Corrections or additions?
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
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
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
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