There was a time in the Irish PR Industry when you were no-one, and I mean NO-ONE, without a black and white moody photo of yourself, pouting into the camera, with your arms crossed. Leaning against a wall.
Yeah, you’ve all done it. Nina Garcia style…
Unfortunately, up until now, I hadn’t done it. Simply because I’ve managed to not work anywhere during a time of corporate photography updates.
I say unfortunately because this week I was left in a bit of a sticky situation. Having been shortlisted for a 2015 CIPR PRide Award I was left embarrassed by the lack of any kind of professional image to send when the organisers required a high-res head and shoulders photo of me for the event presentation.
Except my wedding photos. Or my old modelling shots.
The whole exercise of hunting through Dropbox files, Facebook albums and old PR photo calls, made me realise that actually I shouldn’t be relying on a company or brand logo to represent me in other places either, be it online or on social media, which has become so important to modern business networking. People know my name but they’re often shocked to put a face to that name, as I don’t overly promote myself (my Facebook and Instagram are private).
Well that’s a Marketing mistake right there, isn’t it.
So this week I set about correcting this problem by having a professional headshot session with my industry colleague and good friend Brendan Gallagher Photography.
It took just 30 minutes of my time (outside our chit-chatting), the mere price of a nice meal and a glass of vino, so it’s a worthwhile investment of time and money for any professional and here’s why:
The Importance of a Corporate Headshot
First impressions will always be important but now that we conduct so many of our initial interactions online, virtual personal branding has become as important as the firm handshake once was in introducing yourself to the world.
A professional business photograph is an opportunity to portray a brand image to potential customers who aren’t just researching ‘what’ you do. They are just as interested in ‘who’ you are.
Social Media for Business
Whether you’re working for yourself (like me) or you’re portraying a larger company selling products and services, or even if you’re just job hunting as an individual, you will most likely have profile photos across the internet’s social media channels, namely LinkedIn – where even I recently, to my shame, had a personal photo as my profile picture. A professional, consistent approach across your active channels will vastly improve your networking efforts.
Personal Branding for Business
In business we spend a lot of money on branding across logos, websites, literature, packaging and premises. Is the photographic representation of you – the person at the helm or the worker running the daily grind – is that really the place to scrimp on branding?
The Creative Industries
Of course the reason so many PR agency photos were historically in a similar style was because they are among the professions where a very formal photograph doesn’t represent the personality and style required to carryout the role. From Communications to Design and the new-aspirational-career of Blogging, corporate headshots have become much more creative and artistic, with a relaxed feel and broad use of colour and lighting.
The Importance of a Good Photographer
This is when it becomes really important to choose your photographer wisely. Like Brendan, the right photographer will prepare you in advance about what to wear and, if relevant, where to do the shoot for atmosphere, to achieve the desired effect in your profession. He will know how to make you feel at ease on the day if (unlike me) you’ve never spent any length of time in front of a camera lens. He will skilfully – and quickly – be able to set up lighting, composition, backgrounds and props appropriate to your goal and advise you on posing. He will show you the images as you do them to ensure you’re getting what you need. And he will know what you need more than even you do:
I didn’t think about needing 3/4 length shots for column articles:
I wouldn’t have known to ask for a mix of smiling and serious facial expressions for different subject matters:
And I didn’t imagine the dramatic change of subliminal message a rustic background can give to someone working in the creative industries:
A good photographer will then post-produce your images to a standard fit for any Forbes 100 CEO. I chose Brendan not only because of his skills, which I more often see in the commercial PR world where I hire him, but also because he has the rare ability to make people feel instantly at ease and get THE shot five times faster than anyone else. You will know how important this is if you have to “fake” a natural laugh or smile during a 30-minute photoshoot, turning it into a laborious 60-minute shoot.
In Brendan‘s famous words: time is money people!
And so it came to pass that Leanne Ross joined the ranks of the “branded professionals” in her 31st year, with some black and white, shoulder-leaning, corporate headshots…