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The Perfect Executive Headshot

In less than 1 second, we have made our first impression according to Vanessa Van Edwards, a human behavior expert. More than ever before, we are making first impressions while they are home sleeping! That’s why it’s important to have the perfect executive headshot. 

When we see a profile of a stranger and a picture is there, don’t we spend our first second looking at the picture? It’s the same when people view our profile pages.

Will we be perceived as professional, knowledgeable, intelligent, confident, pleasant, engaged, and proactive? Will people want to connect with us, work with us, hire us, pay us for our services?

9 Characteristics

1. The Perfect Executive Headshot Engages Potential Connections

In less than 1 second, you made your first impression according to Vanessa Van Edwards, a human behavior expert. More and more often, first impressions are being made online with our executive headshots. 

Our executive headshots are where each person’s eyes spend their first second on our executive profiles.

We might be in our pajamas watching Netflix when someone visits our profile. They might be a great connection if they choose to reach out to us. They might offer us a job, connect us to someone who can hire us, or become a trusted advisor. 

The only control we have over that first impression is which picture we upload. Have we invested in a high-end headshot, or are we using a picture of us from a vacation?

What does our executive headshot say about us?

Does it convey confidence, competence, and approachability?

Would someone want to do business with us based on the picture? Does it show us as a confident person who is capable in our areas of specialization? Does it instill confidence in the viewer that we are trustworthy and reliable?

Would someone want do business with us? 

Does it look like we’re a killjoy or does it look like we might have fun at some point in a 24-hour day? Do we look like we’d be a bore? 

Would someone want to hang out with us? 

The perfect executive headshot will create a feeling of connection between the viewer and you, even though you have no idea your profile is being viewed by your future business partner, boss, or client.

If our executive profile picture is of us in front of the Disneyland castle, and our whole bodies take up 10% of the picture, there will be no feeling of connection. If we have a fake smile plastered on our faces, we won’t make the connection. 

2. The Perfect Executive Headshot Shows a Genuine and Settled Us

We do not want those fake smiles in our executive headshots. Get out of here! 

The perfect executive headshot will have a real expression, not something that looks like the photographer asked for a smile, or that it was held too long. We should look like we are connecting with the current viewer of the headshot, like we’re looking at a friend in conversation, not like we’re looking at a camera lens. 

If the photographer is engaging with us, we’ll be interacting with him or her. We’ll be talking, really smiling, maybe even really laughing. The photographer’s job is to catch us when we’re genuine and settled. 

When we have a genuine smile, we don’t look our best all the way through the whole smiling process. So the photographer must get the person genuine and settled. 

Let’s take a look at our profile pictures. Do they meet this criteria? Do we look genuine and settled?

3. The Perfect Executive Headshot Shows Our Faces

Can people see our eyes in our executive headshots immediately, before they click to enlarge it? Everyone says a picture is worth a thousand words, but how can we say we have a perfect executive headshot if people cannot see our eyes? 

The eyes are the window to the soul, even in a picture. 

Somewhere around 60% of the profile picture should be our faces, so people can connect with us, even when we have no idea they are on our profiles. 

Not only should it show our faces, but it should show our faces looking at the camera. We should look engaged with onlookers.

Think about the kind of shots where people are looking off to the side, or anywhere but the camera. The kinds that come to mind are fashion and beauty shoots. Those are not meant to connect professionals to other professionals.  

When we meet to do business, we shake hands with the person and look them in the face. Why wouldn’t professionals’ headshots be that close and personal? Viewing someone’s profile should match meeting them in person in a professional environment.

That’s why the perfect executive headshot will show your face. It’s the first handshake and face-to-face, even if it is only one direction. Professionals are meeting us through our headshots.

Let’s take a look at our headshots we’re currently using. Does it show our faces prominently? 

4. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has No Distractions

If our executive headshots should engage the viewers of our profiles, if our executive headshots should show our faces, and if expression is so important to facilitate new, beneficial professional connections, our headshots should stay out of their own ways.

A profile picture always attracts the eyes of profile viewers in the first second on our profiles, but where does the eye go in our photos? Do we have any of the following:

  • Unruly hair,
  • Bad or heavy makeup,
  • Profusely oily skin,
  • Protruding sternocleidomastoids (the muscles in your neck that jut out if your shoulders and head are twisted opposite ways too severely),
  • Attention-grabbing backgrounds, or
  • Very noticeable camera angles?

