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How to make the most of your professional head shots

Ten years ago, only senior executives had their portraits taken, usually for an annual report or corporate brochure. But the growth of corporate websites and the projection of the “brand” has brought other employees into the public spotlight and on to the corporate platform, be that in print or digital. The popularity of business networks, such as LinkedIn, has also meant people are paying far more attention to the image they use to face the world.

But just what makes for a good corporate photograph, and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

Photographer Gavin Jowitt has worked in the corporate sphere for 15 years, with clients ranging from ASX 100 companies right through to small businesses. For Jowitt, the essence of corporate portraiture is about being authentic.

“By ‘authentic’, I mean, a genuine representation of who you are,” he says. “The person who’s represented in the picture needs to be the one who turns up for the meeting.” To this end, don’t use an old photo, one that’s not clear, or one that’s been heavily retouched.

A common mistake that Jowitt sees is people using an image that doesn’t present the subject in a professional way – for example, a holiday snap or something taken at a football match. “This is the equivalent of turning up for a meeting looking dishevelled,” he says.

The key to any picture is good quality lighting, he says, but employing a professional photographer gets you much more than technical know-how.

“I always work through a variety of poses. The trick is to lean forward slightly and move your chin forward. Front on or at a slight angle work well, but a good photographer will always direct the subject and move them through a variety of positions. It’s amazing how subtle changes can make all the difference.”

People are also unsure whether or not they should smile for a business image.

“Again you should work through a mix of expressions and go with what suits your personality. My view is that it is best to appear friendly.”

Jowitt says that at least a quarter of his subjects tell him they hate having their photograph taken.

“Some people describe it as like going to the dentist!” he says. “The most important part of the process is my engagement with the subject and getting them to relax.”

Wendy Mak is a stylist and style coach, with over 10 years’ experience in the corporate space.

Mak believes that clothing colour choices and accessories are important for a good corporate photo. “Unless the photography is black and white, black clothes in a photo can look a little flat on both men and women. Colour definitely makes the picture ‘pop’.”

In choosing clothes, subjects need to avoid fabrics that crease easily. “For men, a really crisp, well-ironed shirt sits a lot better, and a good collar frames the face. For women, add a little extra finesse – maybe an accessory you wouldn’t normally wear.”

Make-up adds the finishing touch. “If you’re confident with your daily make-up routine, you probably won’t need professional make-up.” Mak suggests women who normally use neutral shades should use a brighter lipstick than they would normally use to lift the shot. Avoiding shine for both men and women is important, as this shows up more in a photo. For men, though, any make-up needs to be professionally applied.

As for our crowning glory, Mak believes it pays to invest in a professional blow-dry before a shoot, “Good hair not only looks good in a photo, it also boosts your confidence.” Men’s hair too will benefit from some grooming and product. As for bald men, “they always look good in photographs!” she says.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the August 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Face the world’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here

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