professional headshot

What Your Professional Headshot Says About You, Part 2

“If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’re a major part of what you’re selling…” Sara Shirley from Sara Elisabeth Photography, on professional headshots.

Last week, we spoke to Sara Shirley from Sara Elisabeth Photography about using professional headshots as personal branding images. She shared with us how entrepreneurs should approach professional headshots for their websites and social media sites.

This week, Sara and The Editor’s Desk President Richard S. Todd compare two images she took of Richard, and how each could be used in corporate or personal branding.

Image #1 – Traditional Headshot

Professional Headshot,Sara Elisabeth,Personal Branding

Sara: “This image is much closer to your traditional “professional headshot” in terms of the crop and the focus on the face. There’s not much in the image to distract from Richard, other than the bricks, which add in a bit of texture and pattern. The absolute positive aspects of this image are how comfortable, inviting, and confident Richard looks. He looks friendly, cool, and calm, and this image makes me trust him. I would still consider this a personal branding image because it exudes personality and the brand that Richard is trying to portray.”

Richard: “Agreed, this is the kind of picture one would normally associate with a professional headshot. Very simple, strong focus on the face with a relaxed expression. The bricks in the back not only add pattern, but also suggest building on a solid foundation. Building relationships, building partnerships, and strength in unity.”

Image #2 – Full Body Shot

Professional Headshot,Sara Elisabeth PhotographySara: “The second image is different in terms of composition and the look and feel of the image. It shows more environment and the reflection in the glass is relevant for a writer who is always thinking about the meaning behind words and ideas. This image is a great compliment to the first one for someone like Richard to add to their website. It would allow potential clients to see more of his personality via his body language.”

Richard: “I like the second because it’s not like the first! As it shows more than the head and shoulders, it will stand out among the crowd of traditional professional headshots while retaining the same relaxed image. The subject is not only someone you could do business with, he’s someone you could hang out with too! Sara also mentioned off-line that the reflection of the building suggests something that writers often do – reflect.”


Sara: “In summary, Image 1 could stand on its own as a personal branding image, but image 2 could not. Together, they make a great pair, allowing the viewer to understand more about Richard. Individuals should be moving towards having more than one great image of themselves to show potential clients. If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’re a major part of what you’re selling – people want to work with someone they like rather than with someone who is uptight and has no personality. Time to start thinking of how you want your personal branding images to look!”

Richard: “Image 2 certainly compliments the first image, but couldn’t stand on it’s own on a website or on professional social media platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn. I’ve seen more than a few websites that feature something like Image 1, and then have secondary pictures just like it but with slightly different expressions or hand positioning. Something completely different like Image 2 would have been a better addition to the website.”

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professional headshot

What Your Professional Headshot Says About You, Part 1

“Each person should be authentic with who they are in the professional world.” – Sara Shirley, Sara Elisabeth Photography, on the subject of professional headshots

Professional headshots are a must for online corporate profiles, professional social media sites, and anywhere where your public image has a stake in your business.

But how many headshots have you seen on corporate profiles that don’t convey the proper image?

This week, Sara Shirley from Sara Elisabeth Photography discusses the importance of personal branding images, and how they can impact your business. She also answers the question about whether or not to use a “selfie”.

1)   You have the ability to view professional headshots with a critical eye. When you see a headshot, what kind of things do they tell you about the subject?

I look at these images as “personal branding images” rather than “professional headshots”. After first noticing the technical aspects of the image, I notice the type of expression the subject has on their face. The person’s smile, the engagement in their eyes and small differences in posture and body language are some of the factors that contribute to making the subject look authentic. If someone looks stiff and uncomfortable in their picture (like often in the standard “professional headshot”), it shows. On the other hand, if the person is warm, engaged and authentic, people will view them in a different way. They’ll be seen as someone that people will want to work with. That is why some photographers prefer to use the term “personal branding images” – the images are supposed to be representative of how a person wants to be viewed by others.

2)   What are the most important things a subject should consider when posing for professional headshots?

Trusting one’s photographer is number one. People should make sure they select a photographer they have a good rapport with and that can show you some samples of their work. Together, they should pick a location that represents the subject and their personal brand (how they want to be seen by others).

Clothing choice is also very important. Subjects should choose clothing that is appropriate to their field, clothing that is clean, ironed, and lint-free, and clothing that is of a solid colour. People want to avoid anything that has a busy design (like floral print), or anything with logos or text on them (unless it’s their uniform).

Lastly, subjects should just allow themselves to let loose and have fun. Most of us don’t like having our pictures taken, but having a great-quality professional headshot that we love is important to our brand image and to our ultimate success. Subjects should let their photographer guide them through the process and don’t forget to smile.

3)   You deal with professionals with many different roles and from many different industries. How does one’s title and industry play into the headshot?

One’s title and industry definitely play a factor in the image, but I give my clients the ultimate decision as to how they want to represent themselves in their final image(s). Some high-level executives enjoy laughing with their employees and having a more equal relationship with them, and subsequently want to be seen as extremely warm in their image. Others prefer to be a little bit more serious and be seen as an authoritarian-type. There’s a full spectrum of choices for people to choose from. Each person should be authentic with who they are in the professional world.

