Each of these headshots was effective for its intended audience, and each of the headshots told its subject’s story.  Remember, one of the things a headshot should do is address the needs of its audience.  Does the person depicted in the photo look like someone in a particular industry?  It should.  On other forms of social media, folks left comments about the professions each of these people hold.

For example, on Monday’s headshot sample, folks assumed that this woman was a real estate agent. They supported their claims by the fact that she looked accessible, friendly, and that her body posture indicated that she was ready to help.  These were good guesses, but not close.  She’s a Rodan & Fields consultant.  (Interesting story: her first career was as a flight attendant!)*

Tuesday’s headshot:  many assumed that he was an actor because of his stance, the brick background, and his longish hair (not too corporate, someone said).  Um, nope. He’s an oil and gas man.*

Wednesday’s headshot:  a few people assumed this one correctly (she’s an attorney), but a few noted that the pink lipstick showed her youth and therefore, she must be an entry-level businesswoman.  That could be right, I guess. She’s an entry-level attorney!*

Thursday’s headshot:  This man’s portrait was the first of two environmental headshots for the week.  Many assumed that he was an executive and the area behind him was the glass walls of his office.  That was exactly correct! However, the man is looking for a job and the executive position is what he wanted.  (He was dressing for the role he desired to have!)*

Friday’s headshot:  Almost everyone who commented on this portrait noted that the woman was probably a teacher.  She was outdoors with houses in the background did not indicate to these viewers that she was a businesswoman.  Her warm smile and the pale colors in her clothing indicated that she worked with children.  These folks were way off.  This woman is an IT consultant with a Fortune 500 company.*

Having a headshot taken by a professional photographer is important, as this person understands the intricacies of color, posture, hairstyles, clothing choices, and backgrounds.  In the posts earlier this week, we discussed each of those items.  However, the decision of what to wear, how to stand, or what kind of expression to show is dependent on a couple of factors:

  • Who is your audience?  Is this the image they would expect to see from someone in your industry?  In Monday’s headshot, someone looking to purchase Rodan & Fields facial products would feel assured by this image, as the woman is friendly, her skin is gorgeous, and she looks happy and professional.  Tuesday’s headshot is a little different.  As an “oil and gas man,” one would expect a suit and tie against a steel background (something masculine, maybe) or a photo of a man out in an oil field wearing a hardhat.  Tuesday’s portrait depicts a man who owns his own business and is confident enough that he could break the mold of a traditional headshot portrait.
  • What message are you trying to portray?  Do you want the viewer of the image to hire you?  Become your client?  Are you representing an organization, discipline, or field with this image?  Thursday’s headshot does this:  the man is looking for an executive position and so he created a headshot that depicts him in that role.   Wednesday’s headshot has a little different message, too:  as a new attorney, the woman is wearing the dark suit against a darkish background, and this is fairly standard for these types of shots.  Her pink lipstick, though, presents a different message:  she young.  Does the message of the lipstick contradict the message behind the headshot?  Maybe.
  • Who are you in this image? Who do you want to represent?  Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s headshots both depict people as who they are, not as who someone might expect them to be.  This is an interesting strategy.  Friday’s headshot wanted to portray herself as someone who is approachable, kind, capable, and effective.  Her desire was to create a headshot portrait that did not look like all other headshot portraits.

The point of this entire series is to keep in mind– when taking a headshot portrait– to think about your gaze, clothing choices and colors, body posture, backgrounds, and facial expressions.  All of them mean something significant to a viewer, whether they consciously recognize the significances or not.  Ultimately, though, you are in charge of who you want to be in your headshot image.  Just make sure it tells the story that you want it to tell.


Do you have any thoughts or suggestions about this post or about this headshot series?  Please leave your comments below.

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