set online, and without your knowledge. Both prospective clients and employers instinctively check out Facebook and LinkedIn for information on a person or business; don't you? When you're looking for a "professional" and see a less than professional image of someone, do you look deeper, or simply bypass? What do your profile images look like? Are they quick shots taken with an iPhone, professional portraits, or something in between? On LinkedIn, take a look at your connections, or better yet, the "People you might know" area. Notice how many you automatically bypass, without even looking at the name, and how many you might consider. Take a look at their profile images. How does yours compare?

Only you can decide if your profile image needs an upgrade to fit your needs and aspirations. If it does, then it is worth considering working with a professional photographer. They can provide you high quality images that you for anything from online, to press releases, to print. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is essential to drive viewers to your website. Think of your profile images as the SEO to drive interested parties to you and your business. Optimize it by showing a professional image.

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