There’s no question that representing yourself in a professional way online can be of great benefit. Having a headshot for your website and your social profiles that is clean, bright and flattering can be a real differentiator. Representing the best version of yourself helps send the right message to prospective new clients, recruiters or potential mates.
What I’ve learned is I grew up insecure about my looks. These insecurities have fueled many of the ideas in this blog and turned into a passion for helping other women feel good about themselves. I always say when I heal other women I heal myself, and when I heal myself I heal other women.
Over time I’ve learned to accept myself and embrace the very things that make me different. I’ve also learned that when I feel happy, I look better in photographs. I believe this is true for other women as well.
It has taken me almost three decades to feel mostly comfortable with myself. Today I know the importance of putting my best foot forward. While there are a million ways things that can go wrong with branding, having nice photos is one advantage that’s easy to take care of. We all need to do the best with what we have.
I’ve recently changed my hair color and I’ve never had professional headshots taken. I recently met a photographer at a NAWBO event named Nancy Rothstein. I learned more about her process, saw her incredible portfolio and wanted to work with her.
Nancy is passionate about helping women feel amazing about themselves, and having that glow come through in her photography. I love working with other women small business owners who are also on a journey to help lift up other women. I can’t say enough positive things about the experience I had with her. She was gentle through the whole process, and a true perfectionist. She made me laugh throughout our photo shoot. She is a true master of light and has an uncanny ability to draw that spirit out of you–and make it come through in your headshot. Learn more about Nancy’s philosophy and views on self esteem in our interview below.
Blake Landau: What is a common reaction you find from clients who are getting their head-shots done for the first time?
Nancy Rothstein: Many people come in saying something like:
I don’t photograph well
I’m not photogenic
I hate photos of myself
I’ve never had a photo of myself that I’ve liked
I’m really uncomfortable in front of the camera
BL: Is there a difference between men and women with regard to being self-conscious in front of the camera?
NR: I think it depends on the person. I’ve had both genders [clients] who are self-critical and uncomfortable. Both genders have come in with specific things about themselves that they don’t like. I wouldn’t want to generalize but I do think men are more comfortable with themselves. But I think pretty much everyone has challenges seeing themselves.
BL: Do you have any advice for people who feel insecure about their looks or their weight as far as appearing confident in front of the camera?
NR: Well the first part of that answer is at the root of my beliefs—to remember that your beauty is not skin deep. We’re all inherently beautiful—and it’s our human spirit that makes us beautiful. You know that’s true because you experience someone who is “beautiful” by society and media standards, and you know that it would be possible to interact with someone like that and feel that they’re actually ugly in the way they behave or treat other people. Real beauty is inside of us.
If we remember that real beauty comes from our spirit–and tap into that–we’ll naturally be more relaxed and express our beauty in a photograph. Internal beauty comes out through the face and the expression—it doesn’t matter how much they weigh, how many wrinkles they have, how many spots they have, gray hairs, make-up etc. When a person is shining through their eyes and their expression no one looks at that image and says, “oh they need to lose ten pounds.” They look at it and say “wow what a beautiful person.”
Beyond that technique is very important. You have to choose the right photographer. You want to choose a photographer that can bring your inner glow out. Who can help you to be at east in front of the camera, who can see you for who you are and understand what it is you want to express with your image and be able to draw that out.
There are proven techniques in photography that flatter the subject. In a still image you want to do everything possible to make the image flattering whether that’s lighting, camera angle or composition. Bad lighting can make a model look bad. Additionally we all have asymmetry in our faces. The way the photographer poses you and lights you accentuates the asymmetry or balances it. That’s really important in a still image. When we’re animated and interacting with each we don’t notice that. But real life and a still image are very different ways to be perceived.
BL: How do you help people relax when they’re getting their picture taken?
NR: I have a process that starts before the session in my phone consultation. At that time I talk to the client about what they’re trying to express. What aspects of their personality they’re trying to convey with the image. I also give them homework and have them think about things that relate to the qualities they want to portray in their photograph. In the example of a professional person I might have them think about their favorite client, or the feeling they get from being of service to their clients. It could be a feeling of competence of doing their best work. It could be a virtue they’re striving to embody. It could be anything. I don’t ask them to necessarily share it with me but reflect on it prior to the session. During the session I’m very actively coaching them to reflect on these things and to have their inner experience of tapping into those qualities. The ultimate goal is to create an authentic image that feels spontaneous in the context of a contrived photo shoot. That process which is a combination of mediation and method acting helps the subject to experience something authentic that specifically relates to how they want to be perceived during the session rather than looking at a camera and feeling self-conscious.
BL: Why do you love your job?
NR: I love interacting with people and I love creating dynamic images. I’ve been using a camera since I was seven years old. It ‘s a natural way for me to interact with the world. Lately one of my deepest satisfactions with my work is that I create images that remind people of their essential beauty.
All photos in this blog were taken by Nancy Rothstein. Find Nancy on Facebook and Twitter or her website.