There is no cookie cutter approach to headshots.
Before the internet, people only needed headshots if they were actors. The headshots corporate types got were really for internal purposes, like directories, because there was no place they could be displayed, except maybe on a poster or annual report printed and delivered to shareholders. There was a shop in my town during that pre-internet time that did head shots for people who just wanted one, but there were never any cars parked in the parking lot. The shop had big pictures in the windows of women in glamorous poses and big hair and really bright lips and of men without shirts. It folded.
Everyone who does business or has some presence on the web (and who doesn’t?) needs a headshot. It’s such a no-brainer to have the most universally human thing about you – your FACE – out there for the world to see and meet you, often for the first time. Like it or not (your face and the idea), it’s a great tool for introducing yourself to others, to the people you might do your business with.
Assuming then that we are on the same page about headshots, that without one you are just a person with a name and no face, here is everything you need to know about making a great one.
Know your purpose. That includes knowing your audience.
Everything you need to know about making a great headshot falls under this principle of knowing your purpose, which is directly related to your audience. Let’s face it, your headshot really isn’t for you, it’s for people who are looking at it.
Is your headshot for your company’s ABOUT page? (Why?) Is it to get a job? (What job?) Is it to market your product or services? (What are they and who needs them?) Is it to create a personal brand? (What does your brand need to say about you?) Is it to make a huge company feel smaller and more personal? (Why? Who cares?) Is it to show your good looks? (Are you a model? What are you selling?) Is it to say something about you? (What do you want to say?)
There still are headshots that are best for actors. Actors looking for work in theater need to show themselves just as themselves, with simple makeup that looks like no makeup, a hair style they show up wearing on a casting call, an expression that suits the roles they are seeking. Corporate types should dress like they would when they meet their clients, colleagues or customers. When you meet someone new on the job, you do what you can to connect to that person face-to-face. You say hello, you shake their hand, you smile, you offer them a cup of coffee. A head shot does that in a virtual way. You give people something about you they can connect with. Your headshot is your first introduction to people who don’t know you.
Your audience is whoever cares enough to look at your headshot. They may HAVE to look at your headshot, because they are thinking of hiring you, or they may WANT to look at your headshot because they are interested in your company and the people who work in it.