Let’s face it, fair or not, humans formulate opinions based on appearance within a fraction of a second and that is not hyperbole - two Princeton psychologists found that it takes merely a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face.
I’m going to venture a guess and say that the experience and education you bring to your field took more than a tenth of a second to acquire. Don’t let your professional brand be jeopardized by a poor headshot -- perhaps the one a friend took of you at a bar or a not-so-professional setting, or the overfiltered, grainy Instagram selfie from last week. And as it relates to a business, employees are often referred to as a company’s greatest asset so don’t cheapen your brand by having bad photos of your people.
Professional headshots aren't what you remember from grade school
But here is where I need to alter your perception from that of a traditional headshot. When you think of getting your portrait taken at a studio, maybe you are harkened back to the 1980’s images like this:
Remember the tenth of a second judgement discussed earlier? If someone is seeing your face for the first time via a headshot on social media, what would you want them to take away?
Confidence with approachability
If you are thinking about doing business with someone for the first time, what will your impression be if they look like they are either nervous, uncomfortable, or boring in their headshot? This is where the confidence is obviously important. Whether you are hiring someone or doing business with them, you are trusting them with your time and money, and their appearance of confidence is going to do a lot to provide you with the confidence that they have the ability to get the job done. On the other hand, confidence without approachability isn’t exactly desirable and most of the time can leave you with a perception of arrogance. And who wants to work with, or give their time or money to, a prick? No one. Approachability in a headshot portrays that people can work with you, trust you, and enjoy being around you. (Full disclosure: "confidence with approachability" is a phrase I learned from the headshot master - Peter Hurley)
Getting the look
Choosing the right photographer is key to getting the confidence with approachability look, and it’s the responsibility of the photographer - not you - to create that moment. Face it (I know, bad pun), getting your headshots taken can be intimidating. The setting is just you, the photographer, a camera, and a bunch of lights. There are no candid moments like that of a wedding photographer taking pictures of the groom when he first sees the beautiful bride (or groom). The moment has to be created, by the photographer, to make you forget that you are in front of the camera which can be tough to do when it is less than five feet from your face.
So when it comes to selecting a headshot photographer, take a look at their work and more specifically their subjects’ expressions. All professionals should be able to provide a well-lit, properly composed photograph but the differentiator is in the expression. You’ve only got a tenth of a second to make an impression so make sure you are hiring a headshot photographer that will bring out the best in you.