Steve Hostetler Photography

How Important Is Your Profile Photo?

As shallow as it may seem, we are a society where people DO judge a book by its cover.   For many people, that book is a social media profile of some sort, be it Facebook, or LinkedIn, your business website or even a dating site.    Often the first thing they see is your profile photo. If they see it and don’t like it, they may move on!   So, this may help you shift the odds in your favor, by offering some advice about Professional Head Shots to use on your social media profiles, business cards and advertising materials!

I am writing this from the perspective of being in business, but it can just as easily apply to aspects of your personal life.   It’s so important to have a great profile picture to make a great 1st impression. The profile photo should tell your client who you are, whether you’re a real estate agent, financial advisor,  tattoo artist or musician, and yes,  even your profile picture on a dating website (same ideas apply- first impressions are important!).

From my perspective, one of the most important characteristics of any portrait, whether it’s a Senior Portrait, Engagement portrait or Business Head Shot, is that the eyes are in focus and have a little sparkle (catch light).  The eyes are the focal point, and without sharp focus and a catch light, the photograph just looks lifeless or flat.

Hire a professional photographer.   A pro will be able to make sure you the light is right, and will know how to create lighting that is flattering.  They will know how to pose you and shoot from angles in ways that make you look your best, and conceal trouble spots (double chins, loose skin, some of the problems that mother nature puts upon us as we age).    Once the shoot is over, in post production, they will be able to edit the photos to further enhance your image, but do it in such a way that doesn’t appear to be overdone.   A photo that LOOKS Photoshopped doesn’t make a great impression.

Forget Uncle Bill or your Girlfriend’s brother with a nice camera (unless they are a professional).    Find someone whose style you like.  Look at their website.  Do you like the work they produce?   Every photographer has their own style and while a great photographer should be able to adapt to your needs, if you don’t like what they have in their portfolio, you probably won’t like what they produce for you. Keep Looking!   It’s also best not to make price the sole basis of your choice.  It’s smart to have a budget, but hiring someone just because they are the cheapest, isn’t necessarily a good idea unless you really like their work.    There is more to great photos than a 60 minute photo shoot.  Good photographers are highly skilled, most have pro equipment (and know how to use it), have lots of experience and training/education and post production skills.  I have been  learning and studying photography since I was about 15 years old. I still study and learn new things every day and they make me a better photographer!

There are many types of business portrait/head shot.  Pick one that fits your image!

Important!! – Unless it’s your personal page on Facebook, NO SELFIES!    Nothing looks tackier on your business profile than a selfie.  No pictures of you partying, or smoking, or shaking your bikini clad behind on the beach.   There are always exceptions to this rule, but generally, it’s a bad idea!

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1) First is the traditional indoor shot, in front of a backdrop with studio lighting.  These are always a good choice and if you’re doing an entire sales staff or board of directors, it keeps the look consistent for your websites, business cards and advertising material.  Most photographers will have a variety of background choices for you to choose from, to fit your coloring or wardrobe.
Headshot Sample-

Traditional Headshot with Studio Lighting and Backdrop
(She requested a flag due to the nature of her work)

2) Second are what I like to call the environmental portrait/head shot.  For me, this means an environment other than a studio.  It an be on the street somewhere with a flattering background.  The environmental head shot can be on a job site, (a construction engineer), or a veterinarian in their clinic, a tattoo artist in his studio.    I will still use a flash outdoors in most cases.  It adds that eye sparkle I mentioned above.  Be careful of the “natural light photographer”.  Sometimes means they don’t know how to use a flash, and that can leave the eyes dark (in shadow) and lifeless.   I can say this because I use to call myself that before I learned the proper way to use a flash. They’re not necessarily bad, it’s just something to be aware of.  Again, this is why it’s important to look a broad selection of the photographer’s work.   This portrait was taken at a local performing arts complex, this client is an image consultant.

Headshot Sample-8842

Environmental Portrait/Head Shot
(Dress Appropriately to make an impact)

3) Another type, is something a little more edgy, with more of an artistic flair.  This can be just about anything you want.  It my not be right for the insurance producer or cable installer, but great for an artist, or author, tattoo artist, musician or someone looking for something different.     It might be shadowy, or use HDR (High Dynamic Range) to give it an “industrial” look or “edge”.   It could be just about anything.  Find someone who has experience with the look you want.

4) These certainly aren’t the only types of head shot, but a few common ones.  I also do theatrical head shots.  Again, it needs to be customized for the type of work is being sought.   This young lady was wanting to get into stage acting.

Headshot Sample-3090

Theatrical Head Shot

In addition to selecting the right photographer for you, also be careful in choosing your wardrobe. Dress for the business you are in (or want to be in).  Make sure you’re neatly groomed, relatively fresh haircut, facial hair neatly groomed or shave (depending on your look), groom yourself (trim ear & nose hair, and do something about your eyebrows if they’re unruly or grown together).  Ladies, appropriate makeup, not too heavy.  If you happen to have hair issues (eyebrows, lips, chins, etc)… clean it up.  If I have to do it during my editing session, complex cleanup takes time and the I may charge you by the hour.  Simple edits are generally included with the final image selection.     You may also want to hire a hair & makeup artist (or the photographer may have one they an hire or suggest).   You really want to look your best. The photographer should be able to help you if you have any questions about colors to avoid.  Talk to them!

Your profile picture IS IMPORTANT, so consider it an investment in your business or career!    Do something that fits your image, your business, and what you want your customer to remember.   First impressions are everything and your profile picture is literally, your first impression!

There are 100 ways of doing things in photography. My way certainly isn’t the only way, and just because I shoot the way I do, doesn’t mean someone else’s way won’t yield amazing results. The advice in this column is just based on my own life’s work, and my own work style.  I may learn something new tomorrow that changes my process.   It’s important to shop around to find the photographer who will do the best job for you!

You can reach me for comment or to book a session at You may see my work at



This entry was published on February 1, 2016 at 7:56 PM. It’s filed under Head Shots, Portraits, Publicity Photography, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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