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7 Do’s and Don’ts for Women’s Business Portraits

Most of the women’s business portraits I create are for those making great advances in their careers: seeking board positions, promotion to executive status or C-suite, starting their own business, or going on the speaker's circuit. They’ve worked hard to develop their skills and expertise. They dress the part and move in the right circles. The final component of their success package is their executive headshot.

Do what successful people do, and you will be successful, too.

As a woman’s career advances, her corporate headshots need to send the right messages to the decision-makers she needs to influence. A selfie or a photo cropped from your cousin’s wedding may be acceptable if you’ve just graduated, but they don’t project the image of a successful, empowered career woman. The experienced women I photograph in Silicon Valley know a professional headshot helps them influence the right people by making a good first impression.

In this 2010 article from Forbes, “Professional Women Need A Professional Portrait” by Lisa Quast, photographer Laura Hunter lays it out very well “If you don’t have a professional portrait, people will often conclude that you don’t take your career seriously and you may not be very professional yourself.”

Beautiful Pakistani woman in a snapshot and in professional headshot
Large, colorful patterns and busy backgrounds are the most common mistakes people make in their headshots.

Here are seven do’s and don’ts for women’s business headshots that will help you advance your career.

  1. Do dress for the position you want, conservatively but with style. Let your personality show in your head shot, but tempered with the professionalism appropriate for the position you want. Don’t wear low necklines or form-fitting clothes for your corporate headshot.

  2. Do wear solid colors that compliment your skin tone, eyes, and hair. Don’t wear busy patterns or large dangling earrings. They’ll compete with you for the attention of the viewer.

  3. Do use a professional photographer whom you trust and feel comfortable with. Don’t have your friend take your photo. A snapshot with your friend’s great camera is and will always be just a snapshot.

  4. Do have a professional makeup artist do your makeup for the shoot. A professional makeup artist will do custom color blending that will compliment your complexion and features invisibly. Don’t use makeup with an SPF factor. The chemicals will cause an unnatural shine under the photographer's lights.

  5. Do have your headshots retouched by a professional. Removing stray hairs and smoothing your complexion adds a final polish that makes a big difference. Don’t go too far. Good retouching should retain your skin’s natural texture, not make you look like a porcelain doll.

  6. Do smile but not too big. You want to look like a confident and approachable person, not like you’re at the best party ever. Don’t try to look decisive in your headshots. People will assume you’re mean.

  7. Don’t get a single shot in a single outfit. Get several headshots in different outfits showing different aspects of your personality and share them on your blog, social media, Linked In, and company website. You’ll send the message that you’re not serious about your career.

Like a good wardrobe, a great headshot will help you influence the people who are important to your career. Once you have your photos, it’s important that you spread them around: on your blog, your social media, LinkedIn, and on the company website. You never know when the next opportunity will present itself.

BONUS - Do google “professional headshots near me” and review the work of your local photographers. Interview the photographers as carefully as your employers interview you. Don’t make a decision based solely on price. Your future depends on making good decisions.

Dean Birinyi is an award-winning photographer, founder, and owner of Professional Headshots Palo Alto. He specializes in expression coaching to guide his customers on presenting themselves as confident, approachable professionals ready for the next opportunity.

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