Communicating Through Your Picture

mona lisaEvery piece of marketing should have your picture attached, for people to know that you’re a real person, plus your friendly face makes it easier to relate to you.  This includes your picture on your business card, your website, your brochure, your Facebook account, your LinkedIn account, your blog, your newsletter, etc.  Believing in this good advice I proceeded to put my smiling face in all my online marketing, only to be told by three different individuals that my picture “doesn’t look like me”!

Well of course I listen when I hear the same comment more than once, but I have to wonder how anyone would think that a picture of me that isn’t dated doesn’t look like me.  In questioning further I realize that what they were trying to tell me is that the picture I posted doesn’t represent me well; it doesn’t capture my essence.

So what does a picture communicate about the person?  More importantly what do you want it to communicate about you?  When you sit before a professional photographer do you tell him what characteristics you want the resulting picture to portray?  More than just a professional image, a good photographer can capture the essence of the trait that you want to come across, if you give it some forethought and tell him exactly what you want captured.  The photographer is not a mind reader.

A therapist or counselor would want their picture to communicate compassion and caring.  A financial advisor or accountant would want a picture that communicates credibility and trustworthiness.  An attorney would want their headshot picture to convey intelligence and fairness.

Different professions should request that different traits be captured; even the same subject may request different characteristics depending on the purpose of the portrait.  Instead too often we sit in front of the camera, paste on a social smile and receive back an accurate, perhaps attractive, professional but impassive headshot.  This serviceable picture is okay, but not ideal for what it could be.

Another reason that we don’t always have our best picture showing is because the studio is an artificial environment and many people are camera shy; they don’t like having their picture taken.  A camera is brutally honest and captures all of our imperfections, which we know are there, but would rather not be reminded of.  Yet there they are in living color which we see with a much more critical eye than others use.

We forget that the only way we can physically see ourselves is in a mirror which is a reverse view of what everyone else sees.  Naturally after seeing ourselves in reverse image thousands of times, that image is the one that we prefer (familiarity breeds likability); we are unfamiliar and don’t like as much the real view of our face.

You may be thinking that the frontal view and the reflected view are the same thing, but of course they’re not.  We are just not that perfectly symmetrical (the people with the most symmetrical faces we consider to be the most attractive – they always take a good picture).  We all have a good side of our face and a bad side.  You can find your good side by holding a mirror up to half of your face in front of another mirror so the same side is reflected back in the small mirror, creating a whole face with the same half of your face.  Then do the same thing with the other side.  For most people their good side is their right side and their bad side is their left side.  This is because in general we tend to hold most of our negative emotions on the left (private, hidden) side and our positive emotions on our right (public,confident) side.  Here’s Mona Lisa with the technique described above:

Composite right side: pleasant, blank              Composite left side: worried, fearful, even a bit sinister?COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  
1) Know what trait(s) you want conveyed when you have your photograph taken by a professional photographer, especially for business marketing purposes.
2) If you are looking to read another’s feelings, study the left side of their face (viewer’s right) with your left eye.

For further discussion or question on this interesting topic, leave a comment below.

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