It’s no breaking news that we live in a digital age. Whether you’re networking with other professionals through email, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, connections are made in cyberspace while we sit behind our phone or computer screens. For many of us, a headshot is the first time another professional sees us. So it’s important to make those headshots count. We asked Styled Seattle founder and KING 5’s New Day Northwest contributing stylist Darcy Camden about the most common headshot mistakes she sees. Here’s what she says people are doing wrong.
1. Your headshot is outdated.
If your headshot is more than two years old, or is not an accurate representation of who you are right now, then you need a new one. Period. It is natural to prefer photos of your younger self. I love my headshot taken in 2009. I look super young, my hair was long and brown, and I have bangs (hmm … maybe I should get bangs again), and I’m wearing a dress that I’m pretty sure doesn’t fit anymore. It’s a good memory. But it is professionally irrelevant to me right now, because that’s not what I look like and not who I am. I might have a few more wrinkles, but I know a lot more and I have more skills. I’m proud of that. If you submit an outdated headshot you risk seeming A) dishonest; B) like your best days are behind you; C) lazy; D) self-unaware; and E) all of the above.
2. Your headshot is over-filtered, over-Photoshopped, or not professionally taken.
It’s best to work with a professional photographer, but if you aren’t able to do that, resist the urge to put an extreme filter on your picture or “fix” your photo beyond recognition. Again, your photo should look like you. Eventually, you hope employers/employees/clients/peers will meet you in person, and you don’t want them to be confused or feel deceived. Also, no selfies. Have someone else take your photo against a light, solid color background, like a white wall. And no duck face! How often do you make that face at work? Hopefully, never!
3. You’re wearing a recognizable outfit.
Don’t get me wrong: You do want to look your best, and you definitely should wear something you feel great in that looks great on you. However, you want to avoid a situation in which someone sees your headshot, and then sees you in person wearing that exact same outfit. It might sound silly, but as someone who carefully studies image, I can tell you that you risk seeming like a one-trick pony who lacks depth or versatility. When we style clients for head shots, we either help them select something generic to wear, or we loan them clothing or accessories for the shoot.
4. You’re a floating head.
Don’t wear the same color as your photo background. If your office is hiring a photographer to come in and take photos of everyone, ask about the background color. You don’t want to show up wearing black if the background is black.
5. You sacrifice fit or silhouette for a bright color.
Color is important, but it’s not the only thing you should think about. Pick something that fits well, with a flattering neckline that will still hold up if your headshot gets converted to black and white, which does happen.
6. Your look is seasonal.
Don’t wear a thick winter sweater or a sleeveless summer dress. Your outfit should transcend seasons, because you’re going to use your headshot all year long.
7. You’re dressed for a date (or the club).
No rhinestones, don’t wear a cocktail dress, don’t wear satin, velvet, lace or any other fancy fabric. Your look should be, first and foremost, professional. Just to clarify, if you’re using your headshot for a dating profile, that’s another story!
8. You look sloppy.
This is more an issue for people having their headshot taken at work who either forget or fail to rise to the occasion. A bad headshot isn’t the end of the world (you’ll only have it for a few years; see rule #1), but it is a missed opportunity. Make sure your outfit is polished and unwrinkled, spend a little more time on your hair and make-up, or get it professionally done on your own. Take it seriously.
About the Author
Name: Darcy Camden
Title: Owner and Chief Stylist at Styled Seattle.
Where I shop: The perfect outfit or wardrobe usually combines pieces from a variety of stores: Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Zara, and J.Crew are all favorites. I never buy a head-to-toe look right off of a store mannequin; it’s too generic. Everyone knows exactly where it’s from and how much you paid!
In my free time: I play with my sweet 2-year-old and hang out with my husband or girlfriends
Style Motto: Life isn’t perfect. But your outfit can be.
Photos by Mike Forbush; modeling and styling by Lia Lee