STOP SABOTAGING YOUR OWN IMAGE
Updated: Apr 28
Either you are in the corporate world or at the head of your own boat, we all have heard of 'personal branding' and how putting our personality and energy out there can impact the evolution of your career.
Your personal branding goes through many different 'channels': the way you stand, the way you speak, the way you share, etc. It can be in real life but nowadays it is a lot through digital way.
In those channels, there is one that if very often completely disregarded, however it is the most visible thing and so crucial: your portraits.
In the word personal branding, there is the word 'personal'.
It means it has to be unique to you.
It has to convey YOUR energy, YOUR expertise, YOUR story... it has to match the objectives you set yourself, your ambition, etc. So it definitely can NOT BE THE SAME type of image than your coworkers, your best friend, your mentor... It is like your own 'logo'!
Here are 10 key elements to consider with guidelines.
Again, before we get going, there is NO right or WRONG choice, it depends on what YOU want to say, what YOU want to convey. Also, you can choose different 'moods' for different portraits for different usages, as long as it is relevant and chosen. Not by chance.
You deserve so much more than some professional photos 'by default': Step up your game!
THE PORTRAIT SHOOT LOCATION
The choices of locations are simply infinite: Outside ? in a street? In a very New York or Paris area? in a park? near some water? Are the portraits taken inside ? in an office? in an apartment? At your desk ? in a meeting room? Or finally, are they taken in a photography studio?
The corporate photoshoot location will depend a lot on the story you want to tell. It put you in a context.
The best way to help you choose some of those options above some others is to give you examples.
If you are a financial advisor in French luxury real estate, a portrait taken into a beautiful Parisian apartment will make total sense.
However if you want the professional photos to be more about you, your expertise, your personality, your story and less about the context you are part of, a portrait in front of a plain backdrop would be then more relevant.
It also depends on the relationship you want to create with your 'target' audience. If you want to emphasize the one to one approach and make your target feel that you are relatable or they can speak to you, open up to you, that they are safe, then portraits photographed in-studio are the ones that will create that confidence/exclusivity mood.
THE PORTRAIT BACKGROUND (what you have behind you)
Now that you have made your personal brand in mind and you know you want some of your images to be in front of a backdrop. What if we tell you that there are hundreds of backdrop colors as well as plain or textured ones.
In terms of colors, you can read more about the fascinating 'color' science.
In terms of texture or no texture:
The plainer, the more modern, 'aseptic', clean it gets.
The more texture, the more unique, upscale, luxurious, almost artsy. Textures remind our brains of art, and the unique paintings we see in museums.
(Be careful, too much texture and we end up in the 80's!)
THE PORTRAIT SHOOT LIGHTING
PROFESSIONAL STUDIO LIGHTS
I won't go into details on that one as it is your photographer's job to know about all the diverse different options to use studio lights to create different moods.
However, keep in mind that studio lights generally gives that professional, neat, high-end mood to a professional portrait. Usually, an image created under studio lights is hard to replicate with just a camera and natural light. That's why it gives a more exclusive feels to executive portraits done in a photography studio.
Natural light is easy to understand: it is the light we have around us during the day.
To have your portraits taken under natural light will have a tendency to give a natural, relaxed, casual feel. Using natural light is much less technical than studio light and.... is free.
Those reasons make it very appealing for starting photographers. (That said, an extremely talented, internationally known portrait photographer for which I am an associate, built her entire career and studio on natural light: Sue Bryce)
No need to bore you with some rules here... but there are some elements that would be a waste not to consider.
The framing will depend mainly on the use you will have of your portraits and also on the story you want to tell.
If for most of the use, the image will be pretty small, headshot (head and shoulders in the frame) to upper body shot will be enough:
If you use it on bigger sized documents or media (like website), you can have a wider crop of professional portrait (with images where you are seated for instance):
Full-length body are commonly use in magazine and catalog to 'sell' an outfit. So most of the time, full-body shots can make your brain refer to that and so we tend to avoid it for personal branding images.
