Over the years, I have created thousands of portraits designed to be used as headshots for executives, business professionals, actors and entertainers. My clients and I have quickly discovered that there is a science, as well as an art, to the process. By putting the science first, we are able to creating the most effective headshot for that individual.
The first step is defining the principle use of the picture. This is the reason why we are making it. It could be for a bio page, for social media or for casting calls. Yes, of course, if we create an effective headshot, then the person will probably use it every where that they can. In fact, most of my clients do. But, to help us really make an effective image, we need to know the first intended use.
For example, John Tarvin came to me because he was reaching out to new educational and non-profit consulting clients, through his web page. Once we knew that, we were able to generate a set of key words that his particular client base would be looking for. The set included words like “responsible, trustworthy, approachable and confident”. The entire list was about 9 words long.
The second step is to consider the wardrobe. Specifically, what would be the best cloths to wear, based on who we decided would be looking at it and what they would like to see. In John’s case, we decided to be conservative and go with the darker jacket. But, not so buttoned down that we needed to include a tie. Of course, it should go without saying that the shirt and jacket were freshly laundered and pressed before he came to the photo shoot.
The third step is a bit controversial: The Groomer/Makeup Artist. There are lots of men and more than a few women who insist on foregoing having a professional MUA (makeup artist) on set. However, there is a reason we bring in specialists in other aspects of our life and the photo shoot is no different. Hair and makeup on photography sets are different, in both subtle and drastic ways from day to day interactions. The MUA’s job includes watching what is happening on set to avoid shine, to keep stray hairs under control and dark circles under eyes and, thus, avoid what could be costly retouching. Why compromise your investment at this point in the process?
Since we are talking about money, let’s make that step four. Did you notice that it wasn’t the first step? That is because money often clouds things up and make it hard to think about what you really want the picture to do for you.
Now that we are talking about it, let’s see if we can put it in the proper mind set. Most of my headshot clients are coming to me to make an investment in their marketing. By making it an investment, the picture is intended to make a return for you. That return may be in reputation as a reliable expert. It may be in the form of a job or new client. Or, it could be straight up financial rewards. For example, John’s image is designed to help get the clients we identified in step one to feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone or email him. And, it would only take a couple of good conversations for John to have an excellent return on his head shot investment.
Step number five is all about scheduling for the best results. Do: set out your wardrobe choices the day before. Do: leave enough time to get wardrobe cleaned prior to the shoot. Do: get a good night’s sleep before the shoot. Do: give your self enough time to get to the studio. Do not: starve yourself before the shoot. Do not: schedule a conference call right before or right after the shoot. Do not: “wing it”.
Give yourself the opportunity to have a great shoot and get a great return on your marketing investment.
By the way, John’s second image on this page went through the same process, except the goals were different. In this case, his target audience is editorial in nature. His marketing plan includes writing articles designed to show him as a critical thinker and influencer in his field. To meet those needs, we decided to create a grittier, tougher image.
MUA credit goes to Ruah for an awesome job.