Does your Image attract or repel your target market?
Princeton University recently published the results of work modelling first impressions from 1,000 photographs. Not only did the researchers discover that perceptions of trustworthiness, attractiveness and dominance were entirely predictable but that earlier work at Princeton discovered that 'first impressions' were made within milliseconds of seeing a portrait. Perhaps more worryingly, staring at the picture for longer only re-inforced first impressions.
The commercial implications are clear: we are visual creatures and in today's connected world, often the first impression we make is through our portrait on the firm's website.
What image is right for your target market?
It is tempting to believe that smiling broadly creates a warm, approachable impression. In some cases it does; but is it appropriate for the whole team? Often 'camera smiles' are forced; necks and shoulders are a little tense and seeing an uncomfortable smile on everyone's face can create the impression of a team ill-at-ease with itself.
Smiles have to be right for the individual team member: a full, relaxed smile may be appropriate for a junior member of the team, it can be inappropriate for senior personnel. We expect mature, senior members of the team to exude quiet confidence. Big grins can give the impression that they are 'trying too hard'.
A broad smile may be entirely appropriate for a junior member of staff
Calm confidence creates a more appropriate impression for the Managing Director
Your target market should determine your approach to imagery. At the simplest level (that of the organisation) you would not expect firms specialising in corporate law and family law to have similar headshots on their 'Our People' page. But dig deeper and the situation becomes much more complex.
Often professional services are delivered through teams of experts. Astute firms create a favourable impression in the minds of their ideal clients through developing portraits that support each other's functional roles. The portrait of the partner responsible for mergers and acquisitions will be subtly different from the partner responsible for commercial litigation. The page is carefully crafted to re-inforce the impression of a balanced, powerful team ready to work on complex projects.
Portraits should be appropriate for each team members role, re-inforcing the firm's ability to provide solutions to complex problems.
Creating a favourable first impression is perhaps more important for the smaller firm: with fewer team members your portraits need to work harder. It is also important to get the right 'feel' for your audience. The low-key dark images above are perfect for corporate lawyers but would be inappropriate for local solicitors serving individuals and families.
Choices have to be made about the portrait itself: simple headshot or environmental portrait? (at a desk with a library of leather bound books in the background). If your firm serves the entertainment or media market, you might get away with professionally drawn caricatures.
Whatever you decide, your image is not something a professional firm can leave to chance: when impressions are made in milliseconds and re-inforced in seconds, portrait quality is vital.