4)   Should a professional ever consider using a “selfie” on their professional profile?

Professionals should never consider using a “selfie” on their professional profile because, whether it’s consciously or sub-consciously, prospective clients, partners or employers will not take them as seriously. Making a small investment in a professional photographer can set you apart from the pack. It demonstrates that the individual puts effort into the way they present themselves, which in turn demonstrates that they’ll put effort into other aspects of their professional life.

5)   I’ve seen more and more companies using the same photographer for their entire staff. It suggests unity through a common image. Do you see this as a growing trend as well?

More and more companies are opting to use the same photographer for their entire staff. Companies, large or small should consider hiring a photographer to capture professional branding images of their staff because it demonstrates unity and consistency in a world where the image is more and more important.

Read Part 2 of our discussion here, where Sara and Richard compare two different types of images.

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workplace engagement

8 Easy Ways to Execute Workplace Engagement

In life, you go through innumerable engagements. I don’t mean the one which involves that certain ring finger. I’m referring to the engagements that you carry out every day, such as those with your co-workers or the one with your barista. These daily engagements vary in scope, and range in intensity from the casual to the familiar.

But aside from the way you engage with your family and close friends, the one person you engage with that can have the most impact on your life is your manager.

It’s a no-brainer, right? You spend more waking hours at work than you do with your family. In many cases, your manager makes independent decisions on your vacation time, your business travel, and your income. All of which means that your manager can potentially have more control over your well being than anyone else in your life.

Don’t despair. There are ways to get that perceived control back while positively impacting your career.

One of those ways is to strategically engage your manager.

But what steps should you take to achieve this? More importantly, how can you use your relationship with your manager to not only strategically position yourself within the company, but also execute your own innovations to demonstrate your engagement?

Here are 8 easy ways to execute workplace engagement and help your manager help your career.

  1. Get to know them: This goes beyond learning the names of their spouse, children, and favourite sports team. When you know someone – really know someone – you get familiar with what makes them tick. You know how to speak to them, and how they will react to what you say long before you say it. In the long run, you’ll know exactly what they need to hear to make them happy, or ease their concerns during a crisis. You’ll also get a sense of their work style, so you can tailor your own to complement theirs.
  2. Ask for feedback: People in power love to share their opinions. And they’ve earned that right, haven’t they? The organization must have thought so, or they wouldn’t be there. Part of a manager’s duties is to mentor you. Give them the chance. They’ll be pleased that you’re not afraid to ask questions and are willing perform tasks to their specifications.
  3. Watch your language: This applies to both verbal and non-verbal communication. Using sarcasm, jokes, and profanity at inappropriate times can cause your manager to question your professionalism. Gossiping and blaming others for mistakes are also frowned upon in basic office etiquette. The same goes for your body language. Uncross those arms, smile, and be enthusiastic when speaking with your manager. And when they reply, don’t just pretend to be interested, actually be interested.
  4. Use your voice: Managers like to know that you’re engaged with your work, and you can demonstrate this by constructively voicing your opinion or pitching a new idea in line with the company’s goals. But when speaking up be sure to do so sparingly, only speaking to the topic at hand. Engaging in small talk, making jokes, or bringing up unrelated issues might indicate that you’re not “in the moment”. In other words, you should say something, but don’t just say anything.
  5. It’s all about your manager: Most managers are willing to accommodate some intrusion of your personal life into the 9 to 5. Sometimes you need to take a personal call. There are times when your child is sick and you have to pick him or her up from school or daycare. That’s life. But don’t kid yourself – that understanding boss considers these distractions just that: distractions. You might consider making lost time up the next day, and cutting down on lunch breaks to demonstrate that you’re not taking advantage of their generous nature. Communicating in advance about any outside appointments will also help you build up a level of trust. But keep an eye on the clock and be sure to get back to work as soon as you can.
  6. Show them appreciation: Ever had a boss who had bad manners but was a wizard with Excel? Focus on their wizardry. If you show them that you value their knowledge they will feel appreciated, and potentially reciprocate in some form. It touches on that old adage – treat one how you’d like to be treated. Besides, dwelling on their bad manners will only affect your morale, and that’s not good for anyone. Just avoid over-appreciating. Managers are suspicious of people who constantly compliment and praise them. Let them be more impressed when you deliver that project on time.
  7. Expect disagreements: Even the most loving of couples fight. You can expect some disagreements with your boss as well, but unlike your spouse, your manager’s relationship with you is unwaveringly vertical. Although it might go against your better judgment, remember that he/she is the boss. Even when they’re wrong, they’re right. Show trust, move on, don’t dwell.
  8. Stay big-picture focused: When making strategic recommendations to your manager, be sure to keep the entire organization’s overall goals in mind. This will not only demonstrate that you’re aware of your company’s objectives, but also that you’re a team player.

This last point is especially crucial within organizations that foster employee engagement. Grooming intrapreneurs who use company resources to execute their forward-thinking innovations creates leaders who are loyal to the organization.

And becoming an intrapreneur will not only make your boss look good, it can help fast-track you up the ladder.