As I finished the last pages of Unknown to Expert, it came time to step out from behind my computer and back into the spotlight.
With the launch of the book and everything that came with it, my business had shifted, my profile had expanded, and I couldn’t find a decent picture of myself to go along with it. Every image in my photo files felt out-of-date and didn’t represent my new development. Something had to be done.
So, I carved out an afternoon in my schedule to work with Gina Milicia, photography expert and photographer to the stars. She took my new photos and I asked her about her thoughts on the relationship between image and being perceived as an expert.
Elements of an expert’s image
According to Gina, “An entrepreneur’s business ‘image’ is everything from what they do and how they do it, to how they present themselves and their business to their clients.”
Regardless of the size of your business or what industry you work in, image is just that: the collection of nonverbal credentials that communicate just how much of an expert you are and just how much trust you deserve. “I would never work with a personal trainer who was unfit or enlist the services of a financial planner who wasn’t rolling it in,” says Gina. “To me an ‘expert’ walks her talk.” And when it comes to image, that means looking the part.
“I really don’t care what you look like as long as you look credible in your field of expertise,” she says. “I would think twice about hiring a surgeon who was dressed like a badass biker in his or her profile picture. But I also judge an expert’s personality based on his or her profile picture and I look for warmth in the smile and authenticity.”
Whether your picture is placed on your website, social media profile, or beside an article you authored, it is communicating something about you and your business. After a 1-second glance at a photo we form snap judgments based on our preconceived ideas of what an expert should look like and Gina walked me through 3 of the most common first impressions she forms when stumbling across profile photos on the web.
- “Selfie” Photos – the model is inexperience
- No smile with cold eyes – not very friendly or enjoyable to work with
- “Trust me, I’m a politician smile” – difficult to trust
Simply getting comfortable in front of the camera by striking a flattering pose, choosing the correct outfit and background, and forming a connection with the photographer can help the each photo convey professionalism and expertise. But in order to be portrayed as an expert, chances are you’re going to need to work with an expert photographer.
Investing in image
There’s simply no getting around it, professional headshots are an investment. They require time, money, and a bit of digging through your closet to find a handful of outstanding outfits. But before you call up the next door neighbours to snap a few close-ups of you at the kitchen counter, think about the impact their handiwork will have on your business.
“People spend thousands on their wardrobe, offices, websites, stationary, and cars to create a good first impression yet compromise all their great work by using amateur photography as their profile pictures,” Gina says. “Never underestimate how valuable great photography can be to your brand.”
But in the case that your budget simply will not bend no matter how hard you try, there are a few simple remedies to amateur photography that will help you appear as a professional, even if the person behind the camera is not.
5 Tips to avoid the “homemade” headshot
- Work with daylight and avoid using a camera’s auto flash.
- Avoid logos, stripes, and strong patterns in both your apparel and your chosen background. You don’t want anything to distract from the model.
- Try photographing headshots either at eyelevel or from slightly above, which makes the subject appear softer and more approachable.
- By shifting your entire face forward (from forehead to chin) towards the camera, you stretch the skin around the jawline and give it better definition.
- State of mind matters! Before the photographer snaps away, try to visualize a great experience you’ve had recently, which will bring out a genuine smile rather than one that is forced.
Gina Milicia has been a professional photographer for more than 25 years. She has photographed some of the world’s most powerful and famous people including royalty and heads of state, billionaires and a-list celebrities and been on location in some of the world’s most exotic places. Gina has also written three Photography eBooks, runs regular photography workshops and is available for private mentoring. You can see more of her work here and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.