Q: I own a gourmet food store. My friend said she thinks I need a professional photograph. Frankly, I think my money would be better spent elsewhere. Who's right-me or my friend?
A: Your friend, and let me tell you why. Here's what will happen if you don't have a photo:
You'll be called unexpectedly by a reporter for a local magazine who wants to do a feature story about you. When she learns you don't have a photo to offer, she'll say, "Today is the only day we can send a photographer to get a photo."
It figures. You were up half the night before and have big circles under your eyes. You just got your hair cut yesterday, and the bangs are about an inch too short. The outfit you pulled out of the closet this morning when you were running late looks like a Goodwill reject. But you say yes anyway. The magazine photo turns out-not surprisingly-ghastly.
That's why you need your own photo. Newspaper and magazine photographers can't perform miracles, but studio photographers can. So why risk looking awful in front of thousands of people when a pro, who has time, can polish and primp you? If you're worried about the price, rest assured you can get a good quality above-the-shoulders studio portrait taken and about six wallet-size shots for well under $75.
Think of all the ways you can use photos:
You can offer them to publications you write articles for.
You can send them to the local media when you win an award, are sponsoring a special event or when you're part of a larger news story.
You can post them on your Web site.
You can include one on your business card to help people remember you.
A standard, above-the-shoulders photo in either color or black and white is the bare minimum for publicity hounds. Keep at least six prints on hand and use them for the media, club newsletters, fliers or anyplace else you want your photo to appear.
Another option is the storytelling photo that shows you with props related to your business or hobby, such as you holding a big mixing bowl filled to the brim with fresh vegetables. Weekly newspapers that don't have photo staffs would welcome these types of photos.
Here are tips to follow if you're having your portrait taken:
Have your hair cut at least one to two weeks before your photo session.
Make sure your hair is styled the way you want before you arrive at the studio.
Avoid high-neck clothing that obscures your neck.
Avoid sleeveless clothing.
It's risky to wear prints that draw attention away from your face. When in doubt, be safe with solids.
When applying make-up, pay special attention to your eyes. That's what people see first.
Eye shadow adds depth. Avoid iridescent colors. Stick to neutral.
Powder reduces shine and helps eliminate shiny foreheads and noses. Be sure to use it.
Also be sure to tell your photographer the photos are for publicity so he knows what kind of backdrop to use. And one last reminder: Don't forget to smile.
Joan Stewart, a media relations consultant and professional speaker and trainer, works with companies that want to use the media to establish their expertise, enhance their credibility and position themselves as the employer of choice. She also publishes The Publicity Hound, a bimonthly print newsletter featuring "tips, tricks and tools for free (or really cheap) publicity," as well as tips booklets on how to find and keep valuable employees. Visit www.publicityhound.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.