Every professional needs to have several great headshot photos in their personal branding toolkit. Your mug shot does matter, especially in this era of new media marketing. The business competition is fierce and you need photographs that visually articulate your personal brand. This is true whether you are looking to get promoted within your firm, are hoping to be invited as a keynote speaker at your industry’s next conference, or are a small business owner and entrepreneur. Your photo is usually how people first connect with you and you definitely want to create a memorable and authentic positive impression.

Unfortunately most professionals don’t give a lot of deep thought to their headshot or consider it a marketing tool for their personal brand. They just show up at the studio dressed in professional attire and leave the rest up to the photographer’s discretion. But you should have a consultation with the photographer ahead of time to discuss the type of business and industry are you are in, your position, your business culture, and the purpose of the photo session. Know your goals and your strategy for marketing yourself with the photographs and identify your ideal target audience. Only then can you adequately convey to the photographer what he or she needs to know in order to make the photo shoot a success in terms of your overall brand design.

Here are a few of my personal secrets to help you create professional photographs that truly represent your personal brand and give you that distinct, immediately recognizable advantage.

#1 Rapport: The Key to Creative Chemistry

This is so important. Do your research to find someone who really photographs people well. Discuss your personal brand with them and explain exactly how you want to be perceived. Make sure they “get it” about you before you hire your photographer. You’ve got to trust that the photographer can bring out your best – and that comes from shopping around for the right one who shares your creative vision and understands how to make it happen in your photos.

#2 Create a Diverse Portfolio of Pictures

This is a great tip. So many professionals’ just roll in with their one suit on and sit on a stool in front of the screen to have their head shot taken. But that’s like offering only one reference to a client or including just one accomplishment on your professional resume. Invest in a series of professional shots, taken in various settings and with several changes of outfits, so that your photographic portfolio realistically represents all of the aspects of your brand and image. Today professionals need a full repertoire of photos for different marketing purposes and types of media.

#3 Capture Your Brand Environment

What background or setting communicates your brand? Convey the type of ambiance you want to associate with your image – whether that’s outdoors, in an executive suite, or in a home office. If you work in corporate you may want to have a portrait taken in your office or conference room and another photo in front of your company’s headquarters. Think of how to creatively express your brand through the look and feel of the setting, your clothing, and any props. Entrepreneurs or small business owners may want photos in front of their places of business and they may want a picture that shows them interacting with clients or customers. You’re making a photo that will play as a mental movie by those who see it and you’re directing the scene. So it depends on what type of work you do, where you do it, and how you want to be perceived by your target audience.

#4 Be Yourself

Don’t try to pose as someone you are not, because the most effective photographs are those that naturally resemble you and are authentic representations of your personality and personal image. If you have your photograph on your LinkedIn profile, for instance, and then attend a networking event it is crucial that people recognize you from that picture and can find you in the crowd. Know your brand in an authentic way and then let it show, because that will create genuine connectivity.

#5 Tips from Professional Photographers

Here are some insider secrets from expert photographers to help you capture your brand and image essence:

* Rest Up: Get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of water prior to your photo shoot so you look radiant and energetic – not drained and depleted.
* Pack a Bag: Plan your ensembles ahead of time and take several key pieces of clothing along for the photo shoot. Men may want to take a jacket or two and several different shirts and ties. Woman can take a couple of jackets, some blouses, and a few choice sets of jewelry. You may also want a casual set of clothes in addition to your more formal professional attire. The idea is to give yourself several options so you can have a varied portfolio of photographs for all your branding and marketing needs.
* Eyes Matter: Wear colors in your ties or jewelry that match your eye tone to make your eyes look more vibrant. You want the photos to draw people in through eye contact because that will help to build credibility and trust, just as it does in person.
* Don’t Fade Away: Make sure your photographer uses the right kind of contrasting background colors so you don’t blend in and fade but instead really stand out.
* Show Some Style: Portray your brand through your authentic style. A man who isn’t your typical corporate person but works in a more casual industry will want to dress accordingly while still conveying professionalism. That might call for a sports coat, collared sport shirt, and dress pants – but no tie. Women may want to portray a more casual feel through a modern jacket and beautiful blouse worn with exquisite jewelry. Caution: Don’t be overly casual if you want to attract a more elite clientele – even if your industry is rather lax in its dress code. Instead dress more to the level of those clients.
* Avoid White-Out: Don’t wear white unless it is a blouse or shirt worn under a jacket. Darker clothes are more authoritative and put more emphasis on your face, whereas light colored clothes tend to disperse visual attention and dilute your overall impact.
* Put on Your Best Face: Men need to shave prior to having photos taken to avoid the five o’clock shadow. Women should not overdo the make-up. It can be applied a little heavier than usual, but it has to be blended correctly to create a flawless complexion. I do recommend to my female executive clients that they work with a professional make-up artist prior to the shoot to learn which features to accentuate and how – or to have the professional make-up specialist apply the make-up right before the photo session.
* Stylish Hair: Hair is your best accessory, the easiest to style, and it frames your communication center. But don’t get a haircut or color treatment the day before the photo shoot. Your hair always looks best when it is has had a week or so to grow. Prior to the photo session is also not the time to go wild and experiment with a risky “do.” You can always become a redhead or get that dramatic new cut after the photos are done.
* Become a Classic: The classic-modern styles of clothing always work. So if you don’t know what to wear then trust the classic modern suits, shirts, ties, blouses, and jewelry. You’ll look fresh and innovative and can use the photo for two years or more, rather than having dated photos based on passing fads and short-lived fashion trends.
* Tone Down the Volume: Avoid louder prints or fabrics like herringbone, wild stripes, color blocking, or checks. Solids always work and are more professional looking than your funky cartoon tie or rock star animal print dress. You want people to notice you in your photos – not your attention-getting clothes.
* Accessorize But Don’t Oversize: Be cautious to wear elegant jewelry that tells the same branded story as the rest of your outfit – but not large oversized jewelry. Jewelry should match your authentic style and be congruent with your outfit. Professional women can wear a necklace and earrings and men can put on a great signature tie.
* Neckline Logic: The most flattering neckline for a woman is always an open neckline like a V-neck vs. a turtle or crewneck. You also don’t want to wear necklines that are too revealing and may send the wrong message, because necklines do tend to talk.
* Look Fit: One of the most important tips is to wear clothes that really fit. Don’t wear clothes that look like you were squeezed into them or that hang on you like a sack. You want to look crisp, polished, and have clothes that smoothly drape your silhouette.
* Smile with Your Eyes: You may want to practice a few smiles. But a talented photographer will know how to put you at ease and get your best angle. Don’t forget that facial expressions speak volumes about your personal brand so make sure your body talk is authentic and conveys the presence you want people to see and feel.

When you plan and execute a marketing strategy through your personal brand you start attracting more requests from your target audience. By having a photo portfolio ready you will be able to convey your professional image and seize every opportunity with confidence and without delay.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author. Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.

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