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Great Executive Headshots is a Team Effort

A grid of headshots from the Murphy & King company

Great Executive Headshots is a Team Effort

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Headshot photography is one of the fastest growing markets in photography, which is why there are so many photographers working in this space – and as you would imagine, all at different skill levels and pricing. At the same time, demand for headshots is also increasing as businesses and individuals recognize the value of adding a professionally done headshot to websites, marketing materials, LinkedIn profiles, etc..

Before you start researching photographers or look for pricing, it’s important to think about what your needs are, how the images will be used, and what criteria are important to you as part of your selections process – and be realistic. I had an inquiry recently by a business that wanted headshots for a little under 100 people (at an event they had planned), had budgeted around 3 hours – and their budget was under $10K.

Some of you reading this might think that sounds reasonable – and it is, if what you’re looking for are decently lit snapshots that are “good enough” and better than you would get using a smartphone. But if your criteria include images that will be distinctive, amplify your or your business’s competence, experience, culture, values, good enough just won’t be good enough.

You probably remember your high school yearbook picture - or more likely want to forget it (no offense to high school yearbook photographers). Stand up straight (or sit on the chair) – smile/say “cheese” – click – turn your head this way – smile, turn your head that way – smile – click. OK – NEXXXXT!!!

The process (and associated business model) doesn’t really translate well to headshots in a business setting – everyone not only reacts differently in front of a camera, but they look different. Creating impactful images takes more time and skill – the latter with both equipment, processes, and most importantly, people. A skilled headshot photographer needs to be able to read each subject’s emotional state (often in the anxiety spectrum – they’d rather have root canal!) and well as their physical characteristics – including how they smile (some people look more natural smiling with teeth, others not), which side of their face is their “stronger” side, etc.. We then take on the roles of artist, director, coach, psychologist, cheer leader – oh, and technician to get the best shots.

To get great shots, it also needs to be a collaborative process between the photographer and the subject within the limited amount of time allotted. To facilitate that, we shoot “tethered” – where the camera is connected to a laptop where each image is downloaded and displayed. The subjects get to see how they look, what works/doesn’t work, and repeat the process with new learning. And the photographer also gets feedback from the subject as to what they like/don’t like about the images.

The shots below are from recent on location shoots here in the Boston area – we budgeted around 10-15 minutes per person, which not only allowed for a variety of looks, but also for people not to feel rushed – and we got some great images for their website. These images convey the professionalism, competence with approachability both businesses were looking for. Each person shows as an individual, yet there still is a consistent look across the images.

This entire process reduces the risk of winding up with shots nobody likes, or that don’t meet your requirements. Yes, it takes more time, and it’s likely more expensive – but the results will more likely give you the impact you’re looking for. And no one will have to say “cheese”.

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