What’s in a headshot?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 | Branding with
Posted by: Kristen Beireis, Trust Marketing Expert

I recently had new headshots taken and it got me thinking…I see a lot of websites for coaches and life changers that have no picture or a really bad one.  Do you have a headshot or picture of yourself on your website and networks?  If not, add one!  Your potential clients want to know what you look like.  As a coach or life changer, of any kind, your services require that people put their trust in your ability to help them get where they want to go.  A current physical representation of you is one of the fastest ways to build that trust.

I’m a big fan of the headshot, but I’m not a big fan of a picture.  Yes, there is a difference.  A headshot is a picture that reveals who you are.  A picture is just a physical representation of what you look like.  A headshot is an attraction tool and gives people a peek at who they will be talking to on the phone when they choose to move forward.  This is especially important when what you are selling is a one-on-one service!  When potential clients look at your headshot, they are looking for something they can relate to.  This is their first impression of you, outside of the text you’ve written for them.

As a former Actress, I’ve been through several sets of headshots.  Most business owners just go to a regular portrait photographer or they ask a friend to take their picture.  This is NOT the way to do a headshot!  I’m going to share what I’ve learned over the years that will help to bring out who you are and get you a shot that sells.

1) Hire a professional headshot photographer - Don’t have your friend take the picture or hire a portrait photographer (unless they specifically do headshots too).  Not all headshot photographers are the same and they don’t exist everywhere.  Sometimes a photojournalist can do a great headshot.  Also, there are some portrait photographers who are all about capturing the personality.  These are the people you want to talk to.

Now, in NYC and Los Angeles headshot photographers are a dime a dozen.  Each has his/her own style.  Go to a photographic printing house and get a headshot photographer book or look at them online.  You see all the different styles.  Look for the headshots that you feel bring out who the people are most…not necessarily the most artsy (unless you ARE artsy), but the one that has more human in them.  Reproductions is a big and very reputable company, I recommend, on both coasts:

NYC - http://www.reproductions.com/NYC/directory/index.html
Los Angeles - http://www.reproductions.com/LA/directory/index.html
In smaller areas, you can look in the newspapers or go to the studio and look at some of their pictures.  If they just have pictures of people, then you want to go elsewhere.  If they have pictures filled with personality then it’s worth talking to them.

2)  Interview your photographer - You have the right to a phone call or in person visit with the photographer before you commit to the shoot.  Ask them if they have experience with headshots. Ask how many rolls or shots they will take.  You want 2-3 rolls or 60-100 digital images.  Ask if they do color shots, which you want.  Ask if they have a variety of backgrounds they can use.  Ask if they do outdoor shots.  Ask if they allow for a change of clothes.

3) Clothes - It’s best if you have several outfits for the shoot.  Every outfit will bring a different personality trait out in you.  If you are a very professional, male, corporate coach, then you may want to bring a few different colored suits.  If you are a creative coach that works from home, you may want to wear your most comfortable creative clothes.

DO wear solid colors.

DO NOT wear white or black.

For women, especially, bring a few different outfits that bring different emotions.  Bring one that makes you feel compassionate, another that makes you feel very confident and happy, then another that makes you feel absolutely in love with your life.  How you feel will translate to the picture.  If you are a wellness coach, then bring outfits that make you feel healthy, well, and whole.  It’s important that you represent the type of person you are on the calls with your clients so think about what clothes will elicit that.

4)  Music - This is a trick I learned early on as an Actress, but didn’t actually use until a later round of headshots.  Music will help you find the personality you want to convey.  I’m in love with the song “Defy Gravity” from Wicked because of the strength and courage of the words.  Using this song got some awesome smiley headshots from me.  I took a whole bunch of songs to a shoot and got some great pictures because of it.  So, I highly recommend finding some music that goes with the type of coach you are.  Make sure to ask your photographer if there will be a way to play music during the shoot if you choose to do this.

5)  Be conversational - If your headshot photographer is good, they will get you in conversation about your work.  You can ask them to talk to you about it too.  If you are thinking about your work, your mission, and what it means to you, it will come through in the shot.  If your photographer asks questions, engage!  It will create amazing shots for you.

6)  Take Charge - Be the person you are on the phone with your clients!  This is the key.  Take a few minutes, before you start the shoot, to think about who you are as a life changer.  Think about how you are with your clients.  Get in that frame of mind and ask for a few minutes to refocus through the shoot if you need it.  It’s easy to get distracted by all that’s going on in a shoot.  You want the best shots you can get, so take charge and create what you need in order to BE the life changer you are.

What have you learned from your photo shoots?  Do you have questions?  Leave a comment!

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