New year, new headshot, new possibilities

Seasoned photographer Dwayne Brown on the power of professional headshots in today's digital age
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Dwayne Brown, owner of Dwayne Brown Studio and creator of headshotsMatter, on the corner of Richmond Road and Churchill Avenue in Westboro Village. Photo by Caroline Phillips

In the world of first impressions, a terrible headshot can, like a limp handshake, cost you your next job or business opportunity.

With January being the month of change, Ottawa photographer Dwayne Brown is encouraging business professionals and entrepreneurs to consider updating their headshots, particularly if their current photo isn’t doing them any favours.

“I love it, I love being a photographer,” said Brown in an interview. “What I like the most, what’s most important to me, is to help people, to help them elevate their own brand.”

The right headshot can not only help people put their best face forward for potential employers, clients and customers but can also assist in telling a small story of who they are, he believes. It’s like the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Claire Brown, marketing and sales co-ordinator at Cardel Homes. Photo by Dwayne Brown Studio

Brown, who runs Dwayne Brown Studio in Westboro, has been working in photography for more than 38 years, focusing for the past decade on corporate and headshot photography. It’s an area that appeals to the people-person part of his personality.

He also created the global headshot project, headshotsMatter, which helps photographers around the world connect with LinkedIn users. There are more than 700 million users of the social networking site, which is specifically designed for the business community.

“Headshots are a way for me to photograph lots of people, have lots of conversations, learn a lot of stories, and then help people present their professional brand to the outside world,” Brown explained.

There was a time, he said, when corporations focused on promoting only the images of their top executives. Now, it’s common for everyone at a company to have their own professional headshot, he noted.

“Good companies show their respect and gratitude by including their whole team in their marketing efforts.”

'Nervousness' normal

Of course, not everyone is comfortable in front of a lens. There are plenty of camera-shy folks who hate having their picture taken, he acknowledged.

“Everyone brings a certain level of nervousness. It comes in a whole bunch of different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, people will be giggly or their lips will quiver or they might turn red.”

Part of Brown’s job is to put his clients at ease and to use the right camera lenses, lights and angles to get the most flattering image.

"What I try to do is talk with people and get to know their story."

“What I try to do is talk with people and get to know their story,” said Brown, who later puts the photos through subtle editing and retouching. “I would never shoot anything or present anything that didn’t make somebody feel good about themselves.”

He believes that a good LinkedIn headshot, combined with a strong profile summary, can help boost a person’s career.

“You can impact people’s perception of you,” Brown said. “You have an opportunity. I think that’s really important.”

Brown suggests updating headshots every couple of years. Otherwise, he says, images start losing their authenticity.

“It doesn’t accurately tell the story,” he said of old headshots. “Tell the story, have some courage. But put yourself in the hands of a photographer that you’re very connected to, who knows what they’re doing and is also someone you trust to be your visual advocate.

“You don’t have to hire me, but hire somebody who will really take care of you and will really help you to tell that story.”

Tips for taking professional headshots

 

  • Opt for basic hair and makeup

  • Make eye contact with the camera lens

  • Stay away from major trends that can quickly outdate your headshot

  • Make sure your expression is authentic and natural

  • Get enough sleep and water

  • Arrive with a positive attitude

caroline@obj.ca