We're not talking weapons, but we ARE talking about killer headshots; Specifically, how you can use these photos to embellish your personal brand!
One of the hardest photographs to take is the professional headshot.
There are a number of reasons for this. The main one is that this single picture has to convey so much more information than any other portrait or snapshot. With this picture, the person photographed (subject) hopes to portray everything that they feel needs to be conveyed, in a positive light. This goes far beyond appearance, gender and other physical traits like that. A headshot will convey personality. (For the record, you can use a phone to take an acceptable portrait, but don't depend on it for situations where an actual headshot is needed).
That is why, for this blog post alone, I'm going to share some of the (many, many) headshot fails I've taken over the years, and then I will explain why that particular picture was a flop. Some will have minor processing done, but most will be shown as taken. For the sake of brevity, I'll leave the teaching of rising portrait photographers to professionals like Tony and Chelsea Northrop, who can definitely do it much more efficiently.
First, we need to establish what exactly visual content (like headshots) are meant to do when distributed in highly visual mediums (Instagram, Facebook, audition portfolios, etc.), and how they actually work. We've already done the former, earlier in this post. But Dr. Regina Luttrell, a professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University discusses the latter. She detailed some of the elements that go into producing quality visual content in her recently published textbook. Though they were originally written about video content, videography and photography share more than enough similarities in how content is created for the elements to apply to the other. Some of these elements include the idea of recognizing your audience and catering to them, knowing the purpose of the visual article, effective and relevant composition, effective lighting, tasteful post-processing, and the obligatory means of distributing that content. Each of the photos below are poor in one or more of these areas.
A logical question to ask at this point would be, "Adam, you're just critiquing bad photos you've taken. Why are you doing this?" That would be a fair question. A good follow-up would be why I'm using clunky rhetorical questions to segue into my next point. The critiques above are all based on ideas or principles that we should consider whenever we get around to choosing a new Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder or other profile picture. In many cases, our profile pictures may the first/last chance we have to impress a viewer, depending on the platform. This current system of digital representation and its influence of our personal success(es) are things that everyone (not just PR professionals) needs to recognize. We need to critically examine the pictures that we take, and even more critically analyze the ones that we pay for.
A good headshot is invaluable. A good headshot will be able to convey an amount of the subject's personality, their attitude, and in general, their identity. In short, you're communicating who they are as a person. Whether it is a headshot for an audition, a new profile picture for your social media account(s), or a portrait for your C-suite online profile, choosing the best possible representation of who you are is a necessity in the modern digital age.
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This blog was originally created for coursework while at the Newhouse School. But this blog quickly became something more, as it gave me a platform, however small, on which to share my thoughts. So feel free to read through these posts, and if you like what you read, please share. Enjoy.