As a woman starting out in your chosen field it is easy to get lost in the do's and don’ts of careers. Various human resource websites and columnists may give you varied opinions on your resume, dressing, networks, career platforms and the dreaded headshot. Head shots can be a tricky matter especially if a female photographer has a shy personality in front of the camera; she may not be interested in taking any pictures especially for professional reasons. In an ideal world your resume should be sufficient to get you where you want to be, but as any professional will tell you, it doesn't hurt to go the extra mile.
Getting professional headshots done can be costly and time consuming depending on whether you are starting out on your career or if you are a busy individual. Various industries have headshot requirements such as writers, journalists and authors. Companies may require head shots of their team leaders of branding purposes and others may require head shots of potential employees before they are invited for an interview. The entertainment world is known for using headshots to shortlist actors, dancers or models. This article does not attempt to answer if headshots are necessary or not but will give you five benefits of getting a professional headshot and hopefully guide you.

1. It's an introduction
Headshots are a good way of introducing yourself. With improvements in information technology and modern day photography, more companies are seeking alternative means of sourcing employees. Increasingly, human resource departments are now sourcing through the internet using various platforms. Organisations are becoming more adept to hiring without interviewing the physical person. Interviews are conducted online or through phone calls. Networking platforms such as LinkedIn are the new hunting ground for companies; thus one does not need to physically meet anyone, but can search for the right person. Headshots are a good way of introducing yourself to people who may not have a chance to meet.
Secondly headshots are a new way of standing out from the competition. Picture this; you are looking for a job on a social platform. The advertisement further states that female applicants are encouraged to apply. There are about 30 applicants and almost all of them meet the requirements. Therefore how does one stand out from the competition? A professional headshot especially on a social network platform makes a huge difference. Not only will one call attention to you, but it will highlight you as someone who is professional. Female photographers can use a professional headshot as a subtle way to introduce you to potential employers without necessarily shouting for attention. Any employer will notice a professionally done headshot and appreciate the effort put in by the applicant. Any potential company looking to hire on LinkedIn that comes across your professional image will definitely take notice and move forward to look into your professional qualifications with interest.
For this reason, a professional headshot will ensure that you leave a lasting impression on the audience. Head shots may be required for a variety of reasons such as a published article, a job interview, creating a network, blogs and social media. Whatever the need, a headshot will be the first interaction a reader has with you; thus the headshot should leave an impression on the audience to ensure that the audience remembers you or the organisation and wants to engage with you or your company. In particular, female photographer headshots should inspire confidence, personality and professionalism. Think of a headshot as a first date. The first thing you notice about a person is their look. The same applies with headshots; they have to get you noticed for career reasons. This can only be achieved through a professional headshot.

2. Branding
Head shots are a good way to either brand yourself or get your brand noticed. We will address these two aspects in separate points.
As a mid-level career professional or just starting out, all individuals would like to send a message to the business world that he/she is a qualified professional. The kind of picture a female photographer takes may either enhance or devalue this view. Several human resource blogs advise that one should dress in a conservative suit when attending an interview in order to create a positive or favourable impression on the interviewer. The same applies with head shots. Remember this is the image that your audience will associate you with, which in turn becomes your brand. Depending on what the female photographer intends to use the headshot for, one has to be careful what brand they create. The Selfie culture has brought a new platform for expression especially amongst female photographers, but that is not an acceptable picture in a professional setting. Secondly it is very easy for you to look like a flirt, unless it is required in a modelling shot. An experienced photographer would be able to guide you through taking the right picture for the right setting/audience thus creating a brand for one to be associated with.
The second kind of branding is associated with product brand management. Cosmetic companies have mastered the art of brand management to market and sell their products using female photographers. Every time a cosmetic company launches a product, there is always a face associated with it. Think about the last time you bought a cosmetic product and the image that was in your mind at the moment. It must have been the face of the company. Even large corporates have a face that is associated with its brand. Think about Virgin Group of companies and how Richard Branson's face is on every aspect of the company. Also look at how the United Nation Agencies use celebrities to lead their various humanitarian campaigns. Brand ambassadors have become a huge aspect of marketing and can take one's business from mid-level to an international brand. Thus for any person running a business, start up, company, selling products and/or giving services, it would be a smart idea to get a brand ambassador. In such cases, a good headshot should reflect the brand you are selling irrespective of whether you are a male or female photographer. For example one cannot sell a legal brand and the headshot shows a lawyer in a cap wearing jeans. One cannot be customer care manager and the headshot has them with a frown. Or a product being sold and the head shot of the brand ambassador has colours that contrast with the product. Therefore, a professional headshot will give one the authenticity needed in branding themselves or their company to reflect their ideologies and make the brand more relatable to the target audience.

