The human eye is attracted to other humans. So LONG before anyone reads a WORD on your profile, your photo must attract them in. Your image IS the original instant messaging system – and that image helps the mind predict future behavior.
It’s the Halo Effect in action – the bias of the first impression influencing other opinions. “She looks attractive, therefore she’s probably smart and trustworthy.” “He looks sharp therefore he’s probably a go-getter.”
Now look at your current profile photo. Is yours screaming this? If not, time to update that photo into one that works FOR you.
So let’s go over the basics of how to plan and create this photo.
Your profile photo is known in the industry as a ‘headshot’ (actors and models use these for auditions). It’s a photo of you that includes just the top of your shoulders to top of head (we just need to see your face). It’s clean and focused so we can see your face and not be distracted by clothing or jewelry. You’re looking straight into the camera and smiling. Your hair needs to look styled and under control and should frame your face.
It needs to say “Hello, I’m _____, and I’m ready to contribute my expertise to help you with _________”. And in the case of social media “Let’s connect”.
The background is important too. Currently, a white background or an outdoor background in natural light with the background blurred are the two choices that look most modern and clean. Any background that’s got ANY weird distraction is NOT good, it distracts from your face. Look at Linkedin photos and you’ll see what I mean. Dark backgrounds don’t pop onscreen and dark hair can blend in creating a weird look.
SO, the photo is one of your head and shoulders with a blank or blurred background. If you’re going to shoot this photo yourself, outdoor lighting that is soft, like on a cloudy day or early morning, is often best.
Now, how do you do this?
First, what business culture are you appealing to? That’s how you’re going to dress for the shot. Mirror what they’re wearing in that industry. This is especially important if you’re searching for a job. Even if it’s casual culture, dressing UP a little, is better.
Put together several outfits (suits) in camera-friendly colors. For men, if you’re wearing a suit, shoot two shots – one with jacket and tie, one with the tie off and shirt collar open for a casual look. Now you’ve got two options that will appeal to many business cultures.
For men, navy blue (not black), royal blue, charcoal gray suits. Medium blue shirts (not WHITE), tie with texture and tiny print that complements the shirt (find a men’s store to help you). OR, a shirt with a tiny check or print, again, in cool tones. The neck should look sharp, not saggy.
For women, all we see is the collar/neckline so find outfits that have interesting ones. A jacket or cardigan over a blouse or a dress or suit with interesting collars or necklines you can layer together will give you interest. Adding visual interest with different textures of jacket to under blouse will make it more interesting. Do not wear a busy print, it distracts from your face and will date the photo. Do not wear large earrings or statement necklaces, they will distract from your face and also date the photo. Do not wear pearls unless pearls are part of your personal brand. It looks forced, not authentic. Wear glasses if they’re part of your daily wear.
What colors? Do not wear black or white, neither add anything to you. Cool colors work best – they invite the viewer in; hot colors are so bright they often push people away and invite negative feelings (ask a psychologist.) Ladies, choose off-white or ecru for an under blouse. Optic white contrasts too much with your skin, calling attention to itself.
All skin tones look good on camera in:
Tones of blue: medium blue, aqua or turquoise, teal, royal blue
Purple or amethyst: not dark purple that will appear black.
Greens: if you bought it, it probably looks good against your skin tone. Avocado, olive, not leaf green or neon
If you notice, these are all the cool tones on the color wheel. The hot colors of orange, red, and yellow should only be used in tiny amounts if they are muted and as a contrasting shade or tone in an accessory like a scarf or peeking out from a jacket in a pocket square. These bright colors are generally viewed as too playful for business.
You need to wear some make-up to look polished. If possible, get your make-up done by a professional make-up artist. One that has experience with photography - not at the make-up department of your favorite store unless they have photography experience. Photography is an artificial medium using lots of light. We’re being professional here, and the make-up makes a huge difference. We want your eyes to pop, your brows to frame your face, your skin to look alive and your lips need some color.
If you’re a guy with a shaved head, powder it down for the photo to take away that shiny bowling ball look. Most photographers keep powder – ask if you don’t want to have to buy some. And if you have facial hair, groom it.
Make sure your hair has been cut and colored or whatever you do about two weeks ahead of time. Do not take a photo if you haven’t taken care of your hair and you’re thinking of getting a new hair style. Every time you change your hair style or color you need a new headshot (men and women). Your headshot should look like you, today. Anything less makes you look out-of-date and worse, unrecognizable and out-of-touch.
And now, I shall rant. Please don’t make me look at another selfie taken in the car with the seatbelt as your accessory. Or the selfie taken in your cubicle. Don’t make me look at a photo from the office party (cropped with other bodies in the background) or your vacation, or a photo from 10 or 20 years ago. And it’s not a Glamour Shot either, put that photo on personal social media. And photos taken against a wall look exactly like that, you didn’t know or care that it looks like an afterthought.
A professional headshot is an investment in your future. It’s a business tool just like all those others you’ve bought. Please don’t lose them at the photo.
And if you need help, call me, 832.707.9339. I’m happy to consult!
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