Allow me to share something I prepared earlier... combined with supporting images I created just for this blog. The slides are from a presentation I put together to cover how to work with your photographer to get the best results, and helpful hacks if you haven't got the budget for one. I'll even add a bonus hack at the bottom if your backgrounds at home are less than ideal.
Essential for any decent image.
Further to my home-made blinky demos, the thing to remember is to face your light source to get that even look. The other thing to note if doing this outside, especially if it is sunny, is to find what I call 'solid shade', or the official term 'open shade'. This is an area that is a solid block of shade so that you aren't getting odd spots of light on you, and especially your face. Dappled light (light coming through tree canopies) can have great effects on a fun photo shoot, but if this head shot is destined for LinkedIn, then you want the smooth even lighting that I highlighted in my videos.
If you have a spot outside that would make a great backdrop but it's not working right now, check back at different times of day. If you have an inside spot that is only slightly shadowy, see if you can add some light to that area.
Now, if your best lighting spot is fabulous for your face but has a less-than-ideal background, don't worry. I have a hack for that too. But let's cover off the other top tips for your home-made head shot.
Here's how the seated indoor version looks like. Now, in all honesty, I'd do a few more takes to get a shot I'm happy with, but I still have to put away that pile of books I made and I've got some more tips to go. However, even though I'm seated, you'll notice that my posture is better. This is more noticeable when standing, which you can see in my next segment.
Now, as you can see, the differences are very subtle and the image of me on the left is useable, but with a bit of postural encouragement, the image on the right has a bit more going for it. Ironically, while creating the image on the left, I settled into the stance I would take if I had to stand during a meeting so my body is comfortable but looks slightly awkward (in comparison). Whereas, the image on the right I went all in for posture and pose, and felt extremely awkward, but look more comfortable - and confident. Sometimes you just have to embrace the process.
Did you notice my posture images have no background but the slide?
That's the result of an app discovery that blew my mind when I discovered it existed. I mean, I *can* do the same thing in Photoshop but it takes AGES. But with the click of a button, remove.bg can do it for you. So, let's play a game!
Now, obviously lighting and image sharpness needs to be taken into account, but you can see that a terrible background doesn't have to stop you from having an image of yourself that is well lit and doesn't obviously look like you are still holding the camera. If you have a tripod. please use it. I've deliberately taken these images without one to demonstrate it can be done. I also did it by myself which is why I'm using images that work, rather than working to get the ones I want - I can do that later, with a tripod and not trying to write a blog. If someone is helping you, communication is key. If that happens to be a child, then make sure they get some 'pro shots' too (if you share glimpses of family life on your social media, then a collage of your combined efforts will make a great post!)
Despite the gleeful grin here, I do know that the stakes somehow seem higher the moment you are staring down the barrel of a giant glass lens, and all you can see behind it is a scrunched up face expecting you to 'be yourself'. But if you have found your photographer, then you are in safe hands.
Give it a whirl and let me know how you go!
(or if it sounds completely tedious, drop me a line and we can tee something up when lockdown is lifted)
And depending on your online interactions, you may want to consider levelling up your images on all the platforms you operate on. Let's put my photographer's bias aside for a moment, and I'll share a few thoughts as a Business Owner instead in relation to how I portray my online persona.
This is the most 'serious' of the platforms that I use. I take myself seriously, but not too much. I wanted my photo to be professional but fun because that's how I do my shoots. Part of this is also respecting the platform. It's business oriented. I treat it like a virtual office.
I have two personas on Instagram, one more 'formal' than the other. You'll notice that Ad Hoc Agent uses the same profile photo as LinkedIn but I don't have to and will likely be changing it soon. As a point of difference, Wool on Wheels operates at more of a community level and you'll see a big difference in the type of images I choose to use on each feed. That photo is overdue for a change too!
Instagram is all about the visual (and using the right hashtags). To be honest, I'm not using this platform to its full potential BUT there is more room for fun. I'm a big believer in sharing what I call the 'unhighlight' reel and this is the ideal space for bloopers and behind the scenes.
I don't use this platform so my opinion can be taken with as many grains of salt as you please. I guess it depends if you are on there as you, or as your business. If you are on there in a purely personal capacity with your nickname, then be as casual as you like. But if you're there as your business or representing your business and your handle reflects that, then I'd be using your logo or a close up professional photo as your icon image, appropriate to your profession.
I know it's easier said that done, but if your image is outdated or not purposefully taken for the platform(s) you're using, then I'd highly encourage updating it. I know how long it takes to get a good shot - especially if you are the person in front of the lens as well as behind it, but I won't leave you hanging. Next blog will be a tutorial you can refer to to sort out your own images at home using your smartphone.
There are lots of photographers out there. Any one of them can take your photo.
But who's going to do the best job?
It's the one that you have the best relationship with. You trust them.
Not everyone has a photographer in their friendship group, but if you are networking enough, you know someone, or someone in your network does. And that is the best place to start.
Google can find photographers, but it won't take personality into account. It won't take your level of discomfort into account. A refined search may narrow possibilities, but if you want to love your images, then you need to work with someone who already knows you. Who can make you feel comfortable during awkward poses, who will make the process fun. Where the shoot feels more like a collaboration than a transaction.
Bear in mind that the photographer you know may specialise in something different to what you want - but chances are they can make a recommendation for you. Most photographers know other photographers. Start with who you already know. Someone may even be starting out and looking for a portfolio project.
It may mean a bit of extra effort and time spent on the process, but if the imagery requirement isn't urgent, then it's worth it to get not only the results you want, but results you love.
By increasing your visibility on the social media channels where you operate. Your content will differ according to your industry, and may vary depending on which platform you're using but building in professional photography into your marketing will make a difference to your online presence.
Visibility is part of building awareness of your brand. And like it or not, if you're reading this, chances are high that you are part of your brand.
That's right. YOU need to be IN the photos that represent your business.
Please allow me to break up the text by walking my talk.
Now you know what I look like. Or it reminds you of what I look like because you might have met me before, or we might be connected on LinkedIn. This is also the type of thing that I wear when I do a photo shoot. Of course I swank it up a few notches if it's an awards function, but if I'm shooting outdoors, this is most likely what you get. Including the smile.
Having your own images helps you step away from stock standard. Stock images *look* like stock images. And they do have their place from time to time, but they won't have your personality. The spark that makes your service special (hint: that's you, you're the spark). Now that you've stepped up visibility, consistently being present contributes to familiarity. Have you noticed that the number of touch points from awareness to conversion is increasing? If you're using stock images for remarketing, those are pretty easy to ignore. But if it's you? It's a subtle reminder that you've already provided value to your potential client. That you're a real person that is ready to serve.
You are your best asset. If you're still in start up phase then you might be organising your own photos. That's okay - it is perfectly possible to create your own. If you have the time and inclination I'd recommend this over using generic stock photos. But no matter what stage you're at, you have knowledge that helps add value to your clients. Match it up with an image of you (and add your logo if it's something shareable that's going to surf social media waves) because that's going to be more memorable than text on it's own.
By now, you either believe me or you don't. I may not be the photographer for you, but that's not to say that you don't need better photos in your business life. Being in more of your images helps people get to know you. And it helps filter out the ones that aren't really right for you. It's up to you to determine the balance of fun and professionalism that is required for your business, and communicating this clearly with the photographer you engage with so that you get the images that will work for you.