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  • Alex McCord

Why you need to invest in professional headshots

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

Here at Tartle Media, we ghostwrite articles for national business publications, many of which include insightful comments from entrepreneurs and leaders. We collect those comments up, choose the best, and then we ask each spokesperson (or their PR rep) to supply a headshot.

About 30% will reply saying they have no headshots, another 20% might send us something that looks like it was taken at a rave in the Eighties, or in their back garden (shed in view). Some eager PRs hurriedly shoot their clients using iPhones, and then we’re sent images that are slightly wonky, or slightly out of focus. Some won’t even be looking at the camera, and many send us the wrong crop which means we cannot use the image.

A few will send a professional image so heavily branded it looks like their company threw up on them.

Sometimes we have to cut them from the article, because it’s the photos that drive engagement once the piece is live.

So much potential press coverage has been begrudgingly lost, not because the content was poor, but because the pictures are unusable.

Today, many publications – including national newspapers – no longer have the budget to take photos of their interviewees, and they will expect these to be provided.

For that reason, one of the first things we urge our clients to do when they embark on PR is invest in professional headshots. Good photos are crucial. They convey professionalism and authenticity, and the best shots will also get across your personality.

Don’t be this guy

No more hard-working PRs or entrepreneurs should lose that hard-fought piece of press coverage over something so trivial, so follow these five steps to get it right.

1. Offer variety

Different publications have different requirements in terms of image size and crop. That means you need headshots in landscape, portrait and square crops, and in a range of resolutions (remember you can always adjust the size and reduce pixels later, so higher resolution is always better).

Some publications will want to ‘cut out’ your headshot to overlay it onto a page, which means you’ll need some headshots taken against a plain white background. Others prefer images taken on location, so pick a backdrop that best represents your working environment.

Get some head and shoulders shots against both backgrounds, and also some full-length shots of you in situ, perhaps sitting on a sofa or behind a desk, or standing at a counter, depending on what your business does.

2. Say cheese

We’ve seen all sorts, including people gazing in the distance and laughing manically to themselves. Save those for your personal Facebook. For these shots, you need to look directly at the camera and smile. Wear your most work-appropriate outfit.

Blinking AGAIN? Goddamn it Mittens, you amateur.

3. No logo

If you supply a photo with your logo in the background, your product in hand and wearing the company t-shirt, it’s very likely your photo will be rejected. You don’t need to be a billboard in an article that you’re already getting great exposure from.

4. Save it

Many publishers prevent large files from being sent to their servers, so you have three options.

Option 1: Host your headshots on Dropbox and share a link to the folder when requested, so journalists can download the shots they want as they need them.

Option 2: Create a press section on your website. Here, you can post press releases, statements, reports, and downloadable image files, including your headshots, office shots and company logo.

Option 3: Send photo files via WeTransfer to the person requesting them.

5. Expert view

Michael Shelford, who specialises in actors' headshots, recommends hiring a professional photographer and to avoid using smartphones as the quality is never brilliant. He says: "A good photographer will make you feel at ease, get the lighting right, make sure the image is clean and clear, and shoot you against a plain white backdrop. For editorial purposes, location shots are better. Ideally, the background will be your workplace, or represent what you do, whether that's an office, a shop, or a warehouse."

We look forward to seeing your mug all over the internet soon.

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