Executive headshots should draw the viewer into our eyes, making them feel connected to this stranger. In fact, it should go a long way toward making them feel connected to us.

If the viewer is thinking, “Wow. What is up with that person’s makeup?” or “What is that strange background? Where was this person?” then our executive headshots or profile pictures are tripping us up.

That’s why a clean white or grey background is the background of choice for High-End Headshots and why it’s important to have a headshot photographer with a great eye for detail and who cares about the details.

Let’s get distraction-free headshots up on our profiles because that is the first impression, the start of many socially and professionally beneficial relationships.

5. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has a Great Camera

Should a taller person have a profile picture shot from below, so we are all looking way up at the person? Should we be looking down at a shorter person in his or her headshot? No!

The camera’s height should be in the right spot in relation to the person’s face.

High-End Headshots rejects the common headshot angle, shot from above the person’s head, making viewers look down on the subject. That angle diminishes them.

A perfect headshot will have a hint of looking up at the person, while maintaining the feel of a face-to-face meeting. Yes, there are height differences when we meet in person, but a headshot should put us all on the same plane.

We are professionals. We all have a lot to offer our connections. Camera height shouldn’t be the focus of a headshot. It’s our competence, confidence, and approachability.

A perfect headshot will convey that we know what we’re doing in our given areas of expertise and that we’re a real person, capable of friendly interactions with colleagues – that we’re capable of having a little fun in a given 24-hour period!

Camera angle should add to that perception, not draw attention away from our faces and our expressions. Let’s go check our camera angles on our executive headshots.

6. The Perfect Executive Headshot Projects Competence, Confidence, and Approachability

Our headshots convey a lot of information about us. People see things in us, especially from our expressions. For 99 percent of us, our faces change when we step in front of a camera, especially in a studio with a professional photographer.

So we have three options: get by with a selfie or a picture from a wedding or a vacation (this is a bad option), go to a typical headshot photographer and hope for the best (this is better), or go to a headshot photographer who can coach us back to our normal competent, confident, approachable selves.

Every face in every picture says something about us. Do our profile pictures say “freaked out,” “afraid,” “annoyed,” or something worse? Or do our pictures say “competent, confident, and approachable”?

Let’s check our profile pictures and ask ourselves about what our expression says about our confidence.

7. The Perfect Executive Headshot Matches a (Good) Professional Brand

Our executive headshots should match our brands. If we haven’t thought a lot about our branding, we need to. What are we all about? What are our strengths? What do we believe? How do we reflect that in everything we do?

Our brands should be reflected in our headshots. That is everything from the general look of the headshot, to our hair (and makeup for women), and clothing, and our expressions. For a general overview of the types of clothes and makeup that work best in front of the camera, look here.

It all comes down to this though.

If we want to be a CEO, we should not be wearing a polo shirt in our headshot, shouldn’t use a picture of us on a night out with friends, and shouldn’t use a picture from a wedding or vacation.

We have to help people see us as we want to be seen. If we want to move up, we should convey an impression that we are on our way to the top.

8. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has Accurate Colors

The skin tones and overall color of some images are way off. The colors look nothing like the way we look in real life. The whole point of a high-end headshot is to convey the best impression of us and match our brand. How can a picture match our brands if the pictures don’t match our faces?

We don’t want to look red, yellow, or orange in our headshots, right? The whole world could make fun of us if we look orange!

Headshots should convey a true image of us on our best day. If the colors are all wrong, we do not look like ourselves. And not a true representation of ourselves or a good professional brand.

Let’s go to our profile pictures and ask if these images are doing us any favors. Are these headshots showing us at our best, accurately?

9. The Perfect Executive Headshot Has Amazing Light

Characteristic 3 of the 9 characteristics of a perfect executive headshot explained why it is important for our headshots to show our faces to allow people to connect with us.

Well, amazing light is the most important part of making our eyes pop. I have yet to meet a pair of eyes that are not beautiful when properly lit. The human eye is amazing. Unfortunately, many of the headshots in use today do not illuminate the eyes.

High-End Headshots specializes in the lighting pioneered by Peter Hurley, the best headshot photographer in the world. The lighting features lighting that covers faces in flattering light. The lights are jammed close to each other and are placed near the face, getting a lot of light into the eyes.

If we want people to connect with us from our executive headshots, getting light into the eyes is a must. Let’s take a look at our profile pictures and see if there’s a lot of light in our eyes, or if the light is coming from one side or the other, or if our eyes are in the shadows.