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Head Shots: Not Just For Actors Anymore

Social Networking Site Photos: How To Make Your "Profile Picture" Go From Blank To Beautiful

Empty Old Fashioned Picture FrameIn our visually oriented society, it is more true than ever that a picture is worth a thousand words. The Internet is the new permanent record, so make your record the best it can be. A professional head shot is a tool you can use again and again on the Internet and in the "real world."

Anyone who has ever joined an Internet group or social networking site understands the moment of selecting a profile picture. You might think to yourself, "Should I go with a casual one taken at Uncle Pete's house last summer? What about that fun photo out on the boat with the wind in my hair? Maybe my college graduation picture still looks like me?" (Ahem, maybe NOT!)

While we write on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and numerous other sites that request a picture, it is the visual of each person that further connects us to each other. Think about how and what your "connection picture" is telling others about you.

Ask yourself, "When was the last time I sat for a professional picture?" If your answer is "at the Sears family photo-day extravaganza in 1979," it has been too long and you probably could use a clear, up-to-date picture. It is also helpful to have a favicon, i.e., favorite icon, of your image for web use; however, let's just focus on an image of the real you for now.

After years of commercial print modeling and acting, I have learned, by trial and error, about the process of taking a good picture. So if you are in need of a professional photo for the web, your workplace ID, press releases, or resume applications, here are some steps to help you prepare in a snap, flash past any anxiety, and develop a confident new profile picture.

BEFORE The Shoot

1. Find the "Right" Photographer: Sounds simple enough, but the right one for you can be hard to find. Besides considering cost, availability, and location, you must also consider personality. Is this someone with whom you feel comfortable or do they give you the creeps? This element is probably the most important aspect because if you aren't comfortable in a room with the photographer, you most definitely will not be comfortable when they peer through a lens at you.

Ask if he/she will come to you. Digital photography makes this option a much easier task than it used to be, although there may be an up-charge for this service. It never hurts to inquire.

If you see a picture of someone you know and it is a good representation of them, find out who shot it. This is an easy way to begin narrowing down the selection. Always ask to see their portfolio - make sure they show you one with "people" subjects, not still-life or products.

Discuss backdrops, settings, and lighting with the photographer before your shoot day. Look at the selection, and agree on your objectives for the photo. This will help with the overall feel of the picture. 

2. Mirror Mirror on The Wall: Take a good hard look. Is this the hair, face, teeth, you want staring back at you from your photo? If so, great, you are set. Most of us are not that lucky. Time to have an honest evaluation and take action. It is good to prepare at least two months in advance before the shoot date.

Hair: If you have been meaning to get rid of the ponytail or grow out the bob, then this is the time (this may require a few extra months). Talk to a professional stylist about a good look for you. Don't forget to ask about color - gray hair never makes anyone look young - the Silver Foxes of the world look sophisticated, if this isn't you, get thee to a colorist (or find a box at the supermarket and wash those grays right out of your hair.)

Face: I have 3 words for you about looking good in a photo. Skin, Skin, Skin! Age doesn't matter if your skin is acne free, moisturized, and glowing. You will shine no matter if you have crows feet or close-set eyes. Without good skin, you are sunk because makeup works best on good skin and retouching can't add that certain something that comes from within. This glow isonly reflected by healthy, hydrated skin.

Chubby cheeks an issue? It may be time to drop five or ten pounds. This can only make you feel better when you see the photos. Losing a few pounds is a photographic benefit because anything round appears rounder in photos - not sure why, but it does. Be proactive and leave the bagel at the bakery.

Teeth: Try to get them as white as you can without people calling you "choppers." There are plenty ofover the counter whiteners that do the trick at a low price point. Start before your shoot date to get the maximum whitening result.

DURING The Shoot

3. What To Wear: Begin this step by deciding what not to wear. Focus on what will show waist up (in most cases, head and shoulders only will end up in the picture but be prepared). No crazy prints, bold stripes, zigzags, company insignias (unless it's your own company), checks, or over-the-top jewelry EVER. These just don't work because they take the spotlight away from you and while they are memorable, it is not what you want people to remember. 

Bring a number of changes. Be sure to include a few pieces with texture, various necklines, a suit (if appropriate), and several colors that look good on you AND that you feel good wearing. If a yellow blouse makes you appear sallow but the texture and neckline are perfect, pass on it and keep looking. Simple is best, fit is important, be sure it is clothing you would choose to wear out and about.

A warm smile and bright eyes with a plain top, blouse, or shirt speaks volumes. It's about you, not the outfit.

4. Makeup: Everyone needs some in pictures. If you can do your own, make sure it is up to date and correctly applied. If you need help in this department, find a makeup artist but be sure to stress that you want to look like yourself, just better, not an ad campaign for a makeup line. Most photographers have a few makeup artists they can recommend. Again, ask to see a portfolio. Tip: Hire them to do your makeup before the shoot for another event and see how you like the results. 

5. Hair: If the makeup person also does hair, this is a bonus; otherwise, get your hair done, not cut, the day of the shoot. Remember, you have been preparing...get a cut a few weeks before and you won't look like you got your hair cut to take the picture. It will appear more natural, like it will be when you meet people.

6: Face The Camera: Look into the lens and smile (do take some non-smiling shots, too). Act confident and happy to be there; do this and you will see a difference in the photos. If you are nervous or scared, the pictures will show this negative energy.

You have done all the preparation necessary; your hair looks great, your makeup sparkles, your teeth are white - take a deep breath and relax. Trick: If your face is tightening up and you are faking a smile, look away from the camera, close your eyes, and whistle big exaggerated whistles. This will help relax the facial muscles.

Trust the photographer when they tell you to lower your chin or tilt your head. Move slowly for them as they give you adjustments. Think about looking "pretty, handsome, glowing, etc." and you will...the camera can read your energy. It sounds kooky, but it is true.

AFTER The Shoot

7. First Glance: Don't freak out. No one likes to see themselves in pictures. Look for the ones that show your energy and personality. These are usually the best pictures. Just because one might show a bigger smile, if it lacks energy, pass on it. Try to narrow it down to 3 or 4; then narrow it down to 2. Look for pictures with 2 different tops, one smiling, one serious, etc. This is all you will probably need. 

8. Touch Ups: While this is commonplace, be sure the end result looks like you when you walk into a room. Yes, your hair is perfect in the picture, but the overall image should reflect who you are. Don't make the mistake of asking for so much airbrushing, touch up work, or Photoshoping that when you pop up at a party, people think the picture was taken 20 years ago. This defeats the whole purpose of letting others know you!

Good luck, have fun, and remember to enjoy the experience...you are capturing a moment you will never have again. Make the most of this time, be happy to be there, and you will be proud to fill in your blank profile picture with your beautiful new photo!

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Those are great portrait tips...but I'm afraid I'm in the minority here.
My avatars are usually goofy looking animals... (o;

Luci Weston

@Ginevra: Thanks! I remembered another one...

When looking into the camera, think about "not blinking" and then smile...it makes for a wide, open-eyed look. Plus, it helps lessen the amount of ruined photo's with half-lid or blinking eyes.


great tips! :)

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