Business headshots are an important piece of conveying a message of professionalism to other businesses and clients. Since I own my own business, near the top of my list was getting some great headshots of myself to use on all social channels. Sometimes, I will write blog posts or have an email newsletter (signup below) where I want a great photo to be shown. I have seen too many websites that have staff photos that are obviously poorly cropped photos taken from Facebook or Instagram taken at night or from a bad profile pic on a night out and I didn’t want to look unprofessional like that at all. So I was lucky to find Matt Reese photography in town that would be able to take a headshot for me but do I really need professional headshots?
Can I use my phone for a business headshot?
When you’re looking for something that’s professional and can be displayed on a business website, business card, or online like linkedin, it really helps to have a professional look for people to take you seriously. It is said that the details really make the difference, this is essential in today’s digital age when you have such a brief moment to catch people’s attention and respect. The truth is, you already made your first impression online. If you don’t have a presence, then you are missing out. If you are online but things aren’t quite professional, people will move on to the next person. Showing yourself professionally is your first impression, so make it count. It is possible to use your phone if you have a top-shelf camera phone like the iPhone 12 Max or Google Pixel 5 or better but lighting is almost more important as is framing and all the key elements that make professional photos look so professional. You can always tell the difference between phone photos and professionally taken photos.
If you fall into one of the categories from Andrew Macarthy’s blog of 10 Examples of Terrible LinkedIn Profile Photos then you need a professional headshot. The post is great and really shows how people miss the mark by showing themselves in a truly unprofessional manner. All of the photos are really bad but for me, the one that takes the cake is the blurry and cropped event party photo shown below. The photo you have might show a great smile of you or you in a nice outfit but everyone knows it was a personal party photo with an oddly cropped figure looming near you. It just isn’t a good look and shows that you like to party and have no professional photos of yourself; usually not the best way to present yourself to businesses or clients.
How to choose a headshot photographer
If you search for “Headshots Columbus” you’ll find many qualified photographers including Matt Reese photography. I was introduced to Matt by a colleague and was happy to work with him. Google reviews are important when selecting a photographer as are local recommendations or blog articles. A good way to find out is to give them a call and talk with them to make sure they are professional and curious which Matt is. With the session booked, I was excited to get started.
What is involved with getting a headshot photo session?
The session is certainly more professional than just snapping a photo on your phone or having a friend help you take one. The session was very easy to book, I was able to email Matt Reese photography and request a time and he was available. The session was very relaxed and comfortable and the process went very smoothly and very quickly but never felt rushed.
The studio space was beautiful, located in downtown Columbus, it was an old location with exposed brick that has been around since the 1800s. In fact, William Mckinley and Annie Oakley had photos taken there many years ago. As a bonus, I parked in the Columbus Commons garage as his studio is located near Columbus Commons which has excellent food trucks most days and is a particular joy on Thursdays; the day of the shoot. The advantage of hiring a professional photographer for headshots is that he or she has every piece of equipment under the sun to help make you look your best. You can see in the animation below that there is an assortment of lights, reflectors, softboxes, just for this headshot. I go into the DIY pricing of a minimal setup below to get an idea of the costs if you were to do it yourself.
What do headshot photos look like?
Part of the session included a live preview of the photos after they were taken. I was able to see everything and Matt was able to do live adjustments with color and lighting on the spot. After the session, we were able to view the photos on the TV and I was able to approve my favorites making the selection process very quick. I mentioned I noticed my face was a little red in the shoot due to me shaving not long before it so he was able to tweak the color on the spot and make notes for some minor retouching.
What is the Turnaround time for headshots?
From me booking the session to taking the photos to get the photos everything took about three days. This is a very quick turnaround for professional headshot’s that I can use for the next year across various media and showcases myself in a much more professional manner. Matt mentioned that he’s even able to do many clients at once particularly when he does shoots for larger organizations and still respect a very quick turnaround which is pretty impressive.
Cost of headshots versus doing it yourself?
The cost-benefit is obvious, if I were to buy all of the equipment the camera, the lights, have a space to do it in, not to mention I would probably need a few books or many hours on YouTube researching how to take a great headshot photo. The overall cost savings makes obvious sense. Here is a breakdown of what equipment might cost to be on a decent level but still not on par with a professional photographer. Note, there are ways to do this much less expensive but the goal here is to get as close to passable professional photos as possible not to produce junk, so here are the costs:
- Digital SLR camera – $399 (low side)
- Basic low/mid-range lighting* – $250
- Silver Reflector – $18
- Digital color checker card -$4
- Photo Editing Software – Free or Paid
- Your time (it takes a long time to get it all right believe me)
- Memory card – $22
- Rental space – name your price
- Photo Editing Tutorials/Lessons – $29.99 Per Month
- Background/backdrop – $60
- Total: $783+ time (DIY cost) vs $99 -$250 for professional headshots
You can see the costs are considerable and the results will not be as good. You really need to invest in quality lighting if you want decent results. They do sell cheap lighting kits on Amazon for under $200 but they are all garbage and the photos will not be very good. *You need to spend at least $250 plus to get in that basic-midrange lighting setup because lighting makes the photo. Photography software is important and I recommend Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop but there is a cost involved as well as a learning curve with that software so budget in your hourly rate as well.
The DIY shot (left) was shot using similar equipment to that in the cost breakdown above. There are some things that amateurs miss, for example, you can see that the left side of the subject’s face that the lighting is blown out from using poor exposure and the highlights are a little blown out too. This can happen with DIY photos as you don’t have quite the control that professionals do in terms of lighting and software.
A professional headshot has proper lighting, good cropping, and shows off excellent details of the subject.
The photo by Matt Reese Photography (right) shows all of these elements. It is exactly what it says, a headshot with proper cropping and lighting adjustment. The subject’s pose is very professional showing an active pose by tilting the subject slightly. In the DIY photo, notice it is a little flat with the pose and the clothes are also shiny and wrinkled to no fault necessarily of the subject but could have been corrected in post with proper photo editing software.
Nothing looks more unprofessional than when a business or client looks for you online or on social and sees a ridiculous or poor profile image connected to your business. I would even recommend that your personal Facebook and social profiles should have more professional-looking photos for the profile picture; you never know who might be looking and in what context they want to see you. Investing in good headshots makes sense when you consider the cost of pricing things out and doing it yourself. When you invest in yourself, it pays the best interest.
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Special thanks to Matt Reese who provided Kow Abundant with headshots.