Branding Headshots – the what/why/how and when

Say Branding headshots or linkedIn profile picture or your “about me page” and most people will cringe and run away.

No one enjoys being photographed.  Unless you are a model or model material, there are very few people who get a kick out of standing in front of a camera while someone “sees” you.  It’s not in our nature, and particularly not the Australian way. I photograph Branding and Lifestyle Headshots in Brisbane, Australia. For most of my clients the first thing they communicate is, “I really don’t like being photographed.” I’m here to change that, but that’s another story.

So when the time comes to get it done so you can move on to other things, what are the key things to think about when getting photographed?  Let’s break it down. Firstly, let’s look at when.

Why do I need a professional branding headshot image?

Lets break this down further, “Why do you need a headshot?

Your image either in print or on a screen is the face of your brand.  You may not like to have them out there in the open for everyone to see, but the faces and the people behind your business are who your audience want to connect with.  They want to purchase from people, not a bot, not something automatic, but someone real.  They can’t connect with someone they can’t see.

Why does it need to be professional?

For the same reason someone has a professional logo or a website, or a professional does their taxes or their books.  Because a good photographer is going to recognise the qualities you want your customers to see.  They will talk to you about your brand, how your images fit in with the message you are getting across to your clients.  They aren’t just standing with a camera and photographing what appears in front them. 

A good photographer, will ask the right questions and ensure the end result it what you are wanting your customers and your audience to see. 

When should you update your image?

As a photographer, I would like to say, “well you are meant to replace your mascara every 6 months, so maybe at least that often.”  Only joking, half.  On the other end of the scale have you ever been to an open house and you don’t recognise the real estate agent from their advertisement as their photo was taken long enough ago that they look completely different?  I’ll say at least somewhere in between would work.

Your profile shot/brand image should be up to date.  Yes, you may have less wrinkles in that shot from 10 years ago, but it is so disconcerting from a customer’s perspective when you can’t recognise the person you are dealing with. 

On a side note…

And this goes for that crazy softening filter you asked your photographer to add to the image as well which removed 10kgs and softens the lines on your face to the point you look like you should be in a toy store.  Natural is good. Customers want to see experience and who we are dealing with.  If it feels like trickery, your clients will see right through it. We want to walk into a room and know exactly who you are straight away.  I’m not saying we don’t all deserve some good lighting and a little something to soften those harsh lines, but don’t stop your audience from connecting with the real you.

Following is an example of what I mean. I’ve photoshopped the image of me on the right using all the things that people usually want or ask me for. Skinnier arms, soft skin, no wrinkles, no saggy jawline. And don’t get me started on those freckles. No way would I be getting rid of those. From a “me” perspective, they are part of me, part of who I am. Now it’s not that different to be honest, but if I used the right hand side me as my profile, you’d get a definite disconnect response when you see me. Its really important to ensure the you in your photographs connect with your clients.

Bad photoshop
The real me is on the left!

You should look at replacing your headshot every 2 years or when you change your job/position . Nothing says “fresh start” like a new LinkedIn profile shot, so why not update that shot and tell the world you are ready for new beginnings.  This keeps your presence fresh and new also, nothing worse than looking at the same shot time and time again.

What Should I Wear

I’m going to give you the same answer I give to a lot of questions like this.  What would your audience resonate with?  If you are in the corporate space then take that suit to the dry-cleaners and smarten up.  If you are in the active arena, you may want to loose the heels on this one and focus on how you you would meet your clients for the first time. Having said that, if your audience are 25-35 year old corporate ladder climbers, those pumps and the red lipstick might just serve you well.

I always think, if I was going to see my ultimate client for the first time, what would I wear?  Base your decision on that.  How do you want to be perceived? Do you want to be approachable or powerful? Is your brand playful and whimsical or more serious?  Are Jeans and a polo your standard work attire?  Make it look good, upscale slightly to bring the best version of yourself to that image, but don’t be something you are not! 

Your audience is not silly, they will see right through it.

What size and orientation do I need to worry about?

It goes to the same answer as above regarding resonating with your audience, but also, look to the platform you are frequently on.  I would suggest looking at more than just a small profile image, or a headshot, but look for a number of different formats to serve multiple uses.  LinkedIn page banner, Facebook Page Banner, Instagram profile, website about me page, professional publications, proposals – you should have 2-3 images that you can interchange between the different uses to ensure they look clean, crisp and professional.  Ideally, wearing the same clothes and in a similar style as well, just to keep the consistency there.

A good photographer will give you advice here and help you out when delivering your files too if you ask. A good photographer will also ensure you get enough variety that your images will crop well for any platform. Talk to them about this prior to your session.

Headshot vs Lifestyle

The old adage of “why don’t we have both”. You are paying someone to take your photograph, do both. You need a headshot to connect with your audience, have them recognise who you are etc., but more lifestyle styled images will give them a true sense of who you are.

Ensure your branding images and your headshots are telling the stories that you want your clients to know about you. Keep them inline with your industry and relevant to your clients, and they’ll understand exactly the person they are working with before they’ve picked up the phone.

Let me know if I can help you.