By Douglas Gritz
When I first started out shooting headshots I used to take a few days after the headshot session before going through the exposures and selecting the keepers. I would then send my client the best 4-6 headshots and let them choose their favorite. I thought this benefited me because it gave me a chance to come back to the photographs with fresh eyes and I thought it gave my client an opportunity to spend as much time as they needed privately to consider which headshot exposure they preferred best. The more headshots I did the more I found this process to be problematic:
• By promising them I would send 4-6 final selections, it meant I had to send them lesser images just to meet the 4-6 even though there was one headshot that clearly stood out above the rest.
• Even though I let my client know I put my “professional recommendation” headshot as the first option, often they would chose other, lesser, headshots as their final choice.
• It left my clients alone without me there to discuss the results with them.
• Since the headshot session was days earlier, there was no opportunity for adjustments.
• Coming back to a headshot session days later added to my workload and time I couldn’t bill for.
I decided to change my process. Instead of emailing my clients their headshots days later and letting them chose on their own, I began to go through the photographs during the headshot session while my client was still there in the room with me. This proved to be a much better process.
People look forward to their headshots sessions about as much as they do a visit to their dentist. We are all self-conscious and our own worst critics and going in front of a photographer means exposing those insecurities. I’m sensitive to this and have developed a process for putting people at ease during my headshot sessions so that people often walk away feeling like they had a good time rather than a root canal. So while I can do a good job distracting people from their fears, those fears are still present.
As a photographer, it is hard for me to get a headshot someone is going to he happy with unless I find out what those fears are and can make adjustments during the headshot session. When I go through the headshot results with my clients on site, that is a time when they will often express their fears, concerns, or insecurities. That gives me a chance to discuss it with them. With my original process, they were left do deal with those fears on their own and after the headshot session, when it is too late to listen to them and change anything.
With my current process, I have the opportunity to work with my client to get headshots they feel confident about. This also leads to trust and often my clients become more open about what they want and to my input and professional opinion.
This last part is really important. With my previous process, my clients had to select their final headshot on their own. Many people, especially men, like to consult their significant other or close friends or relatives for helping them choose. This may seem like a good idea because those are the people who know us best, but for choosing a corporate headshot it is a bad strategy. Why?
Most corporate headshots end up on company websites or professional networking sites like LinkedIn, places where your headshot is exposed mostly to people who have never met you. The perspectives of people we know compared to those we do is very different. What is needed is different from a photograph friends and relatives are going to recommend. What is that specifically? Confidence and approachability. These are the two top qualities by which we are evaluated by new people approaching us for business and it is my responsibility to accomplish this.
This process benefits me as much as the client. First, it saves me time from having to sort through the headshots later. And it allows me to form a closer relationship with my client. They get to walk away feeling confident about their headshot, and I get to walk away feeling confident I got a headshot the client is really pleased with.
In the course of working with clients to select their preferred headshot, I stumbled upon a technique that is really helpful when we have narrowed down our choices to a few images but are having trouble settling on a final image.
On most websites, including LinkedIn, the size of the headshot is displayed at a size a little bigger than a thumbnail. That’s how most people are going to see you and your headshot for the first time. So what I like to do with my clients is put all our final selections in a row at about the size it would appear on their website (I work in Adobe Lightroom and go into Gallery View for this process, see above photo) and see which one stands out to us most. Often the choice becomes immediately clear.