What’s the big deal? It’s just a headshot! You can grab a quick snap with your phone. Hell. You went to a friend’s wedding and the photographer there got a decent photo of you with your friends. A quick crop later, and you’re all set! And you saved yourself money in the bargain!
So is a professional headshot even really worth it?
The short answer is yes. A great professional headshot is an essential tool. In this article, I’m going to explain why they are important and give you tips on finding the right photographer to ensure you get headshots you actually like.
So why is a professional headshot so important?
Now, more than at any other time in history, people have more access to us.
If you apply for a job, there is a good chance that someone is looking you up online before they ever reach out to you.
If you work for yourself running a small business, there is a very good chance that your potential clients are going to your website. Maybe you’re sending out cold prospect emails or direct mail – including your headshot can help you connect with the recipient.
Many of us have profiles on sites like LinkedIn or Indeed. The entire point of those platforms is networking and self-promotion.
In many cases, your digital presence is the first time potential employers or clients see your face. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
So let’s say you’re the person that has a cropped photo from an event. What message are you sending to your clients/ potential employers?
What you are saying is “I don’t really prioritize my own professional image, so I might not prioritize my professional commitments, either. “
What if your headshot looks fake? Mechanical? Like a grown-up version of the grade school photos we all hated? You know exactly what I’m talking about those photos where you look uncomfortable and you have a forced smile.
Those photos happen when someone points a camera at you and says “smile”. The result is a bland, generic photo that probably fails to connect with your prospective client.
That has an effect on how people perceive you. If they can’t get a sense of the real you – the you who is confident, capable, and ready to engage – then they will feel less interest in connecting with you.
Real-World Example of BAD Professional Headshot Costing a Potential Sale
A couple of years ago I was looking to hire a marketing company. I landed on one website where they had company headshots on the front page. Every single one of the people in the headshots looked uncomfortable like they forced a smile, and like they were just doing this because they were supposed to.
My first thought, before reading ANY of the copy on the site was, “If that’s how they are going to represent themselves, how are they going to represent me?” I hit the back button on my browser and moved on.
They lost my business because the way they presented their team, via their headshots, made me worry that their commitment to me and my business might get the same perfunctory treatment.
Would great team headshots have meant that they would have gotten my business? Maybe, maybe not – but those low-effort headshots DID mean they didn’t get a further chance to sell themselves and their company.
Now that you know there are consequences to having a mediocre headshot, how do you make sure you get amazing headshots? It starts with finding the right photographer.
Finding the Right Professional Headshot Photographer
The first thing to know is just because someone has a great camera does not make them a great headshot photographer.
Second, make sure that the photographer specializes in professional headshots. There are tons of talented photographers out there, but that awesome wedding photographer who photographed your sister’s wedding might not be the right choice for your headshots.
Let’s use me as an example. I specialize in professional headshots, classic portraits, and fine art boudoir.
You would probably not want to hire me to do your wedding photography. While I know all of the technical things to do and how to use my camera, wedding photography isn’t where I’ve spent my time and energy. So your wedding photos would be….fine…But they likely would not be as great as a wedding photographer who has refined their eye and skill in doing that type of work.
Conversely, just because someone is a great wedding photographer, that does not mean they are going to be a great headshot photographer. Their shots may be fine, but they are probably not going to be as excellent as someone who specializes in professional headshots and acting headshots.
When you’re looking for a headshot photographer, go to their website. What they specialize in (and excel in) will be fairly obvious.
Important Things a Professional Headshot Photographer Will do for You
A photographer that specializes in headshot photography is not going to simply stand you in front of the camera and tell you to smile. We’ll coach you through the session to help you feel comfortable and relaxed so we get genuine expressions from you. Your headshots should look like the best version of you!
Your headshot photographer will also be able to offer advice on your studio wardrobe, makeup, and hair to ensure you make the impression you’re aiming for.
Finally, your headshot photographer will help you select the best images from your session, so you end up with a set of headshots that will represent you and help you get your foot in the door.
To wrap up, a great headshot can mean a great first impression. It can be the thing that makes you stand out when someone is searching a sea of profile images on websites, social media, and trade publications. It can also be the thing that keeps you from getting off the bench.
And if you’re worried you just won’t use your headshot enough to justify the investment….you’ll be surprised at how many places you’ll end up using yours. Social media, websites, trade publications, blogs, emails, speaking engagements, business cards, etc etc.
So is a professional headshot worth it? Absolutely.
If you have questions about professional headshots, drop them in the comments below.