An article recently came across my feed about Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy’s, 2016 book, Presence. In Amy’s book, she states that when people first meet you, they quickly try to answer 2 questions.
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person?
This got me thinking about my day to day interactions. I meet new people face to face all the time when they come to the studio. I start sizing them up as soon as they walk in the door. I have to figure out very quickly how to connect with this person so that I can do what I need to do to take the best image of them that I can.
Then it struck me, the person who is walking into my studio has likely already laid eyes on my face. Maybe on the front page of my website or maybe they saw it here…
I know in the acting world, many times the first time a casting director sees an actor’s face, it is often the headshot. If you are an actor, how many times have you seen the words “Submit your headshot and resume to…”. Of course, they want to know that you have the right look for the role they are casting, but they also want to know that they can trust you. They want to know that you are confident. This is speculation on my part, but I believe that on a subconscious level, they want to know that they will like you / the director and other actors on the project will like you. That is a ton of information that they will infer from one picture!
It is no different for non-actors, except instead of casting directors, it is clients, potential employers, dating prospects, etc. Think about why you have a LinkedIn profile. I doubt it’s for the joy of having one more social network to maintain. LinkedIn is a platform built for professional networking. Lifehacker shared a study that showed when a recruiter looks at your Linkedin profile, they spend 19% of their time on your profile picture. They spend more time on your profile picture than they do on your career information! That tells me that they are taking a lot of visual cues from your picture. they are asking “Can I trust this person?” “I respect this person?”
So what do you do?
First, decide what sort of digital-first impression you want to make. If you want to present yourself with a genuine, and engaging look, you will most likely need to hire a professional. Yes, smartphones can take really good shots and fantastic DSLR cameras are very affordable. However, a lot more goes into a great headshot/personal branding shot than just the quality of the image (check out my article The Anatomy of a Great Headshot). It can feel strange to be the center of attention and not fall straight to the look of your grade school yearbook photo. A professional will be able to coach you to get an expression that shows the real you.
Second, hire a headshot specialist. Photographers, like many other artists, professionals, and tradesmen have specialties. For example, it’s a fairly safe bet that you are not going to find me photographing many babies (I do know some wonderful baby photographers though!). It is not uncommon for a “jack of all trades” photographer to also do headshots. We’re talking about YOUR branding here. This shot may help you land the next role, get the job, or connect you with the next client. To put it another way, this shot may help you make money.
At the end of the day, we are currently living in a “swipe right” world. There is a high probability that someone’s first impression of you will be made digitally. Can they trust you? Can they respect you?