For those of us putting ourselves out there each day in the world of business and commerce we’re always looking for ways to bolster our personal brand. One of those ways is to have some sort of visual control over our image.
For so many years, headshots were this very un-glamorous mundane and dry type of portrait that was really more of a documentation of what someone simply looked like. No personality, warmth, or any kind of energy was shown in them. I would describe them as a step above mugshots. Unfortunately, I still see a lot of companies and individuals with headshots like these.
How can we do better here? Fortunately, the retail merchandising industry is always doing the trailblazing and we can learn a lot from them and incorporate their strongest elements into our own visual brands; in this case headshots.
Your eyes help sell you and everything else is secondary.
I get asked at least once per week why I do things like chop off the top of my subjects heads and neglect showing their entire suit or shirt for their headshot. The truth is that nobody cares what the top of your head looks like nor what your entire suit looks like – they want to connect with your eyes. Don’t believe me?
I took a casual stroll through a local Target store and noted a bunch of imagery across their retail landscape that helps sell their products. In every one of these pictures you see limbs, tops of heads, clothes, hair, etc chopped out of the frame but in nearly every one of them the eyes and face are featured prominently. If Target wants you to buy clothes then why not just have images of the clothes? If Revlon is selling a hair coloring product why are they cutting so much hair out of the picture on their carton?
I’ll tell you why. It is because people rarely move off of simple facts and are more motivated by emotion. Having eyes to connect with creates far more of a driver for a shopper than a simple photograph of clothing or just some colored hair with no face being featured. Those in retail merchandising know this. I also know this and that’s why I crop in so tight for my headshots. People are more likely to click on a profile with a headshot where there is some legitimate connection with the eyes.
Another facet to this retail imagery is that some type of genuine personality is being shown.
Again, this creates more of an emotional connection for a shopper above and beyond the fact that the product is good. In every picture here from Target you’re seeing some kind of expression coming from the subject. So if genuine expressions help sell merchandise why on earth would we not want to incorporate that into our personal brand to help sell ourselves? What are headshots for if we’re not using them to promote and sell ourselves to potential clients, business partners and employers? Why do people settle for photographers selling them blank looks and fake disingenuine smiles?
I try to give every client that walks through my doors some legitimate personality that they can put forth. In most cases it’s trying to project some warmth and approachability and in other cases it might be slightly tougher – but there has to be something. When I see headshots of people looking like a deer in headlights I have to asked why they would settle for such a product.
One last thing these images all have in common is commercial quality lighting.
There’s a big difference between a portrait for the sake of art and a headshot that is intended to be commercially viable and lighting plays a key role. Proper headshots need to be properly lit with modern lighting. Do you see any hard shadows covering the eyes or even the entire sides of faces in these retail snaps? Of course not, because that’s not commercially viable. People need to be evenly lit but also look dynamic at the same time. That requires specialized pro-quality lighting. Sure, I could do a headshot with a tiny flash on top of the camera but it’s going to look cheap and flat.
My name is Jason Ranalli, I’m a headshot photographer based out of Philadelphia, and I would love to incorporate some of these same elements into YOUR headshot be it for corporate or acting/modeling.
Please reach out to me HERE if you would like more information.