I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking long and hard about getting professional headshots done.  Knowing that one of my friends, Anna Inabinet is a photographer, I thought to ask her to write up a post about what we need to know about headshots…you know, headshots for us non-actor types.

She did not disappoint.  She’s in the process of relocating to the greater Georgia and South Carolina area, so if you need headshots (or engagement or pregnancy or baby photos – she’s amazing at all of those!) drop her a note and tell her that I sent you.

Headshots: They’re not Just for Actors Anymore

Does your business have a website? A blog? A Facebook page? A Twitter account? Are you networking yourself and your business on LinkedIn?

For each “yes” to these questions, there is an opportunity to present not only your business, goods, and services, but also yourself. As entrepreneurs, we all want potential clients to love our work, recognize our passion, and ultimately hire us. But don’t forget that the image you post of yourself is the first glimpse potential clients have of the person they will be hiring.

That is why professional headshots are so important.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure that snapshot of you from Christmas 1998 is lovely! However, if your photo is going to be all over the Internet, representing your business, then you should really spend some time thinking about what you want your professional headshot to say about you. Specifically, your headshot should present you as professional, knowledgeable, trustworthy, and approachable.

This isn’t to say that you have to wear a suit and pull your hair into a respectable bun. Your professional headshot should also set the tone and mood of your business. As a photographer, I’m aware of how much most people dislike having their picture taken, so I want my headshot to present me as put together, creative, and fun. That way, potential clients will see that I know what I’m doing and that I will make having their photograph taken a fun and painless experience. For my professional headshot, I might let my hair down, wear casual clothing in bright colors or prints, and choose a location or background that is out of the ordinary.

However, if I was offering financial consulting services, I would likely dress more conservatively (maybe even wear that suit!) and choose a location that emits financial knowledge and savvy, like a professional office or the business district in my city. No matter what your business is, there’s no need to appear stuffy in your photos. Remember to have fun with the experience, smile, and let your personality show through.

Now that you’re convinced you need a new look, follow these tips to get the best professional headshots for your business’ online presence:

1. Choose Your Photographer. It’s important to do some research and find a photographer whose work you like. Then call around and check prices. Oftentimes photographers offer special pricing for professional headshots that are significantly less than traditional portrait sessions.
I suggest calling rather than emailing so you can get a sense of how you will connect with the photographer. If you feel comfortable talking and laughing with that person, then you’re session will be that much more enjoyable.

Need help finding a photographer? The Professional Photographers of America website has a great photographer locator tool.

2. Make Sure You Know What You’re Getting. In this digital age, many photographers’ professional headshot packages will include one or more digital images with the rights to use the image online. But don’t assume this is the case. If they do not include a digital image, find out what the cost would be to purchase individual digital files. Either way, make sure it includes the right to use the image(s) online.

Never scan in an image, or copy and save it from the photographer’s website or blog. Even if it’s a picture of you, the photographer still owns the copyright and has to give you permission to reproduce the image, either digitally or in print.

3. What to Wear. Now that you’ve scheduled your professional headshot session, it’s time to prepare. No need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe – there’s likely something in your closet that is perfect. Try on a few things in front of a mirror and choose an outfit (or two) that you feel comfortable and confident in. Make sure it contributes to the tone you want to set for yourself as the face of your business. Designers might want too look trendy, while attorneys might want to look more businesslike.

If you’re still completely unsure about your wardrobe choices, I recommend solid colors, avoiding white or black. Also, if you’re going to be using a backdrop that is predominantly one color, avoid wearing that color (for example, if I’m photographing a client in a park I ask them not to wear green).

If you want to have your professional headshots taken in multiple outfits, check in with your photographer ahead of time to make sure that wardrobe changes are included. You may want a more conservative headshot for your website and a more casual one for your blog or Facebook page.

4. What to Expect at Your Professional Headshot Session. It’s likely that your photographer will call or email you prior to your session to discuss the details, decide on a location, and fill you in on what to expect. Generally professional headshots are much shorter than traditional portrait sessions, and can be completed in about 30 minutes (depending on location(s) and wardrobe changes).

Your photographer will likely give you direction and put you at ease once the session is under way. At the beginning of the session, I suggest starting a conversation with the photographer about something other than your headshots. Talking about something you’re interested in will help you feel more comfortable, and you’ll look more natural in the images. If you’re still feeling nervous or awkward, try looking away from the camera and then back into the lens; the brief reprieve from staring into the lens helps!

As your session is wrapping up, make sure to find out what the next steps are. Generally, you will receive proofs, either online or printed, from which you will choose the professional headshots that perfectly represent you and your business. Then, you’ll be ready to update your online presence with the new face of your company.

Anna S. Inabinet is a freelance photographer and graphic designer formerly based in Chicago – currently driving across the country to her new home in Georgia as this goes live. For more information about Anna (as well as her portfolio) I encourage you to visit www.ai-creative.com/blog.  You can also find her on Facebook and on Twitter.