So... what's the deal with headshots?

Black and white studio with photography equipment ready for photoshoot

So this week’s topic is… headshots.

You know, the photos of you - the business owner, founder, CEO (whatever it is you call yourself) that show you looking all professional and that you can forward onto the press when they come knocking to feature you (which, if it hasn’t already, IS going to happen for you - as long as you put in the consistent effort!).

Most of you will probably have some already, which is great, but some of you won’t - that’s ok too, but you’ll want to prioritise getting these done before you make a serious effort to reach out to the media. Every story published will require a picture and if you’re the subject of said story, the likelihood is that the journalist will want that picture to be of you. Mostly, this is because the story is about you, so it would be a bit weird to have a picture of something else, but it’s also partly because searching through stock images on the likes of Getty is a particular kind of hell that most journos are keen to avoid.

Even if you do have headshots, you’ll want to read ahead to make sure you have something appropriate to send. If not, it’s worth investing in a professional’s help.

Here are my thoughts on headshots and how to get them right for the media.

Make them bright and compelling

Having images that are visually pleasing isn’t just for the journalist - the better the image, the more likely someone is to read the story. I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but, let’s be honest, we all do. A compelling picture heading up an article can make the difference between it getting a few hundred views and several thousand. The best way to do this? Good lighting and a great outfit.

Speaking of outfits…

Choose something you’d wear to work - this doesn’t have to mean a boring black suit, but you do probably want to stick with options that say something about what you do. If you’re an artist, it’s totally fine to wear your paint overalls. If you’re a CEO and typically wear jeans and blazer, wear that. Just make sure it feels true to the way you represent yourself in business as this will mean you’re likely to look comfortable. Colour is great and subtle patterns are fine, but avoid anything too loud or that clashes with the background of the photo.

It needs to be high resolution and landscape

When a journalist asks for a headshot, they’ll want it to be high resolution (very high quality) at anywhere between 300 and 700 PPI (pixels per inch) and they’ll most likely want it to be landscape.

A lot of people only have portrait images of themselves, which makes a journalist’s job a lot harder, as headline images are always landscape. Whilst they can crop one of your portrait images, the quality will be vastly reduced - something that nobody wants. When you get yours done, make sure you get a good mix of landscape and portrait. That way, you’ll have all the bases covered.

Make them dynamic and engaging

The best headshot images have a dynamic, rather than static feeling to them. The subject will likely be leaning against a wall, a desk or doing something that feels active, rather than just sitting statically. You need to look engaged and the best way to do this is by looking into the camera. Journalists are more likely to want a photo of you staring directly into the lens than not, so make sure you get some of these.

Avoid anything too ‘marketing-y’

Okay, I know ‘marketing-y’ isn’t a word, but hear me out. I’m often sent headshots that might work well for a business owner’s socials, but isn’t quite the right fit for an article. A good example of this is, if you are being featured by a business title such as Forbes, a photo of you laughing into the distance whilst cradling your favourite slogan mug probably isn’t going to be quite appropriate - it looks great, sure, but isn’t the kind of photo a Forbes piece would use.

If you want to get your marketing and press-appropriate pics done at the same time, ensure you ask for some that are more ‘I’m a killer business owner’ as well as ‘I’m the approachable person my clients want to work with.’

Pick a good location

Last but not least, pick an appropriate location. Similar ‘marketing-y’ rules apply here. Pictures of you walking on a beach could be amazing for marketing, but for the media, go for something more work appropriate. A beautiful office space, your studio, a great lounge with bookcases… anything like this works really well.