Is a professional headshot worthwhile for your website?

Cynthia CloskeyGeneral

I’m very DIY on the web, as you may guess, so when a client needs a photo of themselves to use on their website, I’m willing to whip out my iPhone or pull a 35mm camera and a tripod out of the closet and start snapping pictures.

But I know that pro photos can show people and scenes to a much better advantage. Not only are the lighting better and the image quality sharper, but a professional knows how to compose the photo and use depth of focus to achieve the effects you want.

For example, take a look at the photos of the doctors at Reproductive Health Specialists. We asked Denmarsh Photography to do an on-site photo shoot for the website, to show the staff individually and in work settings, and in groups. The photos help a site visitor get a sense of what it’s like to work with the RHS team, and the polished quality of the images helps convey the professionalism of the practice.

If you want to use photos of yourself in the design of your site — in the header for example — ask your photographer for an image that’s isolated, meaning against a white or solid background, so the background can be removed.

Kathy Parry had professional photos taken for her book, The Ultimate Recipe for an Energetic Life, and we were able to use the same images for her website, both as headshots on white and against a muted background.

I’ve just had professional photos taken — headshots and other photos that show more of the body and of the space around. If you’re not sure how much better a pro photo can be, compare on the left a photo I took myself, using a decent camera and lighting (the lighting I use for workshop videos), with a photo Rene Rabenold of Indelible Photography took of me, on the right. She hasn’t even edited that photo yet, and it’s still much better than mine.

Cynthia Closkey selfie

A photo I took

Professional photo of Cynthia

Indelible Photography photo (unedited)

I asked Renee to take my photos because I wanted to look professional but also convey creativity and fun. In addition to being a fine photographer, Renee is an actor and improviser, and we’ve performed together in a couple of improv teams. I knew she’d be able to make the photo shoot lively, and that we’d have a great time in the process.

Renee gave me helpful guidelines for what to wear for the shoot, and she said I could share them with you:

Bring different clothes, no limit on what you want to bring. I’d say at least 5 different looks, but if you have lots of things in mind feel free to go crazy. Feel free to bring a range from casual to business. Little logos on clothes are fine and easily edited out, but no big logos. Together we’ll pick out what looks best.

For tops: solid colors always look best. Patterns can work depending on what it is. Small lines in clothing can sometimes warp in the photo, so stay on the cautionary side with that. Bring layers: suit jacket, jean jacket, leather jacket type items look good. Layers always read well. When choosing, think cross seasonally. Nothing too wintery or else the photos will read as in wintery. The only thing that is complete NO is white. No whites.

Pants: We’ll probably do more close up stuff, but make sure you have all the wardrobe pieces you need. It looks best if the pants still cover your ankle when sitting, but pants can be tricky. Wear what makes you feel good. And don’t forget dark socks or any tights, if appropriate.

No rules about shoes, just remember they might be in there too.

Do your hair and make-up as you would normally. Don’t try to change the natural daily you. But a little finesse, of course, is fine.

If you’re a jewelry wearer and want variety, keep that in mind. I think the simpler the better, but if you find a bold piece expresses your personality we’ll go for it. Same rules apply to scarves or hats. We can do some fun stuff with it, but if you wouldn’t normally wear a hat then we’ll ditch the idea entirely.

Overall, pick things that you feel the most you when wearing. That way you’ll be the most comfortable and we’ll get the best shots that way!

Renee blogs about photography and her photo shoots on her blog as well, so find more from her there:

Renee Rabenold at work

Renee Rabenold at work

One last suggestion from me: Booking a photographer and waiting for your awesome photos takes time. Don’t let photos hold up your site. Plan ahead and get the shoot scheduled early. But if you need to launch your website, and your photo shoot is weeks away, take a few temporary photos yourself and use them in the meantime.