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Jennifer Koon smiling outside.

What Should My Professional Headshot Say About Me?

After winning the door prize drawing at a recent Alpharetta Chamber luncheon, I met with the commercial photographer who was going to take my complimentary headshot and admit I was a bit surprised when she asked: what do you want your headshot to say about you?

This is not my first time getting a professional headshot. We frequently coordinate headshots for clients who need them to accompany press releases and speaking engagements. In nearly every instance, most everyone is consumed with the obvious questions of what should I wear? How should I style my makeup (usually women) and what should I do with my hair (even men)?

Not once have I ever really given consideration to what I wanted the photograph to say about me (or what it should say about my client) so I set about making a list in preparation for the big day of my photo shoot.

Confident. For a headshot that will be used in a professional environment, I think it is important that the photograph exudes confidence. People want to do business with professionals who are confident. I need my headshot to demonstrate that I’m a confident professional. At the same time, I recognize that my portrait needs to be composed in a way that doesn’t connote arrogance – no crossed arms or flashy jewelry — because nobody wants to hire or be around folks who are arrogant (unless they are in the NFL where this seems to be a requirement).

Trustworthy. If you are going to ask people to trust you with their brand, their business and their budget, you’ve got to come across as trustworthy. An image that is too slick or too slovenly will fail to garner any trust. It should be neat, professional and warm.

Approachable. The same image that says trust me also needs to communicate it’s ok to confide in me, share your concerns with me, bring me your secrets and be comfortable that I’ll treat you and your ideas with appropriate deference to your pride in ownership while at the same time help you get past the obstacles you’ve created for yourself in order to find success.

What kind of headshot should I use for my personal profile?

Now you may think that I should have included creative or even fun among my criteria and while I think these are all great objectives, they were not the right ones for this medium. This professional headshot will be used in places like LinkedIn, our website and for speaking, sponsorship and professional memberships and associations.

If I were capturing my headshot for a dating site, like Tinder or eHarmony, the adjectives would be entirely different.  I’d want to be fun, attractive, spirited, outgoing and sexy.

For my profile picture for Facebook or Instagram, I’d want to be welcoming, memorable and happy. While I might share the same picture from LinkedIn for instant messaging platforms like Teams, Slack or Yammer, the image I’d select for Discord would likely be more mysterious, comical or even antagonistic.

When it finally came time for my photo shoot, it was, of course, overcast and humid so my naturally curly hair was less than amazing, but the photographer nonetheless made me feel like a beautiful fashion model. Looking forward to seeing those proofs!

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