Is your profile photo letting you down?

Have you got a professional profile photo for your business website or LinkedIn page? Find out why it’s worth investing in the right image – and how to get it.

When planning our business we accept that we need to invest in professional help to give us the right image – a great website and logo design, and maybe even a professional copywriter to make us sound great. But how often do we think about investing in a professional profile photo?

Portrait photographer Henrietta Garden explains why paying for a good quality photo for your website isn’t just vanity – it’s great business sense. And shares tips to help you get the right photographer (and shot).

Why a professional photo is so important

When you open a magazine what’s the first thing you look at? Is it the text or the photo? If you’re anything like me you’ll go straight to the image then if – and only if – it draws you in, you might go on to read the text.

It’s no different with websites and LinkedIn profile pages. All too often we look first at the photograph and sometimes decide, based on that, whether to read on.

And with so many potential clients or customers using our websites and LinkedIn profile as online brochures for our services, you could be missing an important trick if you haven’t got the best possible profile photo on yours!

Don’t let a poor photo undo your good work

If you’re re-doing your website, you’ve probably spent hours putting your text together – the testimonials have been collected and written up, your About me page has all the right info, you’ve made sure your SEO is good, and your prices page is clear and concise. And the design is absolutely spot-on.

Any potential client is going to LOVE your site! Until, that is, they stumble across your photo, and see an old iPhone picture taken on holiday and still has your partner’s arm just about in frame. (You chose it because, while it may not present the best professional image, you think it’s flattering.)

If your profile photo isn’t right, just as a magazine reader flicks to the next page, so will all those lovely potential clients. We’re all human after all, and ultimately we’re looking to work with someone we feel we can connect with. And if your potential clients don’t see a professional yet warm image of you, they could very well move onto the next website without a second’s reconsideration.

So what can you do? Once you appreciate the importance of getting your profile shot professionally perfect, you need to find a great portrait photographer – someone who isn’t going to be intimidating and you feel you can be relaxed with – then take a deep breath and book in your session.

How to find the right portrait photographer

When looking for the right portrait photographer, there are a number of things you need to take into consideration:

  • Style – styles can vary greatly, so make sure you find someone who’s style you like, and is appropriate to the type of clients you want to attract.
  • Price – consider your budget before you start looking and discuss prices early. You don’t want to fall in love with the perfect photographer only to discover they’re out of your price range!
  • Reputation – ask around for recommendations for a good photographer, and check the testimonials of anyone whose site you just stumble across.
  • Experience – how much experience has your photographer had? You want to ensure the quality of their shots are consistent, and not just hope you get them on a good day.
  • Personality – in order to get nice, natural shots you need to feel comfortable with your photographer. So make sure you chose someone you get on with and who can put you at ease.

Think about how you want to look

Once you’ve found the right photographer and booked a shoot, you need to consider how you want to be seen. Obviously this will depend greatly on what type of business you run.

For example, if you work one-to-one with their clients (maybe you’re a therapist or counsellor) it’s important to come over as warm and approachable as possible.

It may seem obvious, but it’s one of the biggest mistakes I see people make with their photos – it’s amazing how many therapists’ websites I’ve seen with totally inappropriate photos on them (if any at all). Either the photo is so blurred it’s hard to actually make out their face, or in some extreme cases the person in question is so made up and in such unsuitable clothing it would make most people run a mile!

So think carefully about how you want (or need) to look. Do you work with very corporate clients? Do they expect you to look conservative and serious? Or is your profession more caring? In which case you’ll benefit from a softer and more approachable look.

Or perhaps you work in a more creative industry? Even as a children’s entertainer? Whatever your role, make sure your profile photograph reflects the image your potential clients expect you to project.

Go beyond your profile photo

In many professions it’s useful to go beyond your profile photo, and consider having other images on your website to show yourself ‘at work’.

If you’re a yoga teacher, for example, people may want  to see you in action. Even if there isn’t really a class in the room with you at the shoot, it’s easy enough to mock that up and look past the photographer at some imaginary clients doing their downward dog.

Often when I have a client laughing along with some imaginary pupil behind me we end up laughing anyway at the ludicrousness of the situation – which makes for very natural and fun shots!

Think about your clothes

Before your shoot, you need to think about the clothes you want to wear. I normally ask clients to bring plain tops so it doesn’t get too fussy.

If shooting against a black backdrop it’s obviously best not to wear black or you’ll just be a face in the darkness! Grey is always good as well as a nice fresh, bright colour. You might want to bring along a white shirt too – they always look professional and sharp.

If shooting against grey or white then black can be added to the mix too. When shooting with a natural background the colours don’t matter so much, but do always keep it simple.

Say cheese!

As far as facial expressions are concerned, I usually ask my clients to smile just a bit. Of course this is the hardest thing to do – especially when you’re not feeling particularly jovial, but it does wonders for your cheekbones and creates a more flattering shape. Aside from that, without any hint of a smile we can often appear stern.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking happy thoughts rather than some huge rather scary grin, but I usually encourage my clients to try a variety of expressions.

Give your business the photo it deserves

Having their photo taken isn’t something many people like, but many of my clients find that, instead of hating every second of it, they actually end up enjoying the whole experience – and as a result got some really lovely photos from the shoot. (That’s why it’s important to find a photographer you feel comfortable with!)

And once done, you’ll have a profile photo that can help to make your website or LinkedIn profile (and you) look professional and attract the right clients to your business.

So if you haven’t done so, already consider investing in a photo that your career or business really deserves.

Henrietta Garden is a portrait photographer. You can find out more about her work on her website