During a recent leadership conference, I had the opportunity to have some professional photos taken for about $60 from a headshots truck. The photo shoot, although brief (10 minutes), was a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to try different ways of presenting myself without the benefit of wardrobe changes. A trick I learned from a photographer friend many years ago is that if you want to capture emotion in the face, think about something that would elicit the emotion you want to capture. I thought about this trick as I was waiting my turn in front of the camera. I thought about my commitment to my company’s success (left photo); I thought about how happy I was to be at the event (middle photo); I thought about how much I love my children (right photo). Looking at these photos helped me realize that we do wear our emotions on our face – commitment, fun, love – and we can choose what emotion we want to show the world just by shifting our thinking.
Looking at these photos helped me understand what is meant by curating. A term often used in the art world, curating is the intentional act of selecting something over something else because it serves a particular purpose. I have three photos (in addition to others) that I can use to curate what impression I want to make to the viewer or reader. If I want to convey the message that I am committed to the success of my company, I will choose the image or images that exudes genuine commitment. If I want to exude excitement over a new product launch, I will choose the photo that shows my biggest smile. If I want to share the love and support that is feeding my drive to succeed, I will choose a photo that leaves you with that emotional impression.
My iconic photo of who I shall lovingly call my “professional stunt double” is of me all dolled up in an orange sleeveless shirt:
This photo is from a series of photos I had done after I finished my dissertation in 2016. It was a graduation gift from my mother. A photographer, clothes designer, and hair stylist worked with me over three hours to get 10 of my best looks. This session was quite a bit more expensive, but I now have very professional images reflecting a variety of looks that I will be able to use for another 10 years…and if I continue coloring my hair, they could last even longer!
In all seriousness, having these photos allows me to curate the impression I want to leave with the public. They give me the flexibility to create, or recreate myself over time to reflect my mood or the phase my company is in at a particular period of time. We grow and change over time, and so do our creative endeavors. Photos are a great way to capture this growth and share it with the world. You can use photos in much the same way as you work to create your own Collegiate Gigster identity.
As Collegiate Gigsters, we must understand that the photos we choose of ourselves to share with the world must convey the messages we want the world to receive from us. The right photo may increase our capacity to make a connection with a client. The right photo on social media will influence the type and frequency of visitors that engage with us online. The right photo will help propel us past our competition. The budget spectrum for head shots is broad – from free (that cousin who loves photography) to thousands of dollars (studio quality work) – but start where you can and go from there. Begin thinking about how you are curating your image, and how the right photo can help set you apart and amplify your influence on the world.
This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.