I recently read an article by a Harvard psychologist about the two questions people answer upon meeting someone in person. These two questions are: "Can I trust this person?" and "Can I respect this person?"
As an owner of a headshot photography company focusing on business and corporate clients, I resonate with such thinking and approach. Being bombarded with social media where everything needs to be perceived as perfect has resulted in a mentality that beauty tends to outweigh believability. This has even crept into the world of LinkedIn where the two questions seem to be the most relevant because LinkedIn is all about the corporate and business world.
Anything that is subjected to an opinion can be a matter of taste or preference. Art, music, food, and architecture among others fall into this category. Those who are into marketing or brand management know fully well that even if something can be subjective, there is a process by which this subjectivity can be valid by zeroing on whose opinion ultimately matters. Whenever I get asked to be part of a focused group panel for a marketing research company, my demographic is screened to ensure I fit the audience the brand is looking for. Then, assuming I get picked, my opinion is asked and is never questioned nor judged as wrong. My opinion has weight because I am the target audience.
Putting this now within the corporate and headshot context, the headshot image can and will obviously be subject to the opinion of a number of people. Bearing in mind again the bombardment of the so-called "perfect" images on Facebook, the whole idea of what is a perfect headshot can be a matter of taste and preference and can be highly influenced by social media. How then do we address this?
This scenario is common within our headshot session. There is always that tension between believability and beauty. A good example of this was with a business owner turned real estate agent. She had two beautiful images (two among many) where we had to choose between the two. Her purpose was to show credibility and professionalism in her photo. This was the first photo she considered.
While this photo looked great, it did not adress the purpose. This is where the questions we mentioned at the start of this blog become relevant. Perfection is not solely based on what the client thinks is best but more importantly, how his or her target audience will perceive the photo. Within the business and corporate setting, the issue of trustworthiness or believability and respectfulness come into play. In the absence of a paid focused group discussion scenario, we endeavour to bring forth the opinion of the client's target audience within the headshot session itself by understanding carefully who our client is trying to reach. We then put ourselves in the shoes of that potential audience and together with the client, understand what that audience expects from our client. Bearing this in mind, we all concluded that the best image for her is the image below.
We accept that there will always be a tension between believability and beauty. We will endeavour to achieve both whenever possible. When there is an impasse, we always go back to how the target customer will answer these two questions: Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person?