The Professional ‘Selfie’… is it time to invest?

by Rebecca Hass


The many headshots of Rebecca Hass. Styles change through the years, but the value of a professional headshot remains the same.


As freelancers, we know that our work comes from the connections we build. Who you know is almost always as important as what you know. But however you manage to find your clients, the image you present online is extremely important.

Part of that image is the picture you choose of yourself. Whether it’s for your website, Facebook, Twitter, or even Google+, you have to provide a photo. What will be your public face?

It can cost how much?

The New York Times recently ran an article about the increasing popularity of professional ‘selfies.’

One of the people they profiled had spent $3500.00 on magazine-quality shots of herself to use for for self-promotion.  As a freelancer on a budget, I had to ask myself, is this money well spent? The answer is: yes and no.


“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen-really seen” – Brené Brown, Author and TED speaker

Vancouver marketing and media expert Rebecca Coleman agrees with Brené Brown.

“I do feel that professional headshots are important, but thank God we are moving away from the formal shot,” she says.

“What’s really important in terms of personal branding is this personal element.  We are moving away from saying ‘I’m a professional, you can trust me’ to a world where we are trying to create personal connections with people.”

No longer is it a ‘just the facts ma’am’ world. With the rise of social media we are sharing more and more of our ‘offstage’ lives onstage.  The expectations of those who hire us are changing. Rebecca encourages freelancers to step away from the more neutral approach to sharing.

“People need to see you. When you build a personal brand, then, in the bio you can do the professional credits. These matter, but also include personal details. Not too personal, but details like you own a cat or you like sailing. People read the bio, and say ‘I like sailing too’ and then you make a connection.  If you share your real life, that is the stuff that people like to connect with,” she says.

In essence, the promotional photo you use should be a visual reflection of the climate of social media. It should fit in with this environment of personal glimpses.

Straight from the Photographer’s Mouth

Shimon, an award-winning Vancouver photographer who specializes in publicity shots, is seeing a trend towards more personal shots.  However, he points out that this kind of professional ‘selfie’ isn’t for everyone.

“For the people that want something different, I encourage it. For people that want something straight-forward and traditional, I encourage that as well, as its better to work with whatever is going to suit their personality, rather than force something that’s going to seem contrived.”

From my own research I’ve found that many freelancers seem to be fans of the “family photographer.”  Taken by a wife or daughter who was slipped a twenty, the goal was that natural-looking picture. But if you’re ready to move beyond the backyard photo with the family instamatic, here’s what you need to know.

What’s it going to cost?

The secret to a great photo isn’t spending a wad of cash. A professional headshot can cost you as little as $175 for a very basic package to a mid range of $300 and beyond. Shimon also advises splurging on professional hair and make-up, saying that it’s “50% of what makes a headshot/portrait look professional and polished.”

Most photographers have someone they recommend for this, so you don’t have to find a make-up artist yourself. Remember that professional hair and make-up aren’t to make you glamorous so much as to make sure that you photograph well under studio lights. This make-up is very specialized and can actually give you a more natural look.

The biggest mistake people make according to Shimon? They go to someone who is cheap and inexperienced and they end up with a poor product that, in turn, “makes them look cheap.”

How do I find a professional photographer?

Do a search for professional photographers in your city who do headshots. To avoid that stiff look, add the word ‘actor’ to your search.  Once you find a site, really look at the portfolio provided online. Ask yourself if you like the looks you are seeing.  This is a bit like finding a book you want to read. You have to find the photographer who is taking your kind of photo.

Another way to approach this is to find a friend or colleague who has a headshot you love.  If you love how their photo turned out, the odds are good that you will get a shot that works for you.  Remember, you’re trying to match your image and energy to the artist with the camera so that you get a photo that speaks of you.  

Not convinced about springing for the professional headshot yet?

Never doubt the power of the visual. Science says that we form a first impression in 1/10th of a second.

And you know the old saying, you never get a second chance at a first impression.


 Rebecca Hass has worked a freelance career that includes, opera singer, vocal teacher, performer, writer, radio broadcaster and life coach.  She lives in Victoria BC. You can find her on Twitter at @rebeccahass



Posted on July 30, 2014 at 8:05 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Matthew Baird
    on July 30, 2014 at 7:25 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    and I love Kari Heese in Vancouver for just these kind of shots

  2. Written by Bob Fishef
    on August 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Interesting article. Have to quibble with one point though. That’s the idea of sharing some personal information. While the person who likes sailing may be inclined to look further, the person who fell out of a boat as a child and is traumatized by water won’t. Why turn away potential clients? Keep the personal information out.

  3. Written by Rebecca Coleman
    on September 10, 2014 at 10:02 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Hey, Bob! I want to respond to that… One real trend I’m noticing right now is the trend to niche. Meaning, you no longer need to look at the whole world as your market, just one tiny segment. If you can focus on that segment, you’ll spend less energy and time trying to reach them, and you’ll have a better chance of reaching them, as well.

    What I’m trying to say, is, you can’t be all things to all people. If you are turning someone off because they fell out of a boat, they probably weren’t your audience to begin with. And that’s okay.

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