The reality is, it takes only a fraction of a second to formulate an opinion of someone, based solely on their appearance. Two Princeton psychologists found that it takes merely a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger, just from their face.
Whether you're applying for a job, or trying to win a sale, don’t let your professional brand be jeopardized by a poor headshot. We all have cameras built into our cellphones, and it's pretty easy to take a selfie or have a friend photograph you. But do you really want a selfie representing your professional brand? A potential employer, or client, may have to choose from several candidates. Often times, all things being equal, headshots may be the only thing from which they can base a decision. Likewise, employees are often referred to as a company’s greatest asset. If you are an employer, don’t cheapen your brand by having bad photos of your people.
Confidence with Approachability
The master of all things headshots, Peter Hurley, uses a phrase "confidence, with approachability" to describe what a headshot should convey. When a potential employer or client sees your headshot for the first time, what impression of you will be formed? Confidence? Nervousness? Obviously, you want their first impression to be confidence. They need to feel comfortable that you can do the job. The other side of that coin is approachability. Does your headshot leave an impression of arrogance? How about apathy? While an appearance of confidence is good, you want a headshot that also shows you are fun to work with and that people can trust you.
Choosing the Right Photographer
Choosing the right photographer is key to getting the confidence with approachability look, and it’s the responsibility of the photographer, not you, to create that moment. Getting your headshots taken can be intimidating. It's just you, the photographer, a camera, and a bunch of lights. Your smile is forced, and your pose is uncomfortable. The photographer needs to be able to get you to laugh or smile in a natural way. He/she needs to find the poses that make you feel comfortable. When you are comfortable it is much easier to feel relaxed. Wearing the right clothes has a big impact on how comfortable you feel at the shoot. If you are uncomfortable wearing a suit, your headshot will show it. Wear what makes you feel good. The photographer may give you some guidelines on colors, patterns, etc., but ultimately if you are comfortable with your outfit you've already won half the battle.
So when it comes to selecting a headshot photographer, take a look at their work and more specifically their subjects’ expressions. All professionals should be able to provide a well-lit, properly composed photograph. But the differentiator is in the expression. You’ve only got a tenth of a second to make an impression, so make sure you are hiring a headshot photographer that will bring out the best in you.