The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

May 1, 2013

Susan Miller: Are you the picture of success?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what does your portrait say about you? Can the right business headshot help you land a job interview, attract a client or raise awareness of your business?

Regular photos are a great way to capture milestones and chronicle a person’s growth from infancy through high school. But after graduation, all bets are off. As adults, how many of us get a professional portrait taken?

In a world where LinkedIn is often the first place a prospective employer goes to learn more about an applicant, a business portrait can help you project a professional image even before the interview.

In most instances, a business portrait will reflect better on you and your business than a Facebook image snapped on a smart phone at last year’s holiday party.

I spoke with Chuck Rossen at Star Photo about why it’s important to invest in a professional business portrait instead of simply using an image taken from a smartphone. He noted that an individual’s image is often the first experience people have with his or her business.

The nature of the business should be taken into consideration when a portrait is taken. A real estate agent should look successful, friendly and approachable. An attorney or investment adviser will want to appear knowledgeable and focused.

A good business portrait requires more than donning a power suit or sitting in front of a bookshelf. Professional photographers also pay attention to the subject’s posture, lighting and posing — elements that an amateur is apt to overlook.

What’s an example of an improperly posed subject? Chuck cited the yearbook portrait of Steve Carell in the 2005 film, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” The humorous photo is an example of a male being placed in a traditionally feminine pose, yet the casual observer is unlikely to recognize what is “off” about the image.

Stereotypes aside, Chuck said that sometimes a photographer may place a female in a less feminine pose to convey a voice of authority. That’s why a female judge candidate isn’t likely to appear gazing upward with her chin cradled in her palms.

How often should a business photo be taken? The answer is more apt to be influenced by fashion than facial features. Women’s fashions tend to change more frequently than men’s, but even suit lapels and tie widths can create a dated look.

Remember the ’80s skinny ties and parachute pants? I’m not just picking on men as I have a mid-’90s “glamour photo” that wordlessly conveys why the female mullet was not a good idea.

Chuck noted that using a dated photograph for marketing purposes can also project a sense of deception. It’s the rare individual who looks the same age at 55 as at 40, and an individual who promotes a much younger image of him/herself may appear disingenuous.

Want to project the “picture of success”? A good business portrait can reflect well on your business and help you put your best face forward.

Susan Miller is owner of Ewing Miller Communications, an Anderson-based marketing and public relations consulting firm. Her column appears in the Herald Bulletin on the first Thursday of each month. Write to her at susan@ewingmiller.com.

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