There are people who have successfully evaded any need to have their picture taken their whole lives. For some folks, the only time they’ve had an image of themselves deliberately created was for some graduation. And for some folks that might be fine, but for people looking to get serious about their careers and their small businesses, having a good looking headshot is up there with having a website and a business card. In other words, you don’t get many “points” for having one, but you lose “points” if you don’t!

Trouble is, the last time you had your picture taken, it might not have been the most pleasant experience. Lights all uncomfortably pointed in your direction, some disinterested photographer clicking away behind his camera and failing to connect with you. If this was your last experience, and especially if you were a teenager at the time, I definitely don’t blame you for wishing a fancy logo or impressive resume could sufficiently sub-in for your face. Between a good looking resume, and a good looking resume with a really friendly or confident face attached to it, the one with the face is going to win. A very good small business with an approachable face is going to do better than a very good small business without any face at all.

If you’re paying attention to what’s going on out there, you already know that you ought to have some good photos of yourself. But if you’re like a lot of people, you might be hesitating for a number of reasons. Perhaps the cost, perhaps the time, perhaps the wardrobe. Or maybe, just the fact that you’ve never done it and exploring the unknown takes energy you don’t have. So, lets take some time to dispel some of the mystery about the process.

When you realize you wish you had a nicer photo of yourself

Maybe someone made a comment about how your photo is getting old. Maybe a client didn’t recognize you. Maybe you like your smile but you hate your outfit. Maybe you’ve been using that old college graduation portrait and you cringe a little bit every time you have to use it somewhere. You’ve just realized that you wish you had a better photo of yourself to use.

Now, the next step isn’t to run to Sears or Wal-Mart. Maybe that’s where you end up (I hope not), but for now it’s time to find some photos that you wish you were in. You already have some images of yourself that you’re using and they’re not cutting it for some reason. You need to make sure you don’t have that problem again. One of the best ways to do that is to start looking through images of other people online. Look for images of individuals that have a mood or a look or communicate a feeling that resonates with you.

Try this, go to Google and do an image search for “headshots + [your state here]”. Scroll through until you find some photos you like and save them to Pinterest or Evernote or whatever else you use to bookmark stuff you want to save. When you’ve collected 15 or 20 images, pick your favorite 5 and look up the photographers who took those photos. If they’re local, shoot them an email and say “hey, I think I want some photos like X photo you took.”

Of course, we don’t know what will happen from this point foreword with some other photographer, but if the headshot you happened upon was one of ours, we’d respond to you like this.

Once you’ve started a conversation with us

Your first contact with us will include answers to any questions you may have to ask, and a general brochure with pricing and package information. Most of our clients choose to interact with us primarily over email, however, we also welcome phone calls and text messages to answer all of your questions and make sure we’re designing a session to give you the best images we can.

Some of our clients feel timid asking questions, but you shouldn’t hesitate. During this process, we want you to feel comfortable and taken care of. So, when a question comes to mind, don’t worry if you’ve already asked a lot of questions. Go ahead and ask away! We understand this process may be foreign to you, so there are no dumb questions.

When you think you’re ready to set up your headshot session, it will be time to choose a date and time and make a payment to secure the session.

Choosing a Date & Time, and Getting Your Headshot Session on the Books

Before we can confirm a session, we have to have a specific date to reserve, so choosing that date is the first thing you must do after deciding you’d like to book a session. When you’re deciding a date, you should consider whether you have a deadline. Processing and fully proofing your headshots may take up to 30 days before the final images are in your hands. If you don’t have a deadline you need to meet, then you should look for days when you can expect you will be feeling comfortable, ideally avoiding sessions after unusually long work days or immediately following travel plans.

Once you chosen a date, your photographer will confirm their availability with you. If it happens that your photographer doesn’t have that date available, they’ll offer some alternatives for you to check until you’ve found something that works well for both of you.

In the final step to confirming your session, we will send you an invoice. Paying your invoice will confirm the date and time you established with your photographer, and you’ll be able to pay with a credit card right from the invoice! You’ll also have the option to mail a check, if that’s more like your speed.

Next you’ll need to select a location

If you don’t have a specific location in mind for your headshot session when it’s booked, the exact location might float unknown for a while. Location decisions are usually made no less than 7 days before the session. This gives your photographer time to brainstorm the best conditions for the kinds of images you want to create, and make some weather predictions that may alter the location choices.

The kind of images you want to have will be the biggest determining factor to where the session will be held. Whether in your home or office for formal studio style images, or in a park or urban landscape for more colorful, natural images. These are all qualities of your photos that your photographer will discuss with you and will be able to make recommendations to help you get the look you’re after.

Picking an outfit

For most of our clients, one of the hardest parts of having headshots made is choosing what outfit, or outfits, to wear. This, like most other decisions regarding your headshots, depends a lot on what you’re going to use the images for. But there are a few pointers that apply regardless: Avoid jet black and pure white, jewelry and other accessories are almost always a good idea, and if there is some part of your body you dislike, don’t choose anything that emphasizes it.

