By: Shelly Sobol
We as a society are a visual group! There’s no way around it. We make snap decisions based on visual data we take in without even realizing it and this is usually done before utilizing any other sense. You don’t need further proof than when you consider how much weight you place on your graphic designer when developing ideas for conference and marketing brochures. If the event doesn’t look exciting and engaging on paper (or other forums: e-mail, social media, etc.), how will it ever encourage people to shell out hundreds of dollars to attend, let alone exhibit or sponsor an event?
At some point in your career, you will be put on the spot for a last minute headshot whether it’s for a speaking engagement, President’s message, or even your company blog! Your six-year-old studio image may do well, but so often our society correlates a stuffy “old” image with a loss of credibility. So it’s time for you to get an updated photo!
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to high end photographers and cameras worth $700 and more. This is why I’ve developed (yes, pun was intended) some cheats to put together a stellar professional headshot using basic tools that should be at your disposal or for minimum investments. Photography has been a passion of mine since I was in high school using my friends as “subjects” for various projects. More recently I got back into it with my Canon and started my side business venture doing portraits. It is this reason that Partners typically relies on me to assist in creating these updated headshots.
Without further ado, here are my tips and tricks:
1. Picmonkey – My life would not be complete without this website. For general use it is free, but for $33 a year you get free rein. If you ask me, the small fee is more than worth it. This will allow you to crop, brighten, and airbrush (if you didn’t have time for make-up or coffee this morning). Take a photo with your day-to-day camera, DSLR (professional camera), or even camera phone and upload it to achieve great results. The site even has great FAQ section to help you maximize their tools, although they are pretty intuitive.
2. Big Lens (Apple app) – Want to get that fancy camera look for free? Use this iPhone app (currently free). It allows you to create a depth of field that is synonymous with DSLR cameras, which means you will be the focal point while the background can be blurry. This is a GREAT tool to go in front of your office, snap a photo on your phone and instantly look like you spend hundreds on a professional photographer. It’s very user friendly on how to achieve the look you want. (PicMonkey can do the same but it takes a little more work!)
3. Timers – You can find these on every digital camera and your phone should have an app that you can download for little to no fee. If you don’t have a friend that can help you, you can use these to “take a selfie”.
4. Natural light – Try to use this if at all possible! Stand outside or near a window to get soft complimentary light. Bright office lights, lamps and even camera flashes can produce harsh lines and lights and will accentuate any features you may not like.
5. Best Side? – Most people believe that their left side is their “best side”, so go ahead and try to stand on an angle that features that versus a straight on approach. Once you figure out what you prefer, stick with that!
6. Posture – This articulates more than you would ever imagine about who you are! Stand up straight, chest out, push your shoulders down and raise your head. Just make sure your photographer shoots at an angle to compliment your new height so you don’t get any double-chin!
7. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid! Don’t wear anything that is so distracting that people focus on your accessories versus your face. Simple professional colors are best and try to avoid stripes and plaids when possible. It’s a portrait, not a fashion show.
8. Relax – Don’t worry about how every photo you take looks bad, your hair is crazy that day or your make-up isn’t done right. If you compose yourself in such a way and smile with confidence people will look at the person, not the clothing. Take a chance to remind everyone why they are seeking you out in the first place.
I hope these tips on how to take a better portrait will help you in the future. These are tools that I use regularly and share with friends to prepare them to get exactly what they are looking for.
*Please note, I have nothing against studio images, but rather wanted to portray alternative solutions when in a time/financial crunch. Also, I was not reimbursed for the marketing of the programs I use… rather, I just shared what has worked best for me.