I remember my 8th birthday party like it was yesterday.

My friends gathered around our oak kitchen table, an appropriately lit yellow cake with chocolate frosting approached, singing commenced, and then, the dreaded camera lurked its way around the corner.

It was then I got up from my seat, ran outside in the cul-de-sac, and waited for it all to just… stop.

Clearly, I’ve never been a fan of being the center of attention.

As an adult, my feelers towards cameras have changed, but only slightly. And as I work with more and more creative small businesses and entrepreneurs, I can safely say that I’m not alone in being camera shy. Turns out that when you’re a creative person, that also sometimes comes with a side of introvertedness. (<— Is that a word? Well, it is now. I’ve decided.)

But, let’s face it. Oftentimes, the first place that people get to find us and our businesses is by our digital storefronts online. That’s right. Our websites. If you’re selling a professional, personal service, where you’re working directly and one-on-one with your clients, you’ll need to invest in some quality photography for your website, blog posts, whatever.

Today’s Question:

“But whyyyyyyyyy!!! I hate getting my photo taken!”

My Answer:

Well, professional, high-resolution images showcasing your personality, your workspace, working with a particular client, showing the process of your services, etc… set you a part from your competition by conveying your unique individuality and approach to your work. It gives your potential clients and customers a chance to really get a sense of who you are since they’ll be working with you in a close, long-term relationship. In short, it pays to let your customers peek behind the proverbial curtain so they can take you for a test drive.

Now is not the time to dive into your Instagram feed to dig up your favorite selfie, and don’t even get me started on using stock photography of irrelevant imagery as an oh-so-sad substitute. These things just don’t work in creating a professional impression with your dream customers, and they don’t set the expectation that your serious about your business (or your clients.)

Let’s kick this party up a notch.
It’s example time!

This is a website I designed for my buddy Alisha Firestone from A. Firestone Law. You’ll notice she has a high-quality, super-professional photo of herself. Her hair is nicely styled in an up-to-date fashion, her make-up is clean and sophisticated, and she’s wearing a fun necklace paired with a dark blazer that looks trust-worthy but not stuffy. She’s outside in a park looking warm, natural and above all approachable and friendly. The photo is placed in the design in such a way that Alisha is looking right at the viewer with sympathetic eyes, easing their fears (because honestly, who’s contacting a lawyer when everything is a-ok!)

A. Firestone Law: Portland Website Design

Now, let’s take a look at what her website would have looked like if she didn’t get photos taken, and went with the stock photography route:

A. Firestone Law: Portland Website Design

Who in the world today hasn’t seen websites that do this?! From the ubiquitous business-men-shaking-hands to the random-mountain-climber stock photo, I’m gonna go ahead and say something few people will: These are both crap. Also? They make me want to roll my eyes so hard that I’d get a nose bleed.

Utter hatred aside, sure, these photos were taken by a professional. Yes, they both are high-resolution images, and uh… have colors in them that kinda-but-not-really match the surrounding design of this website. But! What makes them so terribly horrible, is the fact that they’re not personal to Alisha, and they’re not relevant to her or her business.

At this point you may be tempted to defend the stock photos by saying “But, wait! The shaking hands convey business partnership, and the hiker at dawn illustrates a sense of hopefulness!”

To that I reply, no. No they do not.

What they do say is that you’ll be working with an Attorney that you’ll never see, and never get to know. They might *get* you, but they might not, and they might specialize in business lawsuits or environmental law. The message is now confusing because the images no longer make sense, and worse, these websites now look like a backdrop for a Jack Handy quote.

Of these three websites, who would you want to give your business to? The hands? The hiker? Or the face of the living and breathing person looking right at you, smiling, and ready to hear your story. I know what my answers is…

Now that you know you need photography, I have a recommendation!

She’s my fellow ginger-in-crime known as Jessica Hill Photography, and she’s my number one recommendation for all things photos. Jessica was voted Oregon’s best photographer for 2013–need I say more? Though she normally does weddings and boudoir photography shoots, she also does business headshots, and I’ve had the opportunity to be photographed by her numerous times now, here and here. If you’re a Portlander, book her and book her now. Also? She did Alisha’s photo above, too.

Oh, and laaaaaaadiez!!! If you want to be sure to look your very best in front of the camera, you may want to invest in an awesome hair and make-up artist to fully capture your personality and style for the camera. I highly recommend my gal pals over at Kirstie Wight Makeup and Nicole Wagner at Powder Inc. Both of these uber-talented gals have a range of distinct makeup styles for even the most discerning tastes, and you’ll leave looking flawless, heart-stopping, and with a new friend. They’re both as sweet and as awesome as they can be!

Next steps:
Planning your photo shoot!

So, you’ve booked a killer Photographer, the date is on your calendar, now what?

1. Think about your “look.”

From your clothes, to your hair, to your make-up (if applicable), get your style on! This doesn’t mean to head to the mall and spend thousands on a new wardrobe, but it does mean to start thinking about your personal style and how you want to be perceived. Think about choosing clothes/hair/make-up that’s comfortable and authentic for you and speak to your personal style. Whether that’s pink hair and ripped jeans or a Hilary Clinton-style pant suit, chose items that make you feel your best and showcases your personality and individuality.

2. Think about your environment.

Are you a standing in a field of flowers kinda person or against a graffiti wall, under a bridge in an urban setting kinda person? Perhaps you’re most comfortable working in a bustling coffee shop or in your funky office with your dog on your lap? Whatever the case, think about locations that represent the nature of your business well, and again, speak to who you are as a person.

3. Talk specs with your Photographer.

This means to let them know what the purpose of these head shots are for, and where they’re going to go. If the main purpose of the photos are to go online, then most of the photos should be taken in a horizontal (landscape) format as opposed to vertical (portrait) format. There should also be a range of photos with open space around you for things like text to applied in the design, and there should be some close-ups of you, your work, your space, etc…

4. Say cheese!

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of overly-posed positions or super-cheesy smiles. I’m more of a candid photography girl where subjects are in mid-laugh, mid-talk, mid-interacting-with-the-world around them. Again, think about the kind of images you’re going for, and better yet, create a Pinterest board of photographic styles you like to arm your Photographer with some examples of what you’re going for. Additionally, be open to your Photographer’s feedback and expertise. They’re professionals, and can help you get the best results possible.

In Conclusion:

As with most things in life, photo shoots can be as fun or as miserable as you make it. And I promise, at the end of your shoot, I’ll be waiting for you in the cul-de-sac with a saved piece of cake.

Natalie McGuire

Natalie McGuire is a Web Designer + Digital Strategist for purpose-driven solopreneurs because she believes the world is a prettier place when people make money doing what they love. Want to make more money with your website? Get my FREE 3-Day DIY Websites That Sell Mini-Course!

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