Who Are You?

Male Corporate Headshot - Who are you


7th March 2020

No, seriously. Who are you?

You are far more than the Vice President EMEA, Human Resources manager or actor’s agent. Who are you is a deceptively simple question but for a headshot to open career opportunities it needs an answer.

Most headshots are either for networking sites such as LinkedIn or for a professional listing on Spotlight. So perhaps the question should be: who are you, professionally? It’s an easier question and one that profits from a little research.

Start off by asking yourself: who am I selling to? Imagine yourself as a commodity or service that has a market. Thinking this through will help identify your audience. You may have several distinct groups of people to communicate to. Facebook, LinkedIn and Spotlight audiences are different and subtle adaptations of your message may be required.

Mature Business Portrait

What is Narrative?

Every image has a narrative: the story contained within the image. Often tacit, the narrative is rarely consciously recognised by the audience. At a very basic level it is simply understood. It is the first impression, taking microseconds to form and can be the difference between success and failure.

You might think that headshots, being close-cropped portraits, have little or no narrative. But colour, lighting, pose, clothing, hair, make-up, background have a profound effect on your message. Look at the images below. Can you spot the Musician? Property Investor? Banker? Start-Up CEO?

Headshot with NarrativeOnce you’ve identified your target market, what is it that they are looking for from you? What core skills mark you out from the crowd? What is it about you that people ‘buy’? Many of us are too close to the product to see our own strengths. Ask trusted friends. Take a look at your colleagues profiles, they are your competitors. What are they saying? How do they communicate with the audience. Once you have a clear idea of what you wish to communicate make a list of your key qualities:

  • Experienced/Newly Graduated/Competent
  • Attention to detail/Self-Starter/Team Player
  • Diligent/Creative/Finisher
  • Trustworthy/Resourceful/Dependable
  • Empathetic/Results-Driven/

It is these qualities that start to form the narrative in your headshot portrait.

For commercial images narrative is a conscious choice agreed by both subject and photographer. Narrative has to be compelling, captivating, capturing imagination and honest. Done well, it will hold the audience’s interest.

Perhaps the most important element of narrative is expression: what elements of your personality and character are you transmitting to the lens at the moment of capture? It is hard to look intelligent when daydreaming. Getting the right expression is part of the theatre of photography and portrait photography is performance art. It is an exchange between you and the photographer for the benefit of the audience. It captures the real ‘you’.


If narrative is about what is in the image, context refers to external elements: where will the image be seen (art gallery, magazine or social media). Elements adjacent to the image will modify how it is ‘read’. A profile picture can look out-of-place if the context doesn’t match the narrative. Audiences feel that something is ‘wrong’. The viewer (potential client, casting agent, recruitment professional) may not know why they feel uneasy, they will just move on to the next candidate.

Set of headshots environment, Public Relations and Documentary

Matching Context to Narrative (and vice-versa)

Where will your image be shown? How will it be shown? Different media often need different narratives: an image for a book cover may need to be different for a magazine PR release. So consider the options: do you need several headshots for different publications?

When planning your LinkedIn profile think through the following:

  • How can my image match my LinkedIn profile (what does someone with your skill-set and experience look like)?
  • What background/supporting image is needed to support your profile picture.

Your linkedIn default background is a standard blue background with a constellation of networked blobs. Is this good enough? Does it do you your profile justice? Think about your background: what context would support your headshot?

Your LinkedIn background should provide the right context for your role. It should strengthen and support your message and it should sit comfortably within the overall design. The focus should be on your headshot. The background is simply there to enhance your profile.

Occasionally the headshot can create questions. Where there is doubt as to who you are or what you do, the background provides context giving the audience more information about you. Helping them make sense of your headshot.

LinkedIn Headshot with correct context LinkedIn Headshot

Once you have a broad idea of the audience, message and how you wish to communicate all you have to do is take the picture. Self-portraits are notoriously difficult to capture exact expression, pose and lighting. So, for the budget conscious, try to at the least enlist the support of a friend with some photographic skill.

But you may decide that visual consultancy is needed. In which case you’ll be looking for a professional photographer. Choose a portrait specialist: professional photographers specialise. A still-life or food photographer will light you in a specific way: do you really want to look like a Tiramisu?

When deciding on a photographer, check their credentials: are they qualified? Do they have any reviews and ratings? Does their portfolio demonstrate variety? Can they adapt to take the image you need or do they just have one style? Are they as comfortable in the studio as outside in ‘natural’ light?

But perhaps most importantly, will you get on with them? Portrait photography requires teamwork and you need someone who is interested in you.

About Studio Grey

Studio Grey are specialist portrait photographers working from our Covent Garden Studio. All are qualified, with degrees in photography and memberships of professional associations. Our images have won Gold Medals and Cups. Clients include: Accenture, Chanel, Kerney, Lombard Odier, TV personalities and actors.

Please contact us regarding any of your photography needs,
either call us or leave us a message through the contact form. CONTACT FORM