You're my wonderwall.
You're my wonderwall.
I recently had to submit a photo of myself to accompany my bio for an upcoming conference that I’m speaking at. The only professional pictures I’ve really ever had taken were courtesy of LinkedIn at an event, and another with a fun team I worked with. My partner “encouraged” me to remove the LinkedIn picture from my profile as he said it aged me and conjured soap operas. He was right. (And that’s why you should always do your makeup in the daytime, and lay off the bronzer.) So we went out to the alley. Plenty of natural light, slightly overcast, gritty urban setting. I changed wardrobe about 5 times. My omnipresent black 3/4 sleeved shirt was covered in dog hair and fuzz, despite my best efforts with a hand wrapped in packing tape. My nipples wouldn’t behave and just simmer down for the photo. My hair looked dry (and yeah, it probably is). So I changed into a hoodie, and proceeded to take about 30 shots holding the hood strings. Why did I do that? WHY DID I DO THAT? Am I making a Britpop album??!

Not me
Not me.
Thankfully, the conference’s web designer cut my hands out of the shot he eventually used. But every time I look at the photos, I’m again confused by why I felt the need to hold on to the hoodie strings. And then, by complete coincidence, a pal sent me a hilarious post: 12 Ways to Achieve the Best Glamour Shot. And wouldn’t you know, the very first tip is to Hold On To Your Collar. I knew I was on to something!

I’ll admit to occasionally trying to capture a flattering snap with PhotoBooth. Instagram. Hipstamatic.Trying being the operative word, as it’s hard to coordinate the pressing of the right button with the perfect facial expression and not spilling the wine. And the resulting photos are rarely of the calibre that you’d want increased to 500 x 500 on a website or other piece of collateral. For one thing, I’ve realized that my eyes don’t always look in the same direction. This is a problem. This has nothing to do with the wine.

Perfect for my keynote
Perfect for my keynote.
Even when there are a zillion photography apps to convince us that we’re Annie Leibovitz, there’s really nothing like the quality of a pro head shot.

A while ago, I wrote about not using stock photography on your website to convince visitors that there are actually people that work at your company. I’m going to take that one further and suggest that whether you’re on the speaker circuit or belong to a LinkedIn group – your photo matters enough to warrant paying a pro to have a go. And before all y’all speed on down to the WalMart Photo Studio, check your local listings to see who might be available in your area. A new business? A student looking to bolster their portfolio?

According to this post from Vivian Giang of Business Insider, heatmap research proves that the profile photo is the most important part of your LinkedIn profile, and critical in the recruitment process. Eye-tracking techniques measured where a sample of recruiters looked when scanning a potential hire’s profile, and the results point squarely at that head shot. Discriminatory? Maybe – but probably not the place to take a chance on not having a picture, or displaying one that shows you in an unflattering light.

Michel Feist: Ampersand GreyI spoke with lifestyle photographer extraordinaire Michel Feist about the pros of hiring a pro. Michel runs her company, Ampersand Grey, out of Edmonton, Alberta. As well as being a top-notch shutterbug, Michel is a talented designer who has done some really interesting branding work. When I caught up with her, she was jetting off to a shoot in San Francisco but had time to give me a bit of insight:

Why do so many self portraits veer to the ridiculous?
I think most people feel uncomfortable in front of the camera so they act silly or over exaggerate an awkward pose so they don’t feel as weird taking a picture of themself.

What can a pro capture that my PhotoBooth can’t?
You’re kidding right?

What should a social media profile/conference pic say about it’s subject?

For small business I see the “avatar” picture as a mini billboard for your brand. If you’re quirky, show quirky. If you’re a fashion blogger you should probably show a glimpse into your style. Being current is the best part of social media, this isn’t a business card you just printed 1,000 of. Change it up and have some fun!

The key takeaways?
* Market yourself with a head shot that does justice to your beauty and ingenuity. No bedazzling required.
* A pro can bring out the best in your bad self. Hire one and be rest assured that people aren’t coming to your session just to see your nipples or the moustache you thought you waxed.
* An effective visual you is a critical component of your personal brand.

Say cheese. Don’t be cheese.

I discovered Branch Out today. Well, rather it discovered me in an invitation to connect with a friend who works in a similar industry to me. So I did. I was awarded a Super Connector badge. I discovered 8 other friends who’d also signed up. I imported my LinkedIn profile…..

Wait a minute….I imported my LinkedIn profile? Why did I do this?

It’s a few hours later now, and the harsh reality of mid-afternoon is setting in. I love LinkedIn. I find it to be a great business resource. I’m connected to previous colleagues, people I’ve met at industry events, clients, and other fine folks with whom I have a business or networking relationship. Not (necessarily) people I went to band camp with, snogged, am related to, used to be related to, and send Kenny Powers quotes to (although some of my LinkedIn people have crossed the line to become Facebook friends too. I trust they won’t judge me for making the odd penis joke). LinkedIn has afforded me speaking opportunities, job offers, helpful groups and discussions, and referrals within the confines of a business environment. Now I have the ability to give an endorsement to someone who shaved my eyebrows at a volleyball tournament (we’ve since made up)….and something isn’t sitting right with me.

Branch Out is “jobs and career networking on Facebook.”

We Facebook for pretty much everything else, so why not jobs and careers? I’ll tell you why. It all boils down to the premise that your coworkers are really NOT your friends.

  • your job and colleagues may rock the Casbah, but don’t be fooled that the business environment is driven by anything but business decisions. Not who sent you a birthday message or “liked” your Top 10 Albums of 2008.
  • I hate to say it, but the goal for most people in a business environment is advancement. Meaning you’ll have your head chopped off if you’re standing in the way of someone who’s resolutely on their path. And then it will be really hard to prevent yourself from spamming their wall with vitriol when they (cuss) you over.
  • you probably didn’t “friend” your boss, and on purpose. We all know that once it’s online, it’s fair game, but now you’re going to really have to censor the one place where people still seem to have no problem posting pictures of their bellybuttons.

Job and career stuff can be fun, but not the same fun stuff as happens on Facebook. And there’s a reason for that: it’s still – even in our hyper-connected lives – possible to separate business from pleasure. Let’s keep it fun, okay?

* Here’s an article on Branch Out from the big brains at Tech Crunch.

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