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A business headshot is a staple of today’s media driven business world. Getting an excellent photo is more than finding some guy with a camera. It’s half finding the RIGHT guy (or gal) with a camera, and half doing your part to get outstanding results.

Do Your Part

1. A banker, a designer, and a musician walk into a studio… Your headshot, as a component of your branding, needs to reflect the personality and tone of your industry, business, and you as a person. If you are a blues guitarist you don’t want to be mistaken for a banker. Angle, lighting, posing, and background all make up the aesthetic tone of a photograph. Be sure you are clear on the message you want your headshot to communicate.

2.  That’s so 2001! Unless you want a new headshot every year or two (and you might), choose clothing with solid colors vs. patterns; patterns date photos faster. Keep your jewelry simple and avoid accessories. Exception: if you’re known for having flair (not of the Office Space variety) and you’re okay with a faster photo expiration date.

3.  You look stiff & unnatural. Probably because you were stiff & unnatural. You have a lot of responsibility in this arena. This is the time to silence the voice in your head which says you never look good in photos – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your attitude and desire to get the best photo possible is at least 63% of the battle.

4. Death of a headshot. The newspaper is writing an article on you and needs your headshot ASAP. Your hard drive crashes! You have another computer, but the only copy of the file is now a useless jumble of ones and zeroes. BACK UP your headshot files! Have at least three copies saved on different media.

5. Attack of the floating head. Think through the layouts of the three most likely uses for your headshot. This will impact the choice of background(s) to use. If your company’s website design is on a white field, a headshot with a white background will make you look like a floating, severed head.

Select the right photographer

6. “But I paid 50 bucks for it.” Repeat after me, “You get what you pay for.” This is becoming more true as legions of people (who I affectionately refer to as Weekend Warriors) buy a camera at Costco and call themselves “professionals.” It takes luck to produce an acceptable photo; it takes craft to produce an excellent one. Look for a photographer with training and experience in lighting, posing, computer skills, as well as excellent customer service.

Also, it’s essential your photographer have good interpersonal skills which are critical in helping you feel relaxed during your session resulting in better, more natural and personality-filled headshots.

7. The Glowing Diva. We’ve all seen them, the “glamor shots,” featuring huge hair, spotlit backgrounds, radiantly perfect skin. Avoid overly stylized and over produced/contrived headshots – again, think in terms of your branding. This holds true for retouching too; go for a natural, subtle effect. Your clients want predictability and may be jarred when meeting you if your photo makes you look 20 years younger or 30 lbs thinner!

8. Death of a headshot, Part 2. It’s a year after your headshot session and you can’t find your digital photo file. Your photographer was your neighbor Henry (not a real person) who took up photography on the side.  Now you’re trying to reach him for your photo files. Here are some possible scenarios:

A.   Henry moved out of state and you can’t reach him.

B.   Henry still lives next door, but your files went into the trash with his old computer when he got a company provided laptop.

C.   Or, Henry says, “Um, I’m sure I have your photos on CD somewhere… let me call you back when I’ve had a chance to look.”

Full-time, professional photographers, who run a real business, have proper systems in place to archive and retrieve your images efficiently. Or, they will specify their policy on how long they store your files.

With the interconnection between all of our various electronic business tools: websites, blogs, social media channels, etc., an outstanding headshot is more powerful and more important than ever.

For the full article, “How to avoid these 10 business headshot disasters”, go to my blog, The Snapmatt Diaries.

Post by Matt Lemke
January 25, 2011
Matt Lemke is a 10 year veteran professional commercial and portrait photographer specializing in providing high quality imagery for both business and personal uses. His clients include the General Counsel Office of Exxon Mobil Corp., the Austin Bar Association, the Houston Bar Association, Navigant Consulting, and numerous individual business owners and families. Matt serves as the VP of Membership Recruitment for the Austin Chapter of the AMA. You can view his work at,, and his blog, The Snapmatt Diaries.