If you dig up some of my early music career photographs, you’ll find me standing in an alley with my guitar. I’m usually wearing a bulky jacket and black boots. Typically, a friend was taking the photo, and I just wanted to get the whole damn thing over with. I really believed it wasn’t worth spending the money to get a good photograph.
Boy was I wrong.
In 2001, encouraged by my coach, I consciously chose to uplevel my approach to my work and my music. I invested in a great photographer for the CD cover art.
And – surprise! – that’s when I started getting invited to do radio interviews and being featured in major media. My CD got airplay, too. Lots of it.
We all know that image shouldn’t matter. And yet, in the professional world, and even in the arts – it does matter. A professional photo shows that you take your work seriously (yes, even if you’re creative and fun-loving) – and it conveys success. Plus, the internet can connect you with so many new opportunities, it only makes sense to put yourself out there in a professional way.
But there are some things you need to know. I’ve learned the hard way that just because a photographer has worked with Faith Hill or Sheryl Crow doesn’t mean he’ll have a clue how you want to come across in your photos. It’s important that you fully engage in the process, and that you get clear about some things before you invest in any photographer!
It doesn’t have to be painful though. And right now, I’m going to make it a whole lot easier for you! From my Been-There-Done-That files, here are 7 Tips for Getting Great Professional Photos…
1 – Get Clear.
Don’t hire anyone until you’re clear about what you want to convey in your photo. Make a list of words to describe who you are, how you show up in the world, and what you share with your clients, customers, students, audiences, etc. (“Professional but not stiff.” “Fun and funky – but in an accessible way.” “Trustworthy and kind.” “Successful and no-nonsense.”)
Write down colors, thoughts on your surroundings, etc. Start a file of your favorite images from magazines. Share these with your photographer.
2 – Hire a Professional.
I know. I know. You can always get your friend Rachel to take a few photos of you after work one Thursday. But I encourage you to uplevel your image and go pro.
You don’t have to break the bank to get a great photographer. Many top-notch wedding photographers offer great prices for mid-week sessions. Ask around or search the internet, and don’t be afraid to interview several different photographers.
3 – Get Make-Up Advice.
I’ve worked with make-up artists who sprayed foundation on my face like spackle. And some who made my hair stand up about 11 inches from my head. You’d think I would’ve spoken up – but for many years, I thought everyone else knew better than me what I should look like.
And yet, I still believe in using a make-up artist!
My advice is to REQUIRE a phone conversation with her before your shoot. Share your images from #1. Listen to her ideas and advice. You’d be surprised at how much make up you need for even a natural looking photo – but spackle is NOT necessary!
If you don’t have the budget for a make-up artist, then get help from friends in the know. I’ve done my own make-up on many shoots – but I used all the advice from those old Seventeen Magazines I used to pore through when I was a teen!
4 – Plan your Outfits in Advance.
Two weeks before your photo shoot, plan your outfits. Pick at least three. (Avoid crazy patterns on your shirts!)
If you need help in this area, I highly recommend making an appointment with a personal shopper at Nordstrom – which has fantastic customer service and highly-trained employees. Plus you’re not required to purchase anything! Share your work from Step #1 with your shopper. Take your time during your appointment.
5 – Go Light on the Accessories.
You don’t want your photo to say, “Hi, I’m Joan. And this is my BIG GIANT PERUVIAN BEAD NECKLACE!” In other words, your accessories should complement – not overpower – your look.
6 – Bring your own Mirror to the Shoot.
Keep a mirror nearby during the shoot so you can check for things like lipstick on teeth and bra straps sticking out in between shoots. Photographers aren’t always good at catching these things because they’re focusing on the lay-out and lighting.
7 – YOU are the most important element.
Your energy. Your light. Your radiance. These are the most important things.
Before you head to the shoot, sit quietly and remember your intentions in your work and life. Connect to your center and take some deep breaths.
Then, as the photos are being shot, remember to be present in your body. Look into and through the camera lens. Act as if you’re looking into the eyes of your very best friend. Don’t be afraid to let loose and smile and laugh. These are often the best photos!