You know those moments when you say, “Yes, I can do that!” without really thinking too hard about it? It may be one of those moments when you’re intrigued by some new adventure that you know in your gut you just have to do. You readily commit to it months in advance, and then the time draws nearer and you start to wonder, “What in the world was I thinking?!” But then you tackle the project, finish it up, and there is absolutely no question in your mind that you were meant to take on that project. This was one of those commitments for me.
I was asked last summer about taking headshots for a newly organized conference here in Cheyenne. It was called the Connect to Women Mentoring Conference, put on by Connect 2 Wyoming. The conference had a mission of igniting a mentoring movement among leading female professionals in our community through genuine, personal interactions. (For more information, hover over the conference name above to visit the website.) It was a huge success this year, and I know I wasn’t the only one who gained some valuable insight from the speakers and activities they had planned.
Laurie Heath, founder of Connect 2 Wyoming, had the amazing foresight to suggest that the conference provide professional headshots to each attendee, and that is where I got involved. I had just opened my studio in the Paramount Building, and the conference had a cocktail hour on The Second Floor at the Paramount, during which we did all the attendee headshots. We decided we wanted to give them a couple different looks, so we did one light background and one dark background. There were around 120 attendees, and we needed to get all the headshots done within a two hour timeframe. I knew I would never be able to accomplish this by myself, so I asked the gracious and talented Liz Putnam to help me out with these (thanks again, Liz!).
A headshot to me is like a handshake in today’s day and age. It’s the first impression a prospective employer or potential client sees when they search for you online, either through your website or on social media. It’s something I think everyone needs to have in the digital world in which we live.
Although this was an intense night, we are both so glad to have taken this on. Liz told me she never wanted to say the word “chin” again, but we both commented on the incredible stories we heard in such a short amount of time. There were so many high-powered women in this group. So many women who had fought hard to get where they were professionally, maybe even harder than their male counterparts. Yet, it was rare for any one of them to come in without a self-criticism in hand.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that attitude is everything when it comes to portraits. It truly doesn’t matter what your hair looks like. It doesn’t matter if your teeth are crooked. It doesn’t matter if one eye is bigger than another. What does matter is how you perceive yourself and the image you have of yourself inside your mind. Prior to the conference, I had suggested to conference attendees that they have an image inside their mind of the professional characteristics they wanted to portray for these portraits. We all have different images we want to convey professionally, and I don’t believe that all headshots should look the same. Sometimes, you want to portray openness, creativity, or friendliness, but for other professions, the primary characteristics you want to convey may be competence, purpose, or a resolute determination. When I’m consulting with clients before they come in for a custom headshot session, I’m trying very hard to glean what characteristics they need to convey for their headshots, and I’m able to change lighting, location, and posing to achieve the look and feel the client needs. For these, we obviously had limited time and space, so the location, lighting and poses couldn’t vary much, but nonetheless, I found it really interesting how these women were still able to convey different feelings in their photos with their attitudes.
The conference organizers were kind enough to share the conference evaluations with us, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the attendees commented that the photos they received as part of this conference were an extremely valuable take-away. I thought I’d share a few excerpts from those evaluations with you here.
“Love the headshots. Many of us have never had pro photos taken, so this was wonderful. Have had many responses to it after posting updates on social media, etc.”
“The headshot is an amazing piece to add to the professionalism I am trying to portray. I added it to my work email photo and LinkedIn so far – thank you for those!”
“Headshots were the icing on the cake; so awesome!”
“I have used my much appreciated headshot in several places and occasions — my web page, email photo, LinkedIn and Facebook.”
“I have started to use my headshot (these are so good, by the way!).”
“Heashots were wonderful!”
If you’re planning a conference in the near future, consider providing your attendees with a headshot as part of the conference registration. Professional photos are a valuable take-away that can help them continue to network professionally into the future, long after the conference has ended.
A big thanks to Laurie Heath, Kathryn Boswell, and Amy Surdam for asking me to do these at the Connect to Women Conference. It was truly an honor to have photographed so many amazing professionals from around the state of Wyoming.