Why YOU Need a Professional Headshot

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:

I didn't want to pick on anyone else's embarrassing photo so I created this glorious self-portrait without the consent of my dog and part-time assistant, Buddy.

I didn't want to pick on anyone else's embarrassing photo so I created this glorious self-portrait without the consent of my dog and part-time assistant, Buddy.

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.

Portrait of an Engineer - Round Two

For the second part in the Doggerel Series - Profiles in Design, I had the opportunity to Sebastian Lopez who is a plumbing engineer for Arup. To get the perspective of what it is like to be a plumbing engineer in New York City, check out the link to the article below:

Profiles in Design: Plumbing Engineer Sebastian Lopez

Sebastian is one of many people that commute to work via bicycle, so for this shoot I thought it could be cool to somehow incorporate his bike into the imagery. 


For some BTS info, the lighting for this photo was done with a deep octa softbox mounted on an Elinchrom Ranger RX.  




Portrait of an Engineer

A recent editorial assignment had me shooting portraits for Doggerel. Doggerel is an online magazine that covers the built environment, published by the international engineering consulting firm Arup. The focus of this assignment was shooting a couple environmental portraits of Matt Clark, a structural engineer with Arup that was being profiled by the magazine.

I was free to do pretty much whatever I wanted for the shoot but also realized that Matt would probably not want to spare more than 15 minutes so I had to keep it pretty simple. Therefore I decided to use natural light instead of trying to haul all my lighting gear around. I scouted locations near the Arup office in Manhattan's financial district beforehand and found an area under the FDR that would be perfect because it is covered so a) weather wouldn't matter and b) most importantly, you get that soft directional light, similar to a big window. Location - check, lighting - check!

The one requirement for the shoot was for the subject to be fairly centered because of the way Doggerel's website crops the photos depending on the reader's browser view. But just because this was going to be a simple setup, doesn't mean that I wasn't going to try something cool and honestly, keeping it simple tends to allow for more creativity during the shoot since you aren't confined to one complex setup. To try something different, I had been experimenting with panoramic portraits. Why would anyone want to make a panorama of human? Well, a wedding photographer named Ryan Brenizer popularized the method because it allows you to have a very shallow depth of field with a wider composition. Gives the image a feel of old school large format photography. The method essentially consists of taking a grid of photos of the subject and surroundings with a longer lens at a large aperture and then combining the files into a panorama using photoshop or other stitching software. I wouldn't recommend trying a new method on a paid gig so for some background, I had been testing the method with my favorite subject, Buddy:

Dog Panoramic Portrait

For Matt's first photo, I had him stand centered in an open area underneath the FDR in the East River Park. The hard part about doing this type of panoramic portrait is that you have to wait for the background to be clear for each shot and make sure that there are no gaps in your grid of photos. This meant waiting for the tourists to clear the scene of each image and making sure Matt didn't move too much. There are tripod heads that are designed specifically for shooting panoramas but these two portraits were shot handheld. The biggest benefit of using a panoramic head is the elimination of parallax error that is caused by the shifting plane of the sensor from shot to shot. Parallax error makes it hard for the stitching software to combine the images and can cause items that are supposed to be straight do some funky stuff.

Matt Clark Engineer Portrait

For the second photo, we walked down to an area of park benches for a more casual portrait. The sun came out from behind the clouds creating a warmer feel than the first portrait.

Matt Clark Engineer Portrait 2

I ended up with some parallax error that made post production a little more work than I would have liked but, overall, I was pleased with the way the panoramas came out.  Here is a link to the accompanying Doggerel article:

Profiles in Design: Structural Engineer Matt Clark




I recently had the opportunity to shoot headshots for Fiona Gibb, Web Editor for the beauty website Allure - www.allure.com. Fiona has an impressive resume in the digital publishing world and she was an awesome individual to shoot and get to know. In an age when it is almost impossible to get someone's attention for more than 5 minutes without being distracted by smartphones, headshot sessions offer a rare opportunity to connect with someone for an hour or two and have their complete undivided attention. Given that opportunity, my goal is to a) provide people with awesome headshots and b) create an environment where people can feel comfortable and have fun. I think Fiona came to the session knowing that she would get quality headshots but didn't realize that taking pictures could be fun and that she would spend half the time laughing.