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Casual Business Headshots Are In. So Is Quality.

By Tina Creguer

While scrolling LinkedIn recently, I read a post by a man who displayed two images of himself: a formal headshot taken by a professional and a casual selfie of him in polo shirt. He looked happy and relaxed in the casual shot, but his skin tone was very red, a dark shadow covered part of his face, and the photo was not in focus.

Nonetheless, people praised his new photo (the selfie), and he touted his new “casual” approach to his online image, which he felt matched the less formal approach to business while working from home. He planned to use the selfie for his professional profile photo, as well as for his videoconference profile.

In short, he exchanged professionalism for a casual image. But there’s no need to sacrifice one for the other.

Formal headshots out. Casual headshots in.

In our studio, we do a fair number of headshots for professionals of every stripe: lawyers, doctors, salespeople, engineers, and more. Even before the pandemic hit, we’d noticed a definite trend for less formality. Company presidents and other executives have opted for photos without ties and with more casual poses (in addition to a formal pose with a suit and tie) to appear more approachable.

And since last year, this trend has accelerated, as people are keen to reflect their current work mood.

Photography styles reflect cultural values.

In a related change, we’ve also seen a stronger trend toward lighter retouching. Most people want to appear more natural in their photos. Our culture has begun to embrace flaws and eschew perfection — adopting a more healthy and realistic approach to physical appearance. Rather than seeking a fashion-magazine level of perfection, people want to look good but not flawless. (Heck, fashion magazines have even toned down the level of perfection presented.)

Retouching is still helpful to even skin tones and reduce flaws minimally. A great retoucher will help the photo subject look like themselves on their best day.

Casual AND professional

In a surreal work world where we frequently see cats sauntering in front of cameras, spouses wandering into view wearing pajamas, or kids pulling on parents to request lunch, the culture of work has changed suddenly and dramatically. And while we embrace some loss of formality, it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of professional image.

The line between professional and personal has blurred a bit but it still exists. The desire for a headshot that reflects a more relaxed work environment is understandable. But a cellphone selfie is not the way to go.

The way you present yourself on a networking site reflects the level of care you put into your image and personal brand. Your headshot photo should represent you as competent and professional. A selfie lacks the proper lighting to bring out your best features. And, while cellphone digital camera quality has improved over time, it cannot compete with the quality that comes from a high-end digital camera in the hands of an experienced pro with studio-quality lighting.

Sample quality casual business headshot by Andy Greenwell.

The two qualities can be achieved together, and should be, because presenting yourself well in your career should never be sacrificed.

Getting a quality casual business headshot

Ideally, your headshot — whether you use it for a company website, LinkedIn, or other career/work-related venues— should never have any of these characteristics:

  • Be taken with a cellphone
  • Be cropped from a photo of you with someone else
  • Include a pet
  • Include you in swimming apparel or a hat
  • Be taken more than three years ago

The same tips apply for getting a great casual headshot as for a formal headshot (see related article): find a great photographer, communicate about what you want, prepare well, and relax.

Your photographer can provide guidance on apparel and offer a less-traditional backdrop to make your photo unique. And more dramatic lighting can be used, if you want something moodier or with more personality. A good photographer can help you achieve exactly the look you want to achieve.

As the business world redefines its style to less formal than ever before, now is a great time to adapt your professional image to suit a more casual work culture.

Ready for yours? Schedule your casual (or formal) headshot session today. Email us at andy@andygreenwell.com or call 248-489-5777.

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