I was reading Donald Miller’s excellent book recently, ‘Building A Story Brand’. In it he refers to a famous marketing campaign for Dove soap. The concept of the campaign is that other people see a beauty in us which we don’t see ourselves. The campaign was launched in the US in 2013 and featured the work of a FBI trained forensic artist.
Several women sat where he couldn’t see them and they were asked to describe themselves to him whilst he sketched what they told him. He did not meet any of the subjects when he had finished. He then repeated the process but the second time a person who had recently met the subject was asked to describe the person whilst he sketched them again. This process was repeated with several subjects of different ages and racial backgrounds.
Later, the subjects were invited back to an exhibition where they viewed both sketches of them. One was how they saw themselves and the other was how other people saw them. Without exception, the other person’s view of each subject was more realistic and more attractive than how the subjects thought they looked.
I’ve found the same to be true when I’m photographing someone’s portrait or headshot. A huge majority of people, female or male, think other people look better than they themselves think they do. Which is exactly what the Dove campaign so brilliantly demonstrated.
How we look in our headshot photos is partly up to us, but it’s also up to the people who photograph us, how they prepare us, how they make us feel in front of the camera, how they put us at ease. how they light us, how they help us choose the right clothing.
I can’t tell you how many times clients say to me that they didn’t realise they could look that good in a photo. I find that humbling and I always give the same honest answer, “I can only photograph the person in front of my camera. That amazing photo of you is how the rest of the world sees you.” It’s not how we thought we look because we are constantly looking for our faults.
A great headshot not only shows the world how we look but also helps us on our journey to self-acceptance.