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This column was prepared for the June 20, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Between the Lines

This story, like the one of the "Three Little Pigs," shows how prudent

preparation — having a good photograph of yourself — might bring

rich rewards.

Last month we scheduled a cover feature on a particular high-tech

industry, and we prominently featured several area businesses. The

first entrepreneur (the one who built his house of straw) had no photo

and was not able to meet our photographer’s schedule. A last-minute

effort to take a photo and send it by E-mail had dismal results, so

the story was printed without illustration.

The second entrepreneur was indeed available for a photo shoot, but he

made the democratic mistake insisting that his entire team must be in

the picture. So instead of a vivid, compelling photo of one man, we

had a good, but not exciting, picture of four men.

The third high tech business — this one with a savvy PR agency and

the smarts to make a serious investment in photography up front —

E-mailed an exciting color photo, one that must have cost hundreds of

dollars to produce. The subject of this photo was not even the person

we had interviewed. But guess which photo ended up on our cover?

Of course it was third business. The photo of the second business ran

in the inside of the paper. For the first business, no photo was


We called the PR person from the first business to relay what had

happened. Far from being dismayed, she was exultant. "Now," she said,

"maybe my clients will listen to me when I try to tell them what they


The common wisdom is that a picture is worth a thousand words. Any

entrepreneur or upwardly-mobile business person should have an

up-to-date head shot available. Yet many otherwise savvy business

people don’t have a good photograph of themselves. Is this you? Do you

keep saying, "Oh, I know I should get a photo taken, but I just never

get around to it."

The true (if abrasive) answer to that excuse is, "You’re not getting

any younger or better looking, so why wait?" And the gentle follow up

might be, "Your children will thank you for it." Ten years from now it

will indeed be too late to take the picture of how you look today. So

you might as well get it taken now.

If this photo is destined to be a do-it-yourself project, find a

friend who is handy with a camera. But don’t just face the camera as

if you’re being booked at police headquarters. Find some unobtrusive

pose that will help you feel relaxed during the photo session. Lean on

something, rest your hand on the back of a chair, and put your hands

in some natural position.

Don’t use false animation or faked drama. We don’t want a profile shot

of you carrying on an animated conversation with nobody. Nor do we

want you to pretend to be holding a file of papers as if the

photographer had caught you unawares. When you are sufficiently

important for us to print your photo, we want the reader to see what

you look like. We want a full-face image, as if you are saying "Here I

am, take a look, and remember this face."

It’s better to use natural light, but if you must use flash, stand

far enough way from the wall so your shadow doesn’t give you "big

hair" syndrome.

One "top dog" in the photo is better than three. Save your team photos

on your website instead.

And unless you are a professional graphic designer, don’t try to send

the photo by E-mail. What looks good on the computer screen is

rarely good enough for publication.

The last caveat is to listen to the communications expert who you

hire. Money paid now for quality photos may help keep the wolf from

your door.

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