More than a photo |the transformative value of professional headshots

Professional headshots

As a child, I mugged for the camera, but somewhere along the way, I began to see photos of myself differently. Maybe it started when, at seventeen, the photographer taking my Senior pictures asked me if it was possible for me to smile and keep my eyes open at the same time.

Many years later, my future mother-in-law pooh-poohed the idea of a professional wedding photographer, until she saw candids from the bridal shower. “I think you’re just one of those people who need to be seen in 3D,” she said, wincing at the images.

Ouch.

My experiences are not unique, though. My friend and photographer, Tiffany Greene, Greene Images, shared that even though she is confident in her abilities, her mind and her heart, she’s “had some pretty unhealthy scripts since high school – script about no one finding a large nose desirable, scripts about nobody finding short beautiful.”

I avoided being the primary subject of a photo for a very long time. When I needed a professional headshot, I’d scrounge up one of the few images of myself that I liked.

Decidedly unprofessional headshots:

My badge photo did the trick for a while until I cut my hair. Then, of course, there is always a good party shot, if you carefully crop out the other people or an outdoor shot where your squinty eyes can hide behind sunglasses.

A new trend is trade show booths offering free headshots. These can be great, but if you’re exhausted from the event, it will show no matter how much Photoshop make-up they apply. Clearly, quick and inexperienced digital enhancement can make things worse.

“We can easily see the beauty in others, but we’re often challenged to see the beauty in ourselves.”

– Meg Brown (Miss MegaBug)

I knew I was never going to get a picture of myself that I liked, so I hired a professional.

Meg Brown, writer, marketing mentor, and photographer, talks about how experienced photographers understand “just what to do to bring their client’s personalities out,” and I was happy to learn that for myself as well.

For my first photo shoot, Joanne Smith of Headshots Photography managed to help me find my inner queen. My favorite image from that day, me perched on a pink velvet sofa with elaborate gold trim, is the home page photo here on asmuchheart.

I paid a bit extra to have the services of a skilled make-up artist, brought a few wardrobe changes, and warned Jo that I was not at all photogenic, but was hopeful that her skills would outweigh my aversion for the camera.

After an hour of awkward poses in my corporate uniform (black pencil skirt, turtleneck sweater, high heels), I changed into jeans and a t-shirt. That was a catalyst.

From then on, I moved around the studio more at ease, not waiting for Jo to tell me how to pose. I spotted that pink couch, and together we dragged it in front of a metal background, I put my feet up and literally leaned into the shoot.

The outcome of this session was more than professional photographs. I was the one developing!

Tiffany relates a similar experience. “I’ve had two professional photo shoots in the last five years, and I would consider them both to be transformative. It’s hard to imagine that so much could change in the space of a one-hour session, but that is what happened.

“In both my photo sessions, I was very pleased with the pictures,” she says. “But that’s not what stays with me. It’s not the images; it was the experience. The experience of doing something for me and seeing myself with love and kindness.”

The subject of the picture is always more important than the picture.

– Diane Arbus, photographer

There are many good reasons to invest in a professional photo shoot – especially if you are among the growing number of entrepreneurial and self-employed women who are the very face of their businesses.

  • A professional shoot conveys your brand
  • Your digital identity is the first impression; you should look like the professional you are
  • High-quality images with personality will help you to stand out from the crowd
  • A variety of harmonious photos helps you to build a cohesive online presence

But you may be surprised to find you get so much more out of it than that.

As Tiffany puts it, it is an opportunity to see yourself differently “more confidently, more tenderly without the lens of self-criticism.”

Today we may be accustomed to smiling for a group selfie and nonchalant about pointing our smartphone cameras at ourselves, arms stretched high, chin tucked just so. We might capture ourselves in virtually every aspect of our lives because, says Meg, “we want our online personas to be a true reflection of who we are.”

There is nothing special about a selfie though; 93 million of them are posted to an online platform every single day. We are writing our histories in heavily curated, filter-perfect 1080px x 1080px images – in many ways our digital facades superseding who we are IRL (in real life).

Putting yourself in front of a camera, in a professional setting, and intentionally making yourself the center of attention is an opportunity for personal growth.

The experience of being in front of the camera, not just showing your outer self, but asking the photographer to capture that innermost “true reflection” of who you are – and then finding it yourself — that’s the unsung benefit of a professional photo shoot.

Or, as Tiffany puts it: ” When I hired a photographer, I didn’t know it at the time but what I was really looking for was an experience, not a photo.”

The second time I had my headshots taken was just this spring at Miss MegaBug’s studio. I came with props, wardrobe changes, and once again paid a bit more to have my make-up done.

I stated the same disclaimer, “I’m not very photogenic,” and began in a version of the corporate uniform, but this time was a bit different.

I knew exactly how I wanted to present myself, and I was without facade.

I was ready to ­re-present myself to the world in a whole new context, and Meg helped make that easy by asking me about my new project and encouraging me to play with the props I’d brought in (a large stack of the latest self-help books).

It wasn’t long before I was gazing directly into the lens, assuming my best power poses and challenging myself (and the future viewers of these soon-to-be images) to see me with love and kindness.

Thanks to Tiffany and Meg for sharing their experiences from behind and in front of the camera.  Please follow them on Instagram @greeneimages and @missmegabug and check out Meg’s photography and other services at her website missmegabug.com.

Pivotal Points

How to create images that are authentic to your true self:

Hire a make-up artist. Hair too, if
you can afford it.
Control your nerves with some
deep breathing. Hydrate!
Crank up your 80’s favorite playlist(or decade of your choice) Bring props and try different
outfits and backdrops
Help the photographer get to know you. Tell her who you are and what you want to represent.Know where you’d like to use the photos – for social media or professional networking

Published by Catherine H Palmer

I used to help big companies tell their stories, now it's time to tell my own. I blog about midlife reinvention and making a new life in rural Vermont. Follow me, I have no idea where I'm going.

2 thoughts on “More than a photo |the transformative value of professional headshots

  1. So beautifully written!I hope the piece inspires other to invest in the experience. I love all the photos of you, each of them is a version of you I know and adore.Glad to have updates on your journey.

    Have you read “I miss you when I blink?”I feel like I could have written it…about identity crisis.It’s excellent.I know you’d like her style.

    Sent from XFINITY Connect App

    Like

    1. Thank you Tiffany for your willingness to candidly share your experiences and add so much heart to this little story.

      and thank you for the book recommendation – it sounds perfect and is now on my Audible playlist!

      Like

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