Image is Everything: 3 Vital Tips For Your Business Headshot

If you’re a professional and you’re serious about your work, you need a professional business headshot that communicates who you are and what you’re about.

You’ll need it for your LinkedIn page and other social media profiles, your website or bio and any time you’re invited to speak or serve on a panel somewhere.

Understand that people WILL judge you based on the appearance of your headshot. Consciously or unconsciously they will start forming opinions about whether you’re trustworthy and likable, whether they want to do business with you or attend your presentation. So it’s worth doing it right.

Seek Professional Help

Don’t settle for a homemade snapshot, and do NOT, under any circumstances, use a webcam photo you’ve taken of yourself. Not only are they terribly unflattering to all but the young and the beautiful, but they scream, “I don’t even have a friend I can ask to take my picture.”

So get recommendations from colleagues whose photos you admire and put yourself in the hands of a real pro. He or she will ensure that all the technical details, like wardrobe, makeup, lighting and background, are taken care of. If they’re really good, they can help ensure the final product lines up with who you are and the brand you’re trying to project.

But here are three important things they might not tell you that can make or break your photo session.

1. Like Your Photographer

A photo session can be an intimate experience — even with your clothes on. You are revealing your personality, a bit of who you are. So you want to be able to trust the person behind the lens. You want to have chemistry with her.

That’s why it’s a great idea to meet with your photographer in advance. Talk about your goals and your brand and ask about her process. Does she listen? Does she get you? Are you comfortable in her studio? If not, find someone else.

2. Adjust Your Attitude

If you approach this as a chore or something silly and superficial, that attitude will affect your results. Treat it as an important part of your business — as important as your marketing materials, your website or your logo.

Do not get wrapped up in false modesty. (Or even true modesty.) “Oh, I hate how I look! I never take a good picture!” Nobody has time for your silliness and drama. Suck it up, put on your big-boy pants (or skirt) and go into your photo session with confidence and professionalism.

3. Smile With Your Eyes (And Everything Else)

A casting director once told me that a secret to picking a good headshot is to cover up everything on the photo but the eyes. That’s probably the most important thing about your photo. Your eyes should be expressive — they should convey warmth, intensity, confidence.

To illustrate this, I’m going to use some really terrible iPhone photos of myself. So ignore the technical aspects and focus on the eyes.

First of all, you want to avoid Dead-Eye Syndrome. That’s where your mouth is smiling but your eyes say, “I’d rather be somewhere else.”

Dead Eyes

You have to smile with your WHOLE face, and that includes your eyes. In fact you have to smile with your whole self. This is not about activating muscle groups, it’s about embodying happiness, confidence and assurance with your full heart and soul.

In other words, don’t just ACT happy or warm or confident, BE happy and warm and confident. Think of something or someone who puts you in that state.

But don’t overdo it. You want to avoid Dead Eyes’ opposite number, Crazy Eyes:

Crazy Eyes

I see a lot of this and I’m not sure why. Maybe people are nervous or scared or they’ve been told they squint too much when they smile. So take it easy with the eyes. Try this exercise: try smiling ONLY with your eyes — no teeth. Like this:

Smiling Eyes

It sounds dumb, but when I do photo shoots I get a lot of praise for this skill. It is not, as they say, rocket surgery. By practicing smiling with your eyes you’ll learn to project that inner warmth and confidence you’re going for.

Finally, put it all together: eyes and teeth:

Eyes & Teeth

See what I’m doing there? It’s like I’m really happy, maybe even laughing at a funny joke. When I first started doing this I actually used to think of something funny or someone I loved. Approximately 10,000+ photos later, I just kind of turn it on like a light switch. Acting!

In the end, the shot you choose may feature an open-mouthed or close-mouthed smile. I personally prefer teeth shots, but it’s up to you, your personality and your brand.

Whatever you do, just make sure you do it right. This is not the time to skimp. You’ll regret it if you do.