In the business world, shaking the hands of the person you are meeting for the first time is a norm. I think I may have shaken the hands of more people in the last 5 years of being in business than the decades spent spent being an employee. There have been many articles on how to shake someone's hand - the grip and the bodily signals among others. Operating within the space of the headshot photography business, I have come to learn more and more the relationship between one's headshot photo and one's handshake.
The Perspective of the Handshake
One can tell a lot about the handshake of a person. Is the grip too loose? What signals does the body communicate? More importantly, what is the expression of the face? Notice that all of these questions are not to be answered by the person who is offering their hand. These are actually being answered by the person receiving the handshake. For starters, if I am the person offering the handshake, I don't see my expression. I may think I have an authentic smile but that is up to the judgement of the person whose hand I am shaking.
The recreation of the handshake experience is crucial in our analysis of one's headshot photo. We can demand the photographer to make us look friendly and approachable but the caveat in all of that is how we normally act on a daily basis when we want to know another person and more importantly, how you would communicate the "How can I help you?" look. After all, every business is all about us business owners solving a problem our client has.
The Age of Authenticity
We are now in the age of authenticity when it comes to images and even more so, personal branding. People are quick to pick up the over-manipulation of business headshot images to portray flawlessness of skin and other facial features. The worst people to ask about authenticity in one's headshot photo is the person closest to you - which includes yourself. Even if I have been doing this headshot business for sometime now, I still fall into that syndrome of over-analysing my headshot photo with parameters that have nothing to do with authenticity. An example of which would be wrinkles that have started to show, my skin is too dark or my gummy smile that I have been made to believe that it is imperfect.
Looking closely at what goes on in my mind as I analyse my own headshot photo, I realised that certain beliefs or previous norms have been imposed upon me have influenced my analysis. For example, my gummy smile has always been there even after I had my braces and I have been quite conscious about it because I was told that it was an imperfection. But those gums have nothing to do with my professionalism. In fact, it is part of who I am. That same gummy smile comes out when I talk to people and yes, when I shake someone's hand. This realisation has helped me redefine how to approach the perfect headshot photo for myself. It lies from whose perspective I am viewing it from. Mine would certainly be riddled with bias and cultural nuances. However, an objective approach negates the bias which brings us to the perfect headshot photo for a professional.
Perfection when it comes to headshot photography has nothing to do with the physical attributes our client's customers will see when they come face to face with our clients. It has to do with engagement and consistency with the personality of the person being presented in the headshot photo. Going back to my gummy smile, I think the only person that gets offended with those gums would be myself and not my customers. My customers expect to see the same person they see and 'feel' from my headshot photo.
This thinking is counterintuitive to the way headshot or profile photos have come about. Whereas the talk has been to take out imperfection, I'd like to suggest that it is precisely those imperfect features that connect us to our audience. I have clients who come in and point to me specific people within our corporate gallery that they can relate to. Every person connects to a different person. The person in our gallery has inspired them to be themselves and to embrace who they are. With this newfound acceptance came confidence and trust in our process of doing the headshot photography.
The movement towards what is reality has been more compelling than ever before. Our headshot photo then becomes a virtual handshake with our potential customer which gives them a glimpse of the person they will meet. We owe it to our customers to show anyone but our true identity.