Do I need a headshot?
Updated: Apr 30, 2018
You might be wondering if you need to have a professional headshot. It's a question quite a few people ask, especially with the time and cost of getting one done. Many tend to use selfies or a quick snapshot taken of them at a party, vacation, or somewhere. It seems fine and no one really says anything so the idea of getting a professional shot never really comes up. Here's the thing, people won't tell you when something looks unprofessional. They'll silently form opinions about you and make snap judgements which can lead to some bad results.
"People won't tell you when something looks unprofessional"
Let's look at the restaurant example. When people have a bad experience at a restaurant whether it be a bad meal or poor service, they will tend to pay the check then never come back. They will never let the restaurant know about the issues they faced because of various factors such as the manner they were raised, culture, or they don't want to make a scene, etc. In fact some may even tell the manager, server or such that their meal was fine. The restaurant will continue on thinking it's doing well when in reality they are failing. Of course there are always those who complain, but out of hundreds of people only a few tend to do that. More often then not if they do complain at all these days they will write a bad review online, but even that isn't usually consistent and the restaurant may think it was only a few difficult customers.
Now imagine that scenario with your headshots. No one will actively seek you out to let you know your headshot isn't exactly the most professional one they've seen. People you know may joke about it or make a snide comment, but others will usually not say a word. If you're applying for a job or gig, they may even make decisions based on that one shot. Headshots may be singularly the most important image you'll need in your working career. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a headshot is an instantly absorbed thousand word resume.
If a picture is worth a thousand words then a headshot is an instantly absorbed thousand word resume.
Members of the entertainment industry have always needed a well taken professional headshot. It's the lifeblood of their portfolio and a image no self respecting actor or model would be caught without. In fact many make sure to keep their headshots current by taking them yearly at the least and in some cases more often than that. The corporate world has had headshots done, usually for management or higher, but in recent years all levels of the business have needed them. Many corporations incorporate the headshot into their email, org charts, presentations. In fact some companies require a consistent headshot for all their employees and hire photographers to make sure all the shots look professional with a similar background.
You're not a model, actor, or CEO. You can see why those people might need it but you're just trying to do your job. Who cares what people think of that snapshot or if it looks unprofessional.
That's a fair point and if you don't plan on going anywhere further in your career then you may not need to care. However in this day and age of instant gratification and visuals, getting anywhere requires a bit of flair. A professional headshot tells people that you mean business. It shows them that you want to get somewhere in life and you're taking it seriously. Depending on the shot it can portray serious intent, or detached amusement, or even fun loving and honest. Above all a great headshot tells people that you're willing to invest in yourself and in doing so invest in your career and that you want to push forward in your life.
Here's the thing, a great headshot probably won't instantly get you a job or a promotion, although I have seen people get jobs from their headshots. It won't make you an amazing person or beam knowledge into your brain. It's a tool, and like any tool you want it to be strong, well made and be able to get the job done. I'm not saying you absolutely have to go get a headshot right now, but it's something to think about and having a great picture of yourself never hurts.