Lights, Camera, Action!
Naturally enough, becoming more visible can be a little confronting.
There’s a certain safety involved in working away quietly in the dark.
No-one can see you. No-one knows exactly what you did today.
But that’s the problem, right?
That’s what we want to change.
So not surprisingly, emerging from that safe, quiet darkness is bound
to trigger a little anxiety.
Don’t worry. That’s perfectly normal.
But here’s the good news.
You’re not as vulnerable as you think.
Because, yes, people will soon be noticing you, and your work.
But you can control almost every aspect of what they see.
And that starts with how you look online.
I know, I know; it shouldn’t matter how we look.
We’re professional educators, not reality TV stars.
But people judge each other on first impressions all the time.
You do it yourself, often without even being aware of it.
And be honest: would you really want to strike up a new professional alliance with someone you’ve never met
– but whose online photo makes him look rather like a serial killer?
Exactly. Me either.
When you start becoming more visible, you need to make a positive first impression.
You want to begin new professional relationships from a place of respect and trust.
That’s a lot harder to achieve when you’re presenting yourself as Quasimodo on a bad hair day.
So let’s talk about how to use photos to create a public image that you can be proud of – and perfectly comfortable with.
The 4 Elements of a Great Professional Photo
And this is important. Because you’ll be using your new photo a lot.
A great photo is an essential tool in your new visibility strategy.
Happily, taking a good photo is not difficult.
Follow these easy tips, and you’ll have a photo you can be proud of:
1. Make sure the photo is well-lit, and in focus
Take the picture in natural light if you can.
You want your new network to actually be able to see who you are!
2. A head-and-shoulders shot is fine
A head-and-shoulders shot is perfectly appropriate here.
It helps to convey accessibility, and inspire trust.
It’s also highly practical.
A tightly framed shot means you can re-size your picture for different outlets.
Later on, when you’re comfortable with seeing photos of yourself online, you can branch out into using photos that include relevant backgrounds and settings.
I’m amazed at how many professional photos of educators show them either looking truly forbidding – or savagely depressed.
Why would you ever use a photo that captures you in a bad mood?
The whole point of taking this new photo is to show that you’re friendly and approachable.
So look into the camera, make eye contact with your audience, and smile.
4. Choose your clothes wisely
Even though you’re focusing on the head-and-shoulders area, you still need to put some thought into what to wear.
How formal do you want to go?
Do you want to wear business clothes, or something a little more casual?
Think about what kind of image you want to convey, and whose attention you want.
Then you simply dress accordingly.
These are the basics of taking a good professional photo.
Not exactly rocket science, is it?
And you don’t even need to book studio time with a professional photographer to make this happen.
Ask your significant other, or a friend with some photographic talent to help you out.
You’ll be more relaxed with people you know and trust.
That will help produce a relaxed kind of confidence in the final photo.
Adding Personality to Your Photo
Your new picture shouldn’t be as stiff and lifeless as a passport photo.
It should capture the viewer’s attention in a positive way.
One effective way to make that happen is to make sure your photo reflects your real personality.
In Lesson 1, we talked about what sets you apart; what makes you different.
Your photo is a great way to reinforce that point of difference with an image.
There are many ways to bring your real self to packaging your personal brand.
A good friend of mine is a senior History professor at a university.
He’s been riding motorcycles for decades, and bikes are a big part of his identity.
So he uses a photo that reflects that.
His picture on the departmental website shows him wearing a good shirt and jeans – and grinning happily next to his favorite bike.
It’s authentic, it’s memorable, and it’s perfectly fitting for his professional context.
Notice he doesn’t use a photo that makes him look like he’s the head of an outlaw biker gang. He’s finely controlling how his image is presented, and it works very well.
It would never work as a passport photo … and that’s a good thing!
Set up a folder containing a selection of 3-5 potentially usable photos of yourself.
Before you start sharing them, make sure they show you in the best possible light.
I’m not suggesting you photo-shop your head onto Angelina Jolie’s body.
Minor tweaks to lighting, focus and framing can make your photo look more professional.
Here are two free tools I use to crop out background “noise,” and make photos brighter and clearer.
You can also use these tools to resize your photos to specific dimensions.
Very handy – and very simple.
Where to Use Your New Photo
We’ll look at using your photo in public outlets a little later.
For now, let’s focus on how it can help raise your profile within your organization.
There are regular opportunities to use your new photo to become more visible at work.
And when you have a photo of yourself you actually like, you’ll be more inclined to share it without feeling embarrassed.
A good place to start is to actively look for places where a great photo can help to gain you more positive attention.
These might include:
- Your email avatar that appears on all your outgoing messages
- The Contact page of your online courses
- Your Staff information page
- The next time you’re profiled in your departmental newsletter
- Web pages you contribute to on the organization’s intranet
- With an article you submit to an internal publication.
There are plenty of avenues like this – and now you’re aware of them, they’ll be easier to spot.
There will already be photos of you on your organization’s website.
Do you know where they are? And which ones are being used?
Search for your name on your organization’s website.
Screw up your courage, and do a quick inventory of which photos are out there for the world to see.
If you don’t like them, get them replaced with your new photo.
Do it today, and you immediately take back control of how your brand is being presented.
Happily, in this online era, you can have massive input into shaping your own public image.
That’s a huge relief.
It means that as you become more visible, your new contacts will like what they see.
Next, we’re going beyond the packaging, to the product itself – you!
Let’s talk about how to show the world that the work you do is worth noticing.