When did you last update the head shot on your LinkedIn page or website? If it’s been more than two years, it might not resemble how you look to potential new clients or employers.
The headshot you post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, on your website, and in your email signature should always reflect how you want to be perceived as a creative professional. An outdated headshot raises doubts about your self-confidence, credibility, and willingness to change with the times.
In her excellent blog post “Why Do I Need a Professional Headshot?” Cincinnati photographer Kim Dalton emphasizes that today a headshot is your first impression: “Would you go on an interview or to work, in your swimsuit, college hoodie, or favorite Hawaiian shirt? In most cases, you wouldn’t. But I see people doing this every day with their headshot.”
Dalton illustrates her point by showing the difference between some of the head shots her clients had posted on LinkedIn before and after they came to her studio for a professional headshot. The “before” photos were perfectly fine, but the “after” photos really make a statement. And it’s clear Kim can work her photographic magic on professionals of all ages.
Learning from Experience
Like many writers, I hate having my portrait taken by professional photographer. As a “mature” creative who works in the technology field, I had a hard time finding a photographer who delivered the results I wanted. My headshot shouldn’t make me look older than I feel. I want potential clients and employers know that I remain eager to work, learn, and change.
But because some portrait photographers made me feel rushed and unnatural, I tend to look stiff and uncomfortable in my headshot photos. To save money, I tried taking selfies that I could crop and edit however I wanted. But that approach failed too, because my instinct was to go overboard with the retouching.
Without a flattering, natural-looking head shot, I was even more reluctant to promote myself than I usually am.
I first met Kim Dalton several years ago when I was writing a series of articles called “Cincinnati is Creative” for WCPO.com. I was one of the freelance writers that the Cincinnati-area broadcast station hired to help them quickly beef up their online content with more local feature stories and profiles. I contacted Kim after noticing that her photographs of Cincinnati depicted the city in a fresh, intriguing way.
She remembered me because that story on WCPO.com attracted thousands of visitors to her website. So when Kim contacted me about her switch to head-shot photography, I was immediately intrigued.
After reading her blog post and viewing her before-and-after pictures, it was clear that Kim was taking a different approach to headshot photography. So when she offered to shoot me, I couldn’t resist.
Before our appointment, she gave me clear, detailed instructions on what type of clothing to wear, depending on how I would like to be portrayed (business executive, business casual, or casual). She encouraged me to bring more than one top, so if one color or neckline style didn’t work, we could try another.
Her approach to posing, lighting, and shooting was also more fun and different from anything I had experienced in other photography studios. Instead of issuing a routine series of posing instructions, Kim took a genuine interest in coaxing a more confident look and natural-looking smile. Because her camera was tethered to her computer, we immediately reviewed the results of the shoot so we could pick out the favorites as we went along. Being able to see the results during the shoot motivated me to relax and lighten up.
You can see the difference in the photo that Kim took in December 2018 and the photo I had taken in 2017.
When I asked why her before and after results are so striking, Kim reminded me that all photographers see things differently. Getting a great head shot may simply be a matter of finding a photographer who understands the type of image you want to project.
Kim studied headshot photography from Peter Hurley, a New York-based photographer who shoots headshots for well-known models, actors, media personalities, and corporate executives. Hurley wrote a book for professional photographers entitled, “The Headshot: The Secrets to Creating Amazing Headshot Portraits.” He also founded The Headshot Crew, a global network of Hurley-coached headshot and portrait photographers.
If a bad headshot inhibits you from actively promoting yourself online, don’t despair. You don’t have to resort to using an old photo, avatar, or cartoon to represent yourself. Finding a professional headshot photographer whose style matches the quality of your work as a writer, designer, or artist can make a world of difference.
If you live in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region (or travel here for business), check out Kim’s work on her website: https://kdaltonphotography.com/ Or, find a member of The Headshot Crew in your city.