Consistency (and quality) is important for corporate headshots

I was researching a number of different Boston-area company’s websites recently, looking at executive/management team individual headshot photos. A number of the sites had a very consistent look to the images – backgrounds, lighting, clothing options, and expressions. Many others seemed to take the approach of asking each individual to provide the best photo of themselves, whether it be a selfie or one taken by a friend or colleague.

On one these sites, the CEO is sitting outside with sailboats and water behind him, one of the founders (CTO) is wearing a dark colored T-shirt shot against a blue background, the Chairman is wearing a collared shirt shot against a grey background, and an SVP is posed sitting down on a couch with what appears to be a wide screen TV off to the side perhaps shot in a living room. Other supporting cast (advisors, etc.) had many shots where they’re not even looking at the camera, some shot in color others in black and white, different colored backgrounds (including red), etc..

The website itself is well done – attractive colors that blend well, simple and direct messaging, good navigation, relevant content, etc. – but when you get to the people behind the company, it looks like they’re very disparate. They don’t look like a team, the impressions are very disjointed and inconsistent and raises questions/impressions in the viewers mind (either consciously or sub-consciously) – are they all working together in the same company? Are they in the same city? Are they full time or part-time? Is this company real? Etc.

You already know that your website is your corporate brochure – it’s not only designed to talk about what you do, but also who you are. When a visitor is researching a company, the “About Us” sections of the website is often one of the first places they look – they want to know who you are, and what you’re about. The images of your team need to reflect your culture as well as the fact that you’re a team of people sharing a common vision and dedication to your company. By having some level of consistency in your images, you convey both that you’re a team and a level of professionalism/attention to detail. What does this mean for the image itself? Here’s some things to consider:

*Background – The purpose of the image is to highlight the person in the photograph, not the background (unless you’re doing “environmental” headshots/portraits – that is, people working in their environment, e.g., a lab technician in a lab). Keep the background neutral to focus the viewers attention to the subject’s face. No need for spot lighting behind the subject (that 90’s look….) – stay with whites, blacks, or greys. Those are most compatible with any color scheme.

*Clothing – for men, collared shirt, tie, jacket, etc – whatever you choose, be consistent in the overall look. For women, a similar approach in terms of the look/formality. Think about who your visitors are and what they expect to see/what you want them to see, and what you want to convey. And whatever that look is, be consistent.

*Lighting – for most corporate brands, you’re looking for clean, well lit (but not overexposed/no “hot spots”), softer, non-dramatic lighting. The exception may be for businesses that are more artistic in nature (e.g., industrial designers/graphic designers/artists) where you may want a more dramatic look.

*Expression/posing – some people are more comfortable in front of the camera than others, and while it’s the photographer’s job to bring the best out of each subject, people have different personalities. It is important however to determine the kind of look you’re going for – conservative vs. more spontaneous. For example, a law firm that primarily focuses on criminal law would likely have a different look than a company that provides health and wellness services.

Consistency is an important aspect of any branding/messaging, particularly when it comes to images of key people on your website – you can still be creative and show individuality but doing so while being consistent in headshots sends a more powerful/stable message to the viewer.