Websites, LinkedIn, brochures, press releases, company publications and other media all require a head shot of The Boss or relevant executive depending on the story. This picture can carry a lot of meaning as it may be the first and possibly only visual representation of your company and values a new client or the public may have. As they say “there’s never a second chance to make a first impression;” approach the creation of this image with some care.
First of all, a definition: we are talking “chest up” shots here, not wider environmental or group images. Generally your photographer will supply a background of a drape or seamless paper.
Gov. Jerry Brown
I never thought I’d be writing a column like Emily Post, but here are a few suggestions to help the executive prepare for a photo shoot:
1. What to wear: Simple and classic are best for professional portraits. Unless you are the late Steve Jobs, a suit and tie are your executive uniform. Keep colors and patterns muted but some color in a tie adds flair. Your clothes are the frame for your face but they also reflect taste and professionalism.
Female executives enjoy a bit more freedom but I recommend avoiding distracting jewelry and decolletage. As an executive the goal is to transmit an image of competency, intelligence and authority.
It helps to bring an alternative jacket, tie or scarf to see how they work on camera.
2. Colors to avoid: pastels, greens if your complexion has yellow undertones as green can make skin tones appear sickly; avoid multi-colored and busy patterns and bright red as the principle color. No white, beige or yellow shirts without a darker jacket.
If you have a very dark complexion the best way to drive your photographer into another profession is to wear all white as lighting then becomes very challenging. In general unless you’re a bride or a doctor, don’t wear all white!
Susan Tellem, RN, APR
3. Grooming: gentlemen, this is a close-up so have a fresh shave and check out those pesky nose hairs if you trend toward “shrubbery.” Likewise, if you are prone to a 5 o’clock shadow at noon, schedule your session as early in the day as possible. Just before your session assess your reflection in the executive washroom.
4. Make up and retouching: if your skin is very oily or shiny both women and men can benefit from some subtle pressed powder. Thinning or absent hair can be supported by a little powder of the appropriate shade to harness shine.
Gov. Brown’s portrait has almost no back lighting. This avoided a “hotspot” on the top of his head from the usual back light. His photographer positioned the Governor in front of a light background which supplied the needed separation.
Near-miracles of retouching can take place in PhotoShop or other software. But If you have an unfortunate cold sore, razor burn or other prominent skin eruption, allow the photographer to carefully apply a dab of cover-up with a new sterile applicator or fresh cotton ball. This can really help the final result.
If you have a “trademark” mole or other feature that might typically get the Photoshop axe, let your photographer know in advance of any editing how far you will go in image “improvement.”
4. Scheduling your session: Time is money and many executives are scheduled to the extreme. Yet this photograph will be your “public face” for years on news releases, websites, social media and company brochures, right? So, if possible, try to budget a good fifteen minutes to work with your professional photographer once the shooting technology and environment are ready to go.
5. Posing and expression: What is less natural or spontaneous than a frozen grin in front of a camera? If possible, relax a bit and be open to a few variations in posing and expression. Use the spirit of collaboration, that way you will have a good number of images to choose from after the session.
If you are working with a photographer for the first time, let him/her know what you like and don’t like about your image. A little friendly banter can help lower the stress of a photo session and result in a representation of you that reflects both your professional status AND your humanity.
All of these suggestions work equally well for a video interview. For fun and more great tips on executive portraits, check out Five Easy Steps to bad Headshots Happy shooting!