Apparently, we live in a free society. This must mean that the way we behave is really nothing to do with anyone else – so long as we hurt no-one. Part of our freedom of expression must be the freedom to offend – there is no such thing as the right to be unoffended. Luckily most of us exercise the right to express opinions that might offend with great restraint. Especially if we want something from the person who might be offended, especially if it’s something like business.
OK, so a website profile picture is unlikely to give any real offense, but sometimes people choose to take umbrage at the slightest thing, such as not conforming to their expectation of what you should look like. There is no ‘uniform’ for a photographer, I’ll wear a DJ to a black tie event of course, but if I turned up to a corporate portrait shoot dressed like a penguin they might think I was a singing telegram. So what should I wear in my profile picture to make people feel that I’m really just like them and they really ought to like me?
Well since I don’t actually know who ‘they’ are, let alone what they’re like the best I can hope to do is to avoid demonstrating that I’m definitely NOT like them!
I have to make sure there’s nothing about the image I project that someone can dislike. Unfortunately this means always playing it safe. Of course we should never ‘judge a book by the cover’ but the way we look does say a lot about us, whether we like it or not. If someone doesn’t care what they look like, they surely don’t really care what I think of them. If they don’t care what I think, then I might assume they don’t care about me. Why would I do business with someone who doesn’t care about me?
For a photographer, playing it safe means being smart enough, but not too formal. I’ve seen photographers wearing a tea-shirt or fleece embroidered with their logo, and they look good. It’s the sort of thing gas fitters and plumbers wear, but I don’t sell my craft skills. It’s how and what I photograph that I sell, not the act of photographing.
Of course the clothes to wear in a business portrait depend on the business. What do clients or customers expect and more importantly, what would put them off? It’s not always easy to see things from the perspective of the other person, but it’s important to try in order to define what a potential client expects to see. Then you can open your wardrobe to see what fits the brief, and hope that it still fits you!
Have a think about those piercings. While you have every right to wear as many piercings as you wish, just remember that other people have an equal right to their opinion of tongue studs and people who choose to wear them.
There’s no doubt that it’s harder for women to hit the right sartorial note than it is for men. Women have a greater range of possibilities so it’s easier to get it wrong. Men tend to be less aware of being judged or just don’t care. It’s harder for a man in a suit-wearing profession to express themselves through the clothes they ware, the point is that the business photo is the place to create a good impression, not a platform for self-expression.
Dressing properly and dressing well can make you feel a bit special and a bit more confident in front of the camera, and that confidence can make the biggest difference to the impression the picture makes.
Blogs with some more sensible advice