A New Headshot for a Fresh Head Start

Guest Contributor, Phil Albinus


You’ve changed jobs more than once over the last 10 years. You’ve had new business cards, offices, phone numbers and email addresses. So why are you still using the same headshot?

I am an editor of business-to-business publications, and I know that one of the most popular features in print and online is People Moves. When an executive is hired or promoted, the company whips up a press release and blasts it out to editors and reporters who cover that industry. I always check to see if a headshot is attached—and whether it’s any good.

At my former job as editor of a leading hedge fund publication, the numbers didn’t lie. The Traders On the Move stories were the second most popular stories we produced. Readers loved seeing the person’s name, new job title and responsibilities—and, of course, their photo. The most popular features we ran included pictures of industry professionals at cocktail parties and networking events. These images, taken by a professional photographer who knew how to frame a party shot, were web traffic gold.

Asking PR people for a headshot is a crapshoot. New candidates usually provide their own, often taken at previous jobs or by a colleague with a smartphone. Sometimes they grab a picture from Facebook. Once, the only photograph a new executive could provide featured him roaring past the camera on a jet ski.

Even professional portraits that people provide are often outdated—some use the same headshot for decades. Of course, it’s understandable to want to appear younger—with fewer chins, smaller waists, lower hairlines—but using an old picture is not professional. In fact, it is misleading.

Having an updated and professional photographed headshot in various settings and poses is important. A headshot with a serious expression is the standard but consider a picture of yourself smiling. Do you look like someone people want to do business with? Do you represent your company well? Are you on the cutting edge or are you stuck in a cubicle waiting for retirement? An officemate with an iPhone cannot capture what you want to convey.

"Are you on the cutting edge or are you stuck in a cubicle waiting for retirement?"

I am guilty of this. I had been using the same headshot that Amy Fletcher took of me for my LinkedIn profile since 2006. I was younger then, but I actually think I look better now. Sure, there’s more gray hair, a little more roundness in the cheeks—I frankly look like someone who needs an intervention with a salad. But my eyes are clearer, I am happier and I am more at ease these days. The old headshot was taken at a challenging time in my life and this new photo is me at peace with myself, my career and my life. This is what a professional photographer can capture.

So, get that headshot retaken. Take time out of your busy schedule for an hour or two to work with your photographer to get the right photos. And when you change jobs, keep a high-resolution version of that photograph handy. No editor wants a small, matchbook-sized image for the next People Moves slideshow. Have it on file—it’s as important as updating your resume and refreshing your LinkedIn profile.

After all, it’s your picture that tells a thousand words about you.


Phil Albinus has been editing websites and magazines for more than two decades. Follow him on Twitter at @philalbinus.