Hey there, brilliant professional women. I’ve got a bone to pick for you.
In these days of webinars, online courses, and e-books, it's more important than ever to have visuals to support your message. Not only should a presentation, website, or course have great graphics, but there needs to be a face to go with those brilliant, innovative thoughts. And this, my fellow women, is where I am quite frustrated and disappointed with you.
When I worked in Corporate America, my job included promoting events featuring field experts. In preparation, I would ask the speakers or their assistants for a bio and headshot. The male speakers will quickly provide a paragraph or two of their experience and a clear, high-resolution professional headshot taken in the past two years.
Why Women Deserve Updated Professional Headshots
And the women? While they will provide their impressive bio, more often than not, my multiple requests for a headshot are often ignored. Or worse, some of these women with multiple degrees, published works, and impressive titles write back to me, a stranger, sharing self-deprecating comments about how they’re too ugly/fat/old for a headshot.
When I do actually receive an image, it's often low resolution, obviously years old, or a photo more appropriate for their Instagram or Facebook account. And you don't know how often women ask if I can instead use a logo, or provide me with a Memoji or cartoon drawing of them.
You Deserve Recognition for Your Knowledge, Talent, and Skill
You went to school for all those years, are an expert in your field, manage dozens of individuals and important projects, invent life-changing technology or help create life-changing policy and you don’t want proper recognition because you don’t think you’re attractive enough?
I receive headshots of fat men, old men, scarred men, and plenty of men who are not conventionally attractive. But all of their headshots are amazing because they dress for the situation and pose for the camera, oozing confidence and pride in their work. They take those headshots not because they’re vain and love the camera but because they understand it’s part of the job and necessary to promote their work.
How Dare You Sacrifice Your Hard Work for Vanity!
How DARE you sacrifice all your hard work and purpose on this planet for a zit, double chin, or crow’s feet! How DARE you tell the world your vanity trumps your intelligence! You’ve worked damn hard to get where you are; you should stand proud, not hide behind a company logo or an unprofessional blurry photo from your sister’s wedding or your summer beach vacation.
I don't care if you see clothing as just a way to stay warm and not be arrested for indecent exposure and fashion to be frivolous. I completely respect your opinion. But when you hide from the world while your male counterparts are proudly visible, I can’t abide. You’re doing no favors to yourself, your company, or your fellow woman.
You are a Brand (Whether You Like it Or Not)
We're well into the 21st century, and in the era of LinkedIn, video and photo recaps from every professional event, and individuals using Google to research before engaging, every professional needs to see themselves as a brand. No decent businessperson would promote their brand with cobbled together mismatched logos, neglected websites, or defunct social platforms.
A professional headshot provides the ability to consistently brand yourself. From your LinkedIn profile to your bio on your company website, using the same headshot across the board creates consistency and a feeling of trust and professionalism.
Even authors and artists are now part of their brand and in need of updated professional headshots. Using dated headshots leaves you in the dust. You deserve to be respected and a headshot give you a leg up.
You're Better Than Your Old Self
Having a recent professional headshot is something you deserve. You're amazing and you deserve to have it recognized. And honestly? You're better now than you were then. You're more experienced and more educated. Sure, you may have more lines and more results from gravity and life, but how can you become an expert if you don't spend some time doing the work?
Your face is showing the length and breadth of your education, experience, and talent. Men know this and accept it. I know society is way harder on women for their appearance but it will never improve if we grown women don't lead the charge and lead by example.
You Deserve Quality
Your headshot will be used and reused often, found in Google searches, and will often be enlarged for marketing materials. It's important to have an image that is clear, high resolution, and well-lit as well as professional in style and environment. Something dated, grainy, or unprofessional is beneath you and discredits all your expertise.
Do an Internet search for professional portrait photographers or ask for recommendations from your peers. Investing in a quality headshot is not an act of vanity but a way to properly and professionally represent yourself and your work. Heck, an updated professional headshot is a form of self-care!
How to Get a Headshot You Won’t Hate
Dress the Part
Consider your field of expertise when choosing your outfit. For most professions, a well-fitting suit jacket in a subdued color and a blouse or button-front shirt in a favorite color is a smart choice. If you will be wearing a labcoat for your headshot, consider the neckline of your base layer so it doesn't compete, and consider a softer color as a camera may make the white too much of a contrast with primary colors or black.
