One person tried several times to use his new iPhone and portrait mode to take his own headshot and it never looked right. Frustrated, he finally decided to find a professional headshot photographer. Another person was using a selfie for his LinkedIn profile. His headhunter told him if he wanted her help, he would first need to change his headshot. Another person tried to have their friend use her fancy DSLR to do a headshot and it never looked as good as ones she saw online. These are but a few scenarios where business professionals learn through trial and error why you must go professional when it comes to your headshot. But why?
What Does a Headshot Do?
It is important to understand a professional headshot is unlike any other photo in its purpose. It is definitively an image created of your face for the main purpose of helping create monetary gain for that person in the image. That is right – a headshot is used to help you directly or indirectly make you money.
In the case of an actor or model, it is a direct correlation that their headshot can mean the difference between landing a job or not. For other professionals, it is more indirect. But subconsciously or not, how good your headshot is has proven to play a role on whether or not someone will take you seriously for an available position, as a vendor, as a partner, and so on.
Stay Away from the Selfie Seduction
It is all too easy nowadays to just pull out your phone and use it as a camera to take selfies. Or maybe you will go a step farther and put the smartphone on a stand, at least now holding up in true selfie form. And as phone manufacturers continually try and claim professional-grade photo quality, the seduction to use a selfie for a headshot grows. But do not do it.
There can be serious consequences to job prospects if you use a selfie. It is just not professional and, if you use a good headshot photographer, it easily shows. A selfie is the surest way to send the message that you do not care about quality or that you lack self-confidence.
Furthermore, just as the quality of a smartphone’s camera might increase so does the quality of real DSLR and mirrorless cameras. And so does the quality of displays that people view them on. In other words, quality increases across the board of these devices. Thus, the quality difference between what a DSLR or mirrorless camera can do is quite noticeable to most people.
For an expert it is simple to tell and even call out the differences. For an amateur – such as a headhunter looking at your headshot – it is more like, “this headshot is not very good – may have been done with a phone.” Either way, it is not a good way to demonstrate your professionalism.
Why Quality Matters
We are constantly being told our smartphones are taking over – that most content is consumed just on smartphones. Smartphone manufacturers constantly push this message. But US data suggest otherwise. Currently, though just by one percent, most people consume online content on a desktop computer (48 percent) over a smartphone (47 percent). But many people try to push that this is very lopsided toward mobile when it is not.
Furthermore, more and more, people are viewing content from their desktops with higher resolution monitors. Today, the main resolution is at least HD-quality, which was not the case just two years ago. That is enough to see the subtle differences between a professional headshot and one that is not.
Finally, other studies have found that people spend significantly more time on a web page when viewing from their desktop versus from a smartphone, around 20 percent more. This makes sense because most people view content passively on a smartphone while they are on the go. When on a desktop, that person is dedicating time and focus – potentially focusing on the quality of your headshot.
The Cost Factor
Some people avoid getting professional headshots out of fear of how much they might cost. However, there are affordable professional headshots to be had. They do require a little homework to find a good photographer.
Sure, a selfie is free, but a good headshot is an investment in your career. After all, as mentioned, it is used to influence the potential, directly or indirectly, for you to get work opportunities. It should be taken that seriously. In addition, in most cases – besides actors and models – it is an investment you do not need to make that often. Your business headshot can usually last you 2-3 years unless your look significantly changes sooner.
There are some photographers in major metro areas that may charge more than a thousand dollars for a headshot session. But there are many that might charge within a range of $100 to $250 that are quite good, as good, or better. To use the marketing tactic of some vendors, if you were to pay $175 for a headshot you would use for three years, that is less than 50 cents per day for a tool that could change your career for the better.
Larger businesses often have headshots of their management team on their website and they are commonly professionally done. To many businesses that arrange for such headshots for their management team, the reasons are clear. But this is not always the case for some business owners.
A professional headshot on the team web page is the most viewed content on that page. Its proven people will spend significantly more time viewing your profile if there is a photo to go with it. But a professional headshot implies more about a company’s brand. It showcases that quality is important to the company. It leaves a more positive first impression too.
You can imagine how this also translates to an individual. Whether you are in business for yourself, using your headshots for online profiles, on your business card, and so on, it can leave a lasting positive or negative impression. A headshot, and the quality of it, is a reflection of your personal brand.
The Many Uses of a Professional Headshot
In most cases, you will have multiple opportunities to use your professional headshot. Actors and models know too well the importance of having updated headshots ready to go. However, often professional executives do not.
Many times, people seek a headshot last-minute and there are many reasons for it. It is a requirement for an application they need to submit tomorrow. They authored an article, and the magazine needs a headshot yesterday. They have been chosen to speak at an event and a headshot is required within a week. And on, and on. It is good to be ready for such situations and just have a good professional headshot ready to go at a moment’s notice.
These are but a few of the multiple uses for how a headshot can be used. You could even give it to your mom, who might have been asking you for a recent photo anyway.
Standing Apart with Your Headshot
A great headshot will help you stand apart or alongside competition. On the one hand, compared with those that settle for a selfie, a professional headshot is your way to stand apart from them. On the other hand, using a professional headshot at least ensures you also stand alongside other professionals that use a professional headshot. Thus, getting a higher quality professional headshot provides an opportunity to stand apart from them too.
A good picture of you also conveys self-confidence and this is a known desirable trait hiring managers look for in candidates. This is particularly true because, unfortunately, studies have shown most people do not have self-confidence. Your professional headshot is an opportunity to exude such confidence.
Finally, your headshot can be an opportunity to convey more easily what you do or want to do for a career. There is a saying to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” The difference between a selfie and a professional headshot is similar – if you are willing to settle for inferior quality in a headshot, then it is to be expected that a similar quality in career opportunities will likely follow. It is a mindset that you want quality in your business and personal life. So, a professional headshot is an important career investment that can also positively influence your personal life.