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Look Smashing in Your Professional Business Photo

When a writer submits a guest post for my blog, I ask for a good-quality head shot. Then I hold my breath. I never know what to expect.

I've received photos that look like they were taken in a bar, on a street corner or in front of the fireplace in a living room. Many are fuzzy, grainy, too light or too dark.

One photo showed cleavage. Another photo subject couldn't crop his wife out of the photo. That resulted in a head shot that included the tip of her shoulder.    

You need a good-quality business photo for your website, LinkedIn profile and articles you write for industry publications as well as to give to journalists who request it. People who want to do business with you might want to see what you look like. Regardless of your expertise, a bad photo sends the message "amateur."

Why, oh, why, do businesspeople find it so difficult to obtain a clear head shot that makes them look like the professionals they really are? 

Related: What Types of Photos Should You Share on LinkedIn?

No selfies.

Save the selfie for Instagram or your Facebook page. If you want a decent head shot for business, nothing beats a trip to a photographer's studio.

Photo studios have a variety of backdrops and proper lighting. And a good photographer will be able to spot little things like a few out-of-place strands of hair or a crooked tie.

Ask the photographer to quote you a price that includes taking photos of you in one or two changes of clothing. I'm a professional speaker, so I usually bring a suit and a more casual outfit and end up choosing photos that show me in each.

In addition to arranging for a head shot, discuss with the photographer your ideas for an environmental shot that shows you in a setting appropriate to your occupation, industry or hobby. 

Bloggers who write about you might be eager to have these photos. So will newspapers with minuscule photo staffs.

During my last shoot, Bogie, my German short-haired pointer, accompanied me to the photo studio. In addition to the head shot accompanying this post, the photographer took several photos of Bogie and me. I used one on my Facebook page, inviting many comments about my dog.

If you're in a pinch and need a head shot quickly but you don't have one, someone else can take your photo with an iPhone. Never take it yourself. You must use good lighting, a neutral background and position the camera at the correct level. Photographer Josh D. Smith has shared some tips about taking a head shot with an iPhone. 

Related: Professional Dress Doesn't Have to Mean Boring             

Tips for the head shots.

Here are simple tips to follow if you want to look your best in a photo:

Stick to solid colors and skip polka dots or stripes.

If you wear eyeglasses, remove the lenses from the frames to avoid glare from the lights. Or lift the earpieces from your ears about half an inch so the glasses are slighly tipped forward.

Buy a package of oil-absorbing sheets in the cosmetics department of a drugstore. Dab them on your face to remove oil and sweat. They won't smudge makeup.

Don't let a photographer take a photo of you with your hands near your face. It looks old-fashioned and unprofessional.  

Never experiment with a new hairstyle just before the photo shoot.

Some people hire a hair and makeup artist. I've used one several times for a professional photo shoot, and she performed miracles. One stayed with me during the entire shoot and primped me after each change of clothing. 

Choose a photographer who will let you use your photos however you wish. Some insist on maintaining the copyright and force you to pay extra after a period of time.

Finally, don't forget to smile. Nobody likes a sourpuss.

Related: Goodbye, Suits. Sport These Smart Looks but Shun Interview No-nos.