Roya Mahboob

3. It tells a story
Headshots tell a story about the person. From the angle of the picture, location, to the lighting, expression on the face, appearance and finally the words accompanying the headshot, tell a story. One has to be careful when taking headshots as you would like the right story to be reflected in the picture as well as words. Female photographers are said to be better at this as a women are assumed to naturally know how to bring out the right emotions. Opinions may vary but remember with professional headshots, you would like the photographer to know exactly what story your picture should say.
Philosophers have said that a picture carries a thousand words; look at the pictures you took back in high school and now as a professional. It is likely from your younger pictures you have a look of adventure, inexperience, potential or optimism. In your older pictures, you start seeing confidence, professionalism and certainty. Look at the body language as well. In a photo shoot, photographers always insist on sitting with your back straight. This forces female photographers to have the correct posture which shows confidence unlike slouched shoulders which show weakness. A female photographer's smile, or lack of it, reflects her personality and/or professionalism. A sneer shows arrogance, toothy smile shows lack of seriousness, narrow smile shows one is close minded, frown shows stress etc. Your body language reflects your message even where the body language is subconscious. A professional headshot will ensure that the right message is sent out.
The Background of the headshot also tells a story. A busy background naturally reflects clutter and confusion. Unless the headshot is for an entertainment magazine, it is very hard to concentrate when the background calls for more attention than the subject does. Plain backgrounds though simple, may send a message of aloofness, especially if the subject is not smiling. Some backgrounds with subtle colour effects, show attention to detail. This tells the audience that the subject of the picture is keen on the details and probably a meticulous person. Outdoor backgrounds have a tendency to reveal the relaxed or nurturing side of most female photographers. Whichever message one is keen on sending, remember body language, facial expressions and backgrounds can either enhance it or diminish it. Headshots will tell a story but a professional headshot, will tell the right story.

4. It may be requested
Various organisations may need a headshot for various needs. Companies need head shots either for branding their products or staff may need headshots to reflect the company's image. When marketing or setting up a start-up, headshots may be required to reflect the company's goals or team. Some companies when hiring may request for a headshot to see who the potential interviewees are. The entertainment industry relies heavily on headshots when recruiting. With social networks becoming a platform for professionals to interact, a company may request for a headshot to confirm the image of the person who will appear before the interview panel. Skype interviews are especially common nowadays where one may not be able to see the interview panel but the panel may need an image of the interviewee.
A female professional may find herself in a situation where she needs a headshot, or she is requested to send a headshot but doesn't have one. The moment may be of such urgency that the company is unwilling to wait for her response. Besides, professionalism dictates that you should not keep a potential employer/client waiting. This means that one should always have a stand by headshot just in case. Not only does this make one look professional but it also saves on time and cost. You cannot keep taking new pictures any time one is requested. Having a stand by headshot takes care of this challenge.

5. It is an Investment
Head shots are an investment in your future. Think back to that time when you brought your friends home and your parents brought out the photo album with your embarrassing baby pictures. In one of them you are probably wearing a toy stethoscope of how you wanted to be a doctor. Growing up you probably looked at that photo as a reminder of your dream. The photo encouraged you to achieve your dream and now you are a doctor. Psychology has shown that when someone begins to see themselves as what they can be, then they become. A well done picture can act as major motivation for the individual, team or a company. Not only will the headshot help female photographers see the beauty and potential but will also motivate her to become the person in the picture. Thus a professional headshot will help female professionals see the potential they have to be a professional and each time a she looks at it, she will invest more in achieving her dreams. That is why most of female professionals have pictures on their desk, it reflects their motivation as to what they can be or what they want to achieve.
A second way for looking into the investment aspect is through financial implications of a professional headshot. A professional headshot may be pricey but it is an investment. When applying for a job, a professional headshot has the potential of making female professionals stand out from the competition. If she gets the job, then the amount of money spent getting the headshot will not matter compared to the salary. Thus anyone thinking about getting a headshot should not focus on the present cost, but the likely benefit they will get once they get the job/client.