If you’re in the creative field, you may wish to dress with more color and style; if you’re in a social field a blouse or dress may provide a more friendly and approachable vibe. No matter your profession, this is not the time for low necklines or sleeveless tops. However, headshots for those in creative fields offer an opportunity to express your field of work.
Solids are better than prints; they photograph better and date better. Color, especially with a professional headshot, helps express your personal brand. Jewel tones are universally appealing without being too loud for serious and professional settings.
Consider a darker color blazer with a blouse in a lighter or brighter color. If you're wearing just a top or dress, jewel tones, again, are a smart choice. Black is often a go-to, especially for those who believe it can make a body look smaller. However, a headshot is not the time for black (unless it's your signature or dress code). Color will make your headshot look more appealing and modern, and you will look more youthful.
Unlss it is your signature style, keep accessories simple; if you wear a necklace, your earrings should be small or choose not to wear any at all. If you have full hair, consider keeping jewelry small so your crowning glory can take center stage. Shiny metals don't always translate well with flash photography, and artsy jewelry may not look as polished in print. If in doubt, leave it out and keep your look simple.
Be You, Only Better
Normally, a tinted moisturizer and lip balm sort of gal? You may wish to step up your game with a touch of concealer and mascara because flash photography can wash out a complexion. There’s nothing wrong with visiting a makeup counter to get an up-to-date tutorial on natural-looking makeup (I highly recommend Bobbi Brown counters for their broad range of foundation colors and ability to give a truly natural yet polished look).
However, if you’re usually fresh faced your headshot is not the time for lipstick and false lashes; it’s better to stick to blotting papers and Chapstick than look like a stranger or feel you are in costume. Ensure your skin is well hydrated, and if you do grooming for brows or facial hair, have that done soon before the shoot.
Hair should be how you usually wear it. If you are one who always wears a topknot, a long braid over your shoulder, or a headband, you should wear it for your headshot. However, if you sometimes wear your hair down, you may wish to consider this for your professional headshot as it can balance your head and shoulders.
If you color your hair, have a current root touch-up. Bring a comb and any other styling tools and products with you in case your hair gets mussed on the way or when changing outfits.
Glasses should be worn in a headshot if you wear them on a daily basis; a quality photographer will know how to angle the lights and her camera to prevent glare. Just be sure they are very clean, and bring cleanser and a soft cloth to wipe away any smudges during the shoot.
Speak Your Mind
Let the photographer know what the photos are for. They will pose and photograph you differently if it’s for a book jacket versus a convention program versus an acting headshot versus a dating site. Explain your field of work; a senator should be posed differently from a social worker, who should be posed differently from a fiction book author.
Feel free to bring examples; print out or make an album on your phone of headshots of fellow women that appeal to you. Showing examples of poses, smiles, backgrounds, and lighting can help a photographer create a headshot you don't hate.
Again, consider your position and the culture of your field; if a man in your profession wouldn’t pose leaning against a wall or sitting on a floor photographed from above, you shouldn’t either. However, there’s nothing wrong with angling your body (sit perpendicular to the camera, then turn your face to the photographer) or your head (a slight tilt can be flattering without looking twee) to get the most flattering angle.
Headshots have come a long way, baby. Use it as a way to express yourself. If you are an environmentalist, consider a headshot outdoors. A realtor can be standing in front of a property. A social worker or researcher for children may wish to have a background of a playground or preschool classroom. If you work in a studio, consider having your photography session there.
Thre is nothing wrong with having more than one headshot for different settings. For example, if you are a professor and an author and a public speaker and a researcher, you may want a headshot in a classroom setting where you're smiling, one in front of books or a university building where you look more serious, and one with a neutral classic backdrop with a serene face. This way, you have options depending on the formality of the situation that requires your professional headshot.
You’re being photographed because you are a talented person. You’ve worked hard; now, others want to recognize your hard work. Imagine a thread from your tailbone up your spine through the top of your head, holding you upright and tall. Shoulders back, then down so you don’t look hunched. Smile while thinking about your awesome accomplishments so your expression is genuine.