How Old is Your Headshot? Schedule a Photo Session ASAP!

How old is your headshot? Schedule a photo session ASAPBy Dresden Engle

Picture this — leading businesswomen appearing on websites and with newspaper articles in black-and-white dated headshots or blurry iPhone “selfies.”

“Astounding,” we say! Well, unfortunately it’s reality more often than not.

Do you as a professional working woman have a color headshot that has been taken professionally in the last two or three years — for which you hold the rights and have high-resolution files? If you are selected to speak at an event or receive an award, would you have an image you could provide to the organization or the media?

A recent eye-opening experience.

I recently volunteered to get news about a prestigious women’s award to the local press. Being a PR professional and also an actress, I am fortunate to have recent color headshots on hand. These women, however, did not.

One of the honorees runs a hospital, another runs a radio station, and the three others are business leaders. When I made the request for images, only one woman had a shot high-enough resolution for newspaper print, but it was several years old and in black-and-white. We live in a colorful and digital world and the day of the black-and-white headshot went away in the 1990s.  

The other four shared headshots were in color but had the following problems: washed-out color, more than a decade old (clothes and hairstyles and fewer wrinkles give you away), and poor quality.

Add to your “to do” list:  “Get a professional headshot taken”

The poor quality of headshots from most women leaders is the result of we women not making it a priority to show ourselves in our best light. I have albums and memory cards full of photos of my husband and children. We women are the ones behind the camera, most often, and when we do jump into a Kodak Moment, it’s often with reservation.

Why? Why are most women so self-conscious about having their photo taken? I discussed this with the leader of the women’s organization with whom I worked to collect award-finalist headshots recently. She has recognized this to be a problem over the years, and a few months back even hosted an on-site photo session at a networking event. However, even with the photographer and booth at hand, few women took advantage of the opportunity. She believes that women leaders are simply not thinking this a priority in our busy worlds.

During our talk I realized that in my many years as an in-house public relations director, I seldom had a problem readily receiving a high-res headshot of a businessman when I needed to announce a board placement or new hire. Is it a difference in ego and preparedness? I do not know the answer.

Get thee to a photographer

What I do know is the media is moving very fast, and when a reporter needs a photo of you, there is no time to waste. Photo teams at newspapers are being laid off at alarming rates, so the days of the afternoon-long press photo sessions are gone with the wind. You most likely will be asked to provide your own photograph.

Beyond the media, you need to have a headshot on hand if you are asked to write a guest blog or newsletter article or have a professional headshot on your LinkedIn page (plus, Facebook, Twitter, and the zillion other social media sites).

Why not book a studio session with a local photographer or even a mall-store photo sitting? Bring two outfits — one for business and one dressed in business casual. You may not want your PTA or lacrosse team committee photo to show you only in a power suit.

And those of you thinking your smartphone is all you need, I ask, “Do you want to look like a Facebook snapshot or a professional?” If you don’t know the term “selfie,” it’s the photo or video taken of the person and by the person, where you kinda see in the shot the outstretched arm and a strange look in the eye because you’re taking a picture of yourself.

Even though my iPhone takes high-res images, the quality is still not good enough satisfy the professional-headshot need (shadowy eyes, not a good flash, etc.). And for a guideline regarding what is high-resolution, the advice is Jpeg format about 1MB in size and 300 dpi, roughly a 5×7” image. (Oh, and P.S. you can’t take a low-res image and just bump up the numbers in PhotoShop or iPhoto … you will get an even grainier image).

Another tip: it’s invaluable to have a long and short bio of yourself living on your computer… short being five sentences (if you are verbally introduced at an event, for example) and long being about 20 sentences (if your full bio appears on a website, for example, if you are a guest speaker or win an award).

When I ask a client or a subject I’m writing about for a bio and a high-res headshot and they arrive in my inbox quickly and looking good… the image of professionalism I relate to that person is priceless.

Happy posing! Smile!

Dresden Engle is an award-winning communications professional with 25 years experience working in journalism and public relations and with social media. She is also a comedian and has learned that weaving humor into all situations makes communication and life more enjoyable for all involved. She is an adjunct college professor and recently started her own company, Dresden Public Relations Inc., to be a more-present mom for her two first-grade daughters. One is adopted, one has cerebral palsy, both are beautiful and extraordinary, and life at her house is a fabulous adventure. Dresden laughs out loud when friends ask, “So, what do you do at home all day long?” They (and you) can learn more at www.dresdenpr.com.

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