However, it can totally make sense if you are into the fashion industry, or if the location you chose means a lot in your story and you want to show a lot of it.
Last but not least, having your hands in the frame brings up the level of trust you convey. It is what our brain 'reads' totally unconsciously.
Like Coca Cola or Starbucks choosing their colors of logos, you should be aware of the colors you wear but also on the colors around you, in the background, etc. Colors have meanings.
YOUR ACCESSORIES :
Here is a very concrete example: Professional portraits for Fanny who is an image consultant in NYC. She works a lot with colored fabrics and other tools. If it makes sense, bring accessories in your professional headshots and executive portraits.
If you wear a lot of scarves, or you are a bow tie gentleman, etc. Whatever accessories or jewels you really like to wear should be on those images.
Also, if you do work with some very specific tools or objects that you want to portray with you, ask your photographer to incorporate those in your images.
YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
The portrait photographer you work with should absolutely have knowledge of posing but even further: of body language. Body languages give some cues to convey a message and it should not be disregarded.
Here are some simple basic guidelines.
Of course, it will depend on your body shape but a portrait photographer is supposed to know how to guide yourself into the most flattering poses. An executive/personal branding portrait photographer is also supposed to be the one helping you with the body language mixed with your expression, depending on the message you want to convey.
Your upper body & shoulders :
Facing the camera completely straight will definitely give yourself a very assured almost 'imposing' attitude. Being more a 3/4 position to the camera will be more flattering for all the ones that want to look thin.
Your head :
Same as the upper body, the more your face is square to the camera, the more self-confident it will look. The more looking away, the more it will make the viewer feels that you are avoiding direct contact.
The way you tilt your head matters as well. If you tilted towards the shoulder that is closest to the camera, the warmer, friendlier it will feel. It comes from the fact that you 'uncover' your neck, which is, in some part of the world, considered quite of an intimate body part. It's a great way to tilt your head for when you want to add warmth & approachability to a maybe too 'cold' portrait.
If on the contrary, you tilt it towards the shoulder the furthest from the camera, the more assertive.
Your nose and your chin:
It's not just a photographic rule, but a general rule as well: seeing up your nostrils is not nice. And having your chin high will make you look arrogant anyway. So unless that's really the message you want to convey, remember to lower your chin.
And here comes a very common issue. I am the first to have it: double chin. To avoid it, we have a tendency to want to higher our chin but we end up looking condescending... so the trick is to lean a bit towards the camera and to push slightly your chin forward.
Et voilà! That associated with a properly managed light and your double chin will just be a memory!
Your arms :
Yes, when you cross your arm, being very straight to the camera, it is a very defensive, closed body language. If it is the message you want to convey, no problem, go for it! Why do you think Elon Musk is positioned this way on the cover of his book? It perfectly conveys the fact that for him there is no compromise to make about having electric cars all around and life on Mars possible. And he will crush the competition if he has too.
The way to have it a bit less defensive but still very strong and empowered is to turn a bit the upper body away.
And to add a bit of warmth, go for a smiling expression ... and voilà ! That's a great combo !
YOUR FACIAL EXPRESSION
Your expression on your professional headshot will trigger emotions in the brain of the viewer. You want that person to want to speak with you, to work with you or for you...to know you more.
There is a wide spectrum of expressions depending on how you are naturally and what energy you want to give the image. It has also to be in harmony with the body language to make sure the overall mood feels right.
Most of us find it very difficult to fully control our expressions and that's where the energy of the portrait photographer taking the image will matter. A LOT.
I speak here from experience of being most of the time behind of the camera, but I have also booked myself my own shoots and it made me realize that 80% of our expressions on those images, depended on what our professional photographer was telling us and the energy she was putting in the session.
Which leads to the choice of the photographer.
Whatever project you put in a photographer's hands, the advice would be to meet or at least Facetime or Skype that person before. A portrait session is a human connection, a human conversation.
Also, either you are super clear after all those elements explained, on what type of professional portraits you need for your brand and then choose the headshot photographer that creates that style.