Thursday, April 21, 2016

How often should I get a new portrait?

A rare non-smiling self-portrait taken in studio

Is it really time for me to publish yet another self-portrait? Well yes, I guess it is, for two reasons: I needed a picture for this post, and I just got new glasses. But seriously, how often should a person update their profile portrait? 

Obviously it's easy for me to say you should do a new profile portrait every time something changes because I can shoot them myself for free. And given that I'm constantly advocating for professional quality profile portraiture, I am aware that hiring a photographer every however often may not be practical or, frankly, affordable.

However, in these days of social media and the (seeming) need (for increasing numbers of people) for constant self-promotion, I would suggest that the need for more frequent updates has arrived. I used to suggest a portrait could be expected to last maybe three years. But in today's faster-than-ever-paced world, in terms of the personal and professional evolution possible in that interval, it seems like a very long time to present one version of oneself. If people are seeing your face all the time in their online networks, a picture is going to "wear out" much more quickly than it did in the past. Furthermore, when you update your profile, you get the added benefit of your network being notified (subject to everyone's settings), and your showing up again on people's radar.

What are the kinds of things that could prompt a new portrait? You might have a new look -- new haircut, new glasses, weight loss, weight gain, Botox, or new overall style perhaps because of a new role, or new company culture you want to reflect. Or you may want a different kind of portrait for your website, for example, from the one you submit to a professional organization, board etc. Not only do fashions change constantly, but photographic styles evolve, too, and what once looked great can come to look dated. That's actually one of the reasons I end up with so many self-portraits -- I am constantly testing new ways, between jobs, to light and shoot (even after all this time as a professional) to keep my corporate portraits fresh, relevant and interesting.

In the shot above, for example, I used a simple, new in-studio set-up designed to create a sense of place where it doesn't actually exist. (My studio has no inherently background-appropriate walls.) Also, sick of producing almost the exact same smile every time I shoot myself (believe me, I can relate to all my clients who think they have one best look), I decided this time I was going to change it up. Usually, if I don't smile I look like I am either about to cry or kill someone (another thing I can relate to, my lovely similarly challenged clients!), but I think I got it this time! I also changed my technique by adding some motion to the mix, moving during the exposure so my skin looked smoother (from the blur) and my hair blurred a bit at the edges in a subtle but interesting way. There was a fan, too.

How long am I going to stick with this shot? Probably not long at all since I just made an appointment to get my hair cut. And, as I always tell my clients, studies suggest that people look friendlier, more approachable and more trustworthy when they smile.

In closing, a question: what do you think of the idea of buying a package of portraits to be taken within a certain interval of time, for example a three portrait package good for one shot every four months? Or maybe a frequent buyer/loyalty card for portraits? Please drop me a line and let me know. 

Thanks for reading! And if you need a new portrait...

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