A professional portrait -- referred to in the business world as a "headshot" -- serves a multitude of purposes. It instantly conveys what you and your company are all about, can help acquire (and keep!) target customers all while supporting a strong online and offline presence.  

Consider these guidelines to help you prepare for any professional photography session:

1.   Set Yourself up to Succeed

  • Enlist a Portrait Professional.  Your visual image is a major part of your professional brand. Hire a professional photographer who can help create your desired look. Review photographers’ websites for styles and images that resonate with you. 
  • Invest for Good Results. Photos for business purposes should last up to five years so treat them as investments. Hair stylists, make-up artists and wardrobe consultants can help you achieve excellent results.
  • Backgrounds Matter. Ask beforehand about the color of the background and prepare your wardrobe accordingly. Outdoor shots can create a natural backdrop suitable for some industries. Work with your photographer ahead of time to decide on the best location for your needs.

2.   Choose Your Outfit and Accessories

  • Jackets Still Work. Although no longer the only choice given today’s more relaxed dress standards, a jacket (with or without a tie) can help you project authority while “framing” you well.  Although softer in their overall presentation than jackets, professional sweaters also offer a layer of structured flair. A more casual outfit can work well for some industries. Be aware that a non-jacket look is harder to pull off in a professional photograph.
  • Eliminate Distractions. Too much of a strong pattern can make the photo appear cluttered. Smaller patterns used as an accent with solid colored clothing are typically best. Blues, grays, browns and pastels photograph well, even in black and white photography. We love primary colors such as red, fuchsia and cobalt blue as well. Bulky fabrics can add pounds. Counteract this risk by wearing trimly cut clothing. To keep you cooler and more comfortable during the photo shoot, choose natural fabrics.
  • Keep Accessories to a Minimum. Women, well-placed jewelry can create visual interest around your face, a key factor to drawing people into a photo. Be aware that jewelry that is too big can overpower your photo. Classic pearls, modest hoops or simple drop earrings that match your style persona are often all that is needed to finish your look. A well-placed necklace and/or pin on your lapel can also enhance your image in all the right ways. While scarfs can work, be aware that they can clutter your neckline if not properly styled. Men, pocket squares, professional watches and cuff links can all be used effectively in a professional headshot depending on the image you are looking to project. Be sure to let your photographer know you’d like to showcase these elements of your attire so that your photo is correctly shot.    

3.   Properly Prepare Yourself

  • Be Well Rested.  Get plenty of sleep the night before and avoid alcohol, which can make your face look puffy.
  • Abide by the Watermelon Trick.  Eat this magical melon for a few days before your photography session to decrease water retention and eliminate puffiness. Hollywood celebs swear by this rule and it really does work!
  • A Word on Glasses.  If you wear glasses, but prefer not to be photographed in them, remove them a day ahead of time to get rid of any marks they may leave on your face.

Mary Lou Andre is a nationally renowned expert at helping leaders authentically communicate who they are and what they stand for.  As an affiliate of Bates, Mary Lou brings decades of experience to her work, distinguished by her thoughtful and systematic approach to executive image management.  Mary Lou is the author of Ready to Wear:  An Expert’s Guide to Choosing & Using Your Wardrobe. She is also a sought after corporate advisor and expert on professional dress codes and corporate image issues.  She delivers seminars to our corporate clients as well as our public programs, and has a long list of Fortune 500 clients.  She is frequently quoted in publications ranging from The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, and has appeared on ABC World News NowCBSThe Early Show, and CNN

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