We can get a bit more specific with these wardrobe tips too.

If you’re going to use your headshots for dating purposes, dress like the most attractive version of your casual self. For example, what might you wear to a grocery store, or when watching a movie at a friend’s house? You want to look the very best you can in that sort of dress.

If you’re going to use your headshots for a resume or LinkedIn, follow the adage and “dress for the job you want.”

If you’re going to use your headshots for personal branding, a small business, or freelancing, dress the way you might when meeting with a client.

If you’re going to use your headshots for a company directory, or alongside staff photos at the company where you work, dress as you do when visiting the office for a meeting (or jumping on the Skype call with the board).

If you’re going to use your headshots for stage or film casting, you should have a range of clothing from  very casual to very formal. You should not plan to dress up as actual characters; the clown, the police officer, etc.

When your session starts

If everything is going according to plan, your photographer will arrive 5 to 10 minutes early. They will spend some time surveying the location for anything new, anything that might have changed, and if indoors, where to best set up the equipment. If your your images will be of a studio style, your photographer will spend 10 or 15 minutes or more preparing the lights and the rest of the set.

Once your photographer is ready to go, you’ll start your session with conversation. Your photographer will typically be out in front of the lights with you discussing the posing process and what their instructions will mean. They will also likely spend some time discussing the nuances of using different facial features to send a different message and may practice some moves with you to help you better understand them. They will also share any peculiarities about their own working style so there are fewer nervous smiles.

If your session is held outdoors, or in varying locations, you can expect your photographer to move you around the area fairly frequently. This helps to cleanse creative pallets and  may serve as a kind of reset if you’re feeling tense. If you’re shooting under studio lights, you won’t be moving around very much, but your photographer may intermit by asking for very emotive expressions, like “make a face like you just saw a crying baby”, or “make a face like you just saw someone hit and run”. You can expect to be having a good time by this point, so it won’t seem so silly!

When your session is over

Your photographer will wrap things up when they feel like they’ve gotten everything they’re looking for, and you agree. For most clients this is about an hour, but sometimes it’s shorter and sometimes it’s longer. Your photographer, or their assistant, will wait until the session ends to pack up their equipment so you’re not feeling rushed.

Before the photographer leaves, they will most likely take some time to tell you what to expect next. Most headshots are processed and ready for proofing within 10 to 14 days and during this time you can expect radio silence, unless arrangements have been made for rush delivery. We are using this time to analyze the different images, conceptualize a kind of ‘average’ expression throughout the images, and use it to select the most likely candidates.

During this phase, we’re also making stylistic decisions about the images, such as color toning and clarity. However, during this phase we are not removing blemishes or camera equipment that may still be visible in the frame.

When proofs of your headshots are available

Once your images have finished their initial processing, you will receive an email with a link to view the watermarked proofs of your images. The link will either lead you to a private gallery on our own internal proofing service, or to a multi-purpose service, such as Dropbox, which we generally use when working with larger organizations.

If you’ve commissioned these headshots for yourself, you can expect to have around 15 to 20 images to choose from. Most of our clients choose to license only a few images, rather than the whole set, so this is where the rubber meets the road. You’ll want to choose from this set of images the ones that best represent you and your purpose for having them. We understand that this can be tough, so your photographer is always happy to offer you their favorites. But, we suggest inviting your friends, family and colleagues in to offer their opinion. Sometimes we just can’t see ourselves clearly and we need a second opinion.

When you’ve made up your mind about which images you’d like to keep, you can send us an email. Or, if you’re proofing your headshots in our online proofing service, you can just click the little “heart” icon to make your selection, and if you’re proofing them in Dropbox, you can leave a comment right on the images you’d like to keep.

When your finished images are delivered

Once you’ve given us your selection, we’ll get right to work on retouching them by removing any non-permanent blemishes, cleaning up any visible camera equipment, and hiding any unduly distracting background artifacts. This process may take up to 7 or more days if you have chosen to keep a lot of, or all, the images.

Once the images are finished with retouching, high resolution copies of your images will be delivered to you through a link on Dropbox which will allow you do download all of them at once.

And now that you have your images

Don’t sit on them, get them into circulation. If you’re uploading them to a dating website, upload one at a time a few weeks apart. If you need your face out there, make sure you get one up on your website and LinkedIn right away. If you have multiple photos to choose from, consider alternating them between their different uses. For example, consider using a different photo on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

You may find that you need images cropped into special dimensions, or that the images you’ve chosen are oriented incorrectly for some purpose you hadn’t thought of. Be sure to reach out to us if you discover this. With more than a decade of image manipulation experience, we can often come up with a solution that doesn’t require you have new photos created. Under a lot of circumstances, this is a service we will provide as a simple courtesy.

Is there something else you’d like to know?

So this has been a pretty detailed look at what it’s like to need headshots, to schedule and shoot them with Petruzzo Photography, to proof the images online and to make selections. But maybe we missed something and there’s still some mystery. Let us know on Twitter or Facebook, or feel free to shoot us an email with your questions!