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The what, why and hows of a better website headshot

8 December 2017

The English idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” is a metaphorical phrase which means you shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something or someone by outward appearance alone.

While this advice remains a social value we should all want to support in our lives, the flash judgments that people make based on website profile images demonstrate that cognitive bias can factor strongly into people’s perception of you. An image can tell a story and whether we like it or not, a value judgment is often made about our individual character, strengths, weaknesses and ability to lead in different situations based on a single photograph.

So when you consider that clients and a vast majority of your social network are probably not fighting their impulse to make a conclusion based on your profile image, it goes without saying that choosing the right photo to convey leadership capability and overall capability is absolutely paramount, especially on your business website.

A test for you: glance over images in other business website and allow your gut’s impulse to guide your impression on people. Do you trust that warm smile you see? Do you feel that suit exhibits professional confidence and personal care that could translate well for the job you are hiring for? Does that eye engagement with the camera show likeability and trust for the work you want to outsource? Or does that selfie at the bar tell a different story? Or that image that is with you and your children on holiday in Fiji tell another? And while these might be images you really like of yourself, the suitability of these images may be viewed as subtle offenses on your business website.

A poor choice can be damaging to your professional identity and possibly harm career opportunities.
Here are our top pointers for hitting the mark with your website headshot picture.

Appear approachable.

Do I want to work with you? You don’t have to be attractive in classic terms to be likeable or be impactful. It’s smart to go with a professional headshot, but this certainly doesn’t mean boring. A professional photographer should be able to draw your personality out so that anyone viewing your photo sees someone professional, but also someone with whom they’d want to work with.

This picture is about you

About 60% of the image should be of your head and shoulders. While that image of you on top of a mountain you have just climbed might be metaphorical in terms of your professional ambitions, you are not front and center of the image. Be cautious of background distraction and remember that it is you they want for the job and not the mountain.

Be current

Chances are that you look completely different then you were 10 years ago. Make sure your image reflects who you are today.
Dress for the part.
Dress for the job you want, so they say. No one is expecting you to purchase a designer Italian suit for your headshot but your appearance does matter as it demonstrates that you care. Dress professionally for the job that you do or want. And maybe schedule your haircut around the time of your photo shoot.

Ditch the Facebook/Instagram shoot

Let us remind ourselves that your website is a professional platform. Resist the temptation to post arty selfies, cartoons of yourself or pictures of your kids or dog. Yes, really. Save that for Snapchat.

No selfies allowed. Ever!

It is obvious to everyone when a photo is a selfie. Selfies are generally poorer quality and look a little lazy. If you can’t afford a photographer to take your shot, at least ask someone else to take a well lit image of you on your phone for you.

Photoshop is allowed. But only a little

A professional photographer will balance an image to ensure you look your best. This might mean some spot removal or lighting adjustments so you display health and vitality. Subtle Photoshop application can give a more polished appearance and finish to a photo.

These days, having a finessed headshot is as important as polished website or CV in the professional world. The same attention to detail you spend on your website should be considered with your headshot photograph. Because your headshot photo, that small image somewhere in your website, can tell a lot about you in just an instant.