How to Take a Professional Headshot Photo

Most small businesses feature pictures of their team on their websites, social media platforms or even in their physical location. When customers see pictures of the business owner or your team, they will associate the quality of the picture with the quality of your business. Everything is marketing!

With the popularity of selfies and casual smartphone photography, it can be difficult to get professional headshot photos of your team. Here are some simple tips for taking great headshots:

  • Don’t take a selfie. Even if you can’t hire a professional photographer, ask someone else to take the photo for you.
  • Plan the background. The background of a headshot photograph shouldn’t be distracting. Avoid backgrounds that contain other people or traffic. Easy background choices include brick walls, an interior wall painted a simple color, trees, or other non-distracting natural elements.
  • Think about lighting. For most headshots, it’s fine to use a smartphone or consumer-grade camera, as long as you have good lighting. Ambient daylight will make for the best results, so have fun taking your photo shoot outside.
  • Take the photo straight on. Unless you have an artistic vision that uses unique angles, take the simple approach of having your photograph taken at eye-level, while looking at the camera.
  • Stay focused. Make sure the camera is focused on you and that the picture is clear and sharp.
  • Look the part. Plan your wardrobe, do your hair and smile!
  • It’s great to be quirky, but have a purpose for the composition. Think of settings that are relevant to your brand personality. If you don’t have a lot of time, classic portrait approaches are always great for professional headshot photography.
  • Ideally, the photos of your entire team will complement each other. Using similar angles and backgrounds will reinforce customers’ impressions that you all collaborate.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at some examples.

Examples of Good Headshot Photos

Good Headshot Photo Example
Incidentally, this is my professional headshot, taken by the amazingly talented Laura Poland of Reflected Spectrum Photography

Good Headshot Example

Good headshot example

Good headshot example

Examples of Bad Headshot Photos

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

By following these tips and putting in a little extra effort, your small business will have team headshots that represent your brand.

Small Business Logo Design: The good, the bad and the ugly.

Reflected Spectrum Photography just unveiled their new site featuring the logo I was pleased to design. Take a look:

During the design process, I realized many small businesses could use some design tips for their logos. And since logos are, by definition, visual, the best way to give advice is to show you the good, the bad and the ugly.

Design Criteria 1 – Legibility

The most important aspect of logo design is legibility. Is your company’s name easy to read? It sounds like an overly simplistic criterion, but sometimes designers get caught up in exciting font choices and graphics, losing sight of a logo’s legibility.

The Good

This logo is very easy to read, and as a bonus includes a tagline explaining what you can expect of the CEO Club.

The Bad

This logo is a work of art – much too pretty to designate as ugly. It is also a failure. Could anyone glancing at it tell what those letters are? Even after studying it, are you certain what it’s supposed to communicate?

The Ugly

Those malformed polygons are supposed to spell out 2012, as in the 2012 Olympics in London. It’s clearly an example of a designer losing sight of a logo’s most basic goal – to communicate the brand clearly.

Design Criteria 2 – Color Palette

Your logo’s colors need to blend and contrast pleasantly. Color theory is science, but all too often amateur designers try to put the boldest colors together to make the highest impact. Hire a good designer, or Google search for a color wheel, but don’t put blue letters on a red background.

The Good

Brown is an unusual color to use in a logo, but combined with the taupe and cranberry red, it blends to show an image of folksy charm and wisdom. Scott Hogue writes a blog and books providing life advice, so it fits.

The Bad

Combining bright red with bright blue confuses the eye, because your eyes can’t focus on certain shades of red and blue at the same time. You may see the logo vibrate or feel the need to blink. These are not the reactions you want when people look at your logo.

The Ugly

Many times, I’ve been requested to create, “Just a simple graphic of red text on a plain white background.” Many people assume that if it’s simple, it can’t be bad. Unfortunately, red text on a white background is not just bad – it’s ugly. The colors you choose influence how customers feel about your business. Do you want them to feel like your logo is like a stop sign?

(Isn’t it funny that a business named Piece of Cake chose a gift box for their logo instead of, say, a slice of cake?)

Design Criteria 3 – Visual Interest

A logo should never be boring. A logo communicates a vibe to your customers and should have visual interest. Often in small businesses, design-by-committee impulses take over, resulting in a logo that everyone can live with but no one is excited about. If you and your employees aren’t excited, your customers certainly won’t be.

The Good

Yes, this is our logo. But it has very good visual interest. It communicates that we think outside the box (or zoo, as it were), are creative and have a little bit of fun. The logo directly ties to the name of the business and draws customers’ attention to what we do – MARKETING.

The Bad

They’ve tried to spruce up the plain, boring wordmark with spacing, but it doesn’t work. Does seeing this logo make you want to learn more about these lawyers? Probably not. Many small businesses fall prey to boring visuals like this because good design requires a talented designer who costs money. But a good logo is the cornerstone of your visual communication. It appears everywhere your business is mentioned in print and on the web.

The Ugly

When you think of bars, do you immediately imagine a hummingbird? No? This logo demonstrates that even if your business name is your own name, the visual interest needs to focus on what you sell. For instance, this business would have been better off depicting a tough blue jay or even an eagle.

