Is A Head Shot Enough?
Upgrading from a selfie to a professional head shot is a great first step in your journey to creating an attractive and engaging brand. But should you stop there?
Visit any photographers website and you will read about how everyone in business needs a great head shot. They will quote research that uncovers the world of difference having a really good photo of yourself makes when it comes to making the best first impression.
The Truth about a Head Shot
The truth is that it really does make a difference.
One way to think about it is comparing how much effort you go to when meeting a potential client for the first time.No doubt you will be wearing decent clothes, you will have brushed your hair (and teeth), have shine shoes and put on a big smile.
Your headshot is the first thing that people see of you online. If 100 people see your head shot think how much effort you would have put in for 100 face to face meetings. Investing in a professional image in which you will look your best every time is a wide decision.
To make impressions more complicated photos are a single image of you. The viewer makes a host of decisions and assumptions about you from a single static shot. In real life when we meet someone new we composite thousands of signals in just a few seconds. Signals such as facial micro expressions, body language, speech, and mannerisms go in the mix so that after just 7 seconds we have already made an initial decision whether we like each other or not.
That head shot of yours has to convey the absolute best of you in one go to have the same effect as meeting you in person.
"But I like the way I look in that selfie"
This is an important and underrated point. When we look at photos of ourselves our eyes go straight to our perceived weaknesses. Mine is a double chin, big forehead and different shaped eyes. Our brains make a quick decision about whether our weaknesses look better or worse in that image.
Other people do not see the same thing. They are looking for signs that you are friendly, competent, professional etc. You are often not the best judge of your own head shot - ask a friend instead (or your photographer). Your photo is marketing you to other people not to yourself.
"That image of me in my T-shirt brings back so many happy memories of my holiday in Spain"
One of the most powerful things about images (like sounds and smells) we attach memories, emotions and even thoughts to them. Nobody has the same memories that you attach to your image, no matter where your photo was taken. Someone looking at your profile photo is subconsciously searching your face for clues as to whether you are trustworthy, approachable, confident etc.
"That's a great image...I want people to know I am interested in mud wrestling"
If you are a professional mud wrestler then by all means base your head shot on your day job. If not, is mud wrestling the most important thing about you?
"My cat is so cute - a photo of her shows what I love"
Having your cat as your profile image is cute, tells people that you like cats and you maybe have a quirky sense of humour. That's it. A missed opportunity to make a connection, especially with new tools like LinkedIn Nearby - unless of course you are a cat, and then it is just fine!
Is it enough?
Your head shot is great for your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles plus your About Me webpage. However, to really engage your audience you will need images illustrate, and visually support, WHY you do what you do, HOW you go about your business and WHAT you actually do.
Having images that cover your why, how and what means that you have a real foundation to communicate your brand in a meaningful and authentic way.
Is getting a professional head shot enough?....It is a first step towards an authentic personal brand.