Design Criteria 4 – Scalability

Many small business marketing designers don’t consider how a logo will scale for different uses. Your logo needs to be scalable for every intended use – small for business cards and online banner ads, medium for letterhead and print ads, and large for building signs, billboards or vehicle graphics.

The Good

This logo is built of modular pieces that can be arranged according to where and how it will be displayed. For a long, narrow space, such as a sign on a car wash, the lighthouse graphic can be removed. For a square space, like in the corner of a website, the text graphics can be stacked. Your logo doesn’t have to be identical in every place it appears as long as it uses the same components.

The Bad

This logo is interesting, but it’s certainly not scalable. If I shrink it another 30%, the text becomes very hard to read, and the graphics begin to be indiscernible. This problem exists with most circular logos that have text around the circumference. Consider the smallest size you will need if designing a logo like this – if it needs to be on a business card, you will likely have issues.

The Ugly

I enlarged this logo, so you would be able to read the text. In its original state, the text was impossible to read. When your lion is roughly five times the size of your text, you have an ugly scalability problem.

Using the criteria of Legibility, Color Palette, Visual Interest and Scalability, rate your own small business’s logo. Is it good, bad or ugly? Need some help judging? Send it to me at, and I’ll give you an analysis.

Brand Harmony: New Paperback Edition

Recently, I was given the privilege of designing the cover for the paperback edition of one of my favorite business books, Brand Harmony by Steve Yastrow. The process of redesigning helped me reconnect with the core principles of my small business marketing philosophy. We had to create a visual that showed the essence of Brand Harmony, which is thoughtfully orchestrating every experience customers have with your business, so that each customer has a compelling and motivating story about you.

The possibilities for the design were endless, ranging from representing a pointillist painting to depicting the employees of a company seamlessly working together. We finally settled on the violin motif because of its beautiful simplicity – which is just what a small business’ brand should be. (Accomplished photographer Laura Poland found just the right angle to capture the cover image.)

Brand Harmony is an exceptionally good book for the small business owner or marketing professional because of its radical ideas on marketing such as:

  • How to cut your advertising budget and make more money.
  • Brute force branding – why it doesn’t work.
  • Clear action steps about connecting with your customers and finding out what is truly important to them.
  • How to create your “Picture of Success” and develop a path to reach it.

After all this to-do, I’m sure you’d like to see the cover, eh? Here are the front and back covers:

And if you’d like to buy the book, it’s only $10 at

Small Business Marketing Spotlight: Reflected Spectrum Photography

Reflected Spectrum Photography is an Indianapolis-based firm specializing in wedding photography, creative portraiture, and fine art photography. Although the business has only been in operation for a year, owner Laura Poland has turned it into a successful venture. Laura is a professional photographer who also runs the business. In this interview, she will share her advice for small business success, some challenges she has faced and the joy she has for photography. I’m certain readers will also enjoy the beautiful photographs she has supplied for this article.

Laura starts by telling us what she enjoys about owning her own business:

I love the freedom I get from owning a business.  I have full creative control over all my work, so I’m free to try new techniques and experiment with new ideas.  I’m also able to work at my own pace, set my own hours, and choose my own assignments.

But all small business owners discover challenges as they grow. For Reflected Spectrum Photography, Laura was already an experienced photographer, but running the other aspects of the business, such as sales, marketing and finance, was difficult at first. Since her core competency was photography, she sought advice:

I continue to learn as much as I can about these fields to improve my knowledge and skills in those areas, but I have also benefited greatly from the help of good consultants, such as Zoo In A Jungle Marketing and Andrew Technology. Having expert advice available has been extremely helpful to give my business a head start.

As with most successful small businesses, Reflected Spectrum Photography focuses on the customer experience and building relationships. Relationship-building is easier for small businesses than with large ones, which is a key competitive advantage of being small. Laura agrees and adds, “I really enjoy building relationships with all my clients. I find it very rewarding to be present at the most special moments in my clients’ lives, and to see how their children have grown at each new portrait session.”

Laura realizes that satisfying her clients involves more than delivering beautiful photographs, so she ensures they have a great experience during the photo shoot as well:

I try to help my clients feel relaxed and get them excited about having their pictures taken. If my clients are enjoying themselves, that allows me to capture special moments as they happen and preserve them as art, and I hope that they will be treasured for years to come. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the expression on my clients’ faces when I’ve captured the perfect expression of happiness on their child’s face, or caught a spark of real emotion from their wedding day. If my customers enjoy the experience and love the results, they are likely to hire me again in the future and refer me to their friends.

As for building her customer base, Laura has employed a very successful web marketing strategy and client referral network. She says, “Before you can make a client happy, you first have to actually get some clients, so well planned sales and marketing strategies have played a key role in my success.”

As a successful small business owner, Laura parted with the following advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:

Before you start to focus on selling your products or services, build a solid foundation for your business to grow on.  Once you become successful, you may be too busy with your clients to focus on building a good web site, formulating targeted marketing initiatives, or finding a record keeping system that works for you.  If you need help with any of these things, don’t be afraid to ask!  Help is out there in many forms.  Books, forums, internet articles, and expert consultants are all available to help you get your business off to the right start.

Contact Info:

Reflected Spectrum Photography
Laura Poland