Make your bad headshot better

April 20, 2018 Published by . Leave your thoughts

There’s nothing that keeps a person away from a photo studio better than a past photo that didn’t turn out so well.  Such was the case with our friend, Jon.  His partner was a past client of ours for his (dare we say awesome) professional headshots, and every month like clockwork they would have some iteration of this conversation:

“You need a headshot!”

“I have a headshot.”

“Where is it?  You don’t have it on LinkedIn or anywhere!”

“Well I don’t like it.”

He finally dragged him to our studio to take an updated headshot and Jon showed us the photo he had taken in the past:

“I don’t like this photo for two main reasons,” he said, “it was taken from below, which makes me look like a towering, tall giant, and I feel like it looks like I have about a thousand extra chins.  It’s just not flattering.”

One of our favorite things to do is to beat old headshots with better ones.  And the best way to do that is to identify what it is about the old photos that aren’t up to snuff, and then do the opposite.  For Jon, that meant two things:  1. Don’t take the photo from below (easy), and 2. Make sure you can see his jawline in the photo (also easy).  Then we did what we always do: coach our subject into several different poses, smiles, and angles so there are plenty of options to choose from.

Here’s the result:

Organic Headshots

We crafted the lighting to form some strategic shadows that did a better job of hugging the features of his face to form some shape, without making it look like he’s hiding behind any shadows.  We also posed him into more relaxed poses, to get rid of that “welcome to the DMV” straight-forward effect of the old photo, which helped bring out more of his personality.

Professional headshot ChicagoIf you’ve got an old headshot you don’t like, don’t let it scare you into running away from all professional photographers!  Book a headshot session with a photographer who has a strong portfolio of natural-looking headshots you like, and bring your crummy photo to the session.  Talk to the photographer about what you don’t like about it, what you’re looking for in a new headshot, and work together to take new photos you can be proud of.

If you’re ready for your close-up, book your Chicago headshot online with Organic Headshots today!  It’s not as painful as you think.  We promise.



Q&A with Hanna Stotland: Top Admissions Consultant Breaks Down the Grad School Headshot

April 9, 2018 Published by . Leave your thoughts

To continue with our Q&A series, we recently chatted with Hanna Stotland, a highly sought-after admissions counselor and founder of her own consulting business, on how to earn an A+ on the grad school headshot. Hanna has been an admission trendsetter since 1997, when she was admitted to Harvard College with a G.E.D. After graduating with a Harvard law degree and practicing for many years, she followed her passion and became a full-time career and educational counselor in 2008. She is based in Chicago, but works with client families nationwide. Read her full story here.

Q: What kind of role does a headshot play in the admissions process?

Headshots may be required in the admissions process to medical school and MBA programs. Law schools and most other grad program applications do not require headshots and more importantly, do not want headshots. An important tip to remember when applying for grad school and crafting your application is to follow the rules. Admissions departments want to know that their applicants are creative, but still able to color within the lines.

Q: Why do Med/MBA programs want a headshot?

There are a few reasons med school and MBA programs require a headshot and they are as follows:

  • Some programs (all MD/DO programs) require in-person interviews. They want to be able to recognize you when you walk into the interview room and ensure your headshot and you are a match.
  • Admissions use headshots as part of their “gatekeeping” process. They look at headshots to ensure applicants fit the part. Part of their job is to determine if applicants can follow rules and will be hirable after graduation.
  • In addition, admissions counselors are recruiters. They view headshots as a way to get to know their applicants and recruit them into their program more effectively.

Q: You mentioned “fitting the part;” What headshot tips do you give to your grad school clients to ensure they make a good impression? 

There is a certain level of inherent human bias that happens when admissions departments review headshots. This is just human nature, and we are all guilty of it. However, you can combat this by taking your headshot as seriously as you would all other parts of the application. My tips include:

  • If you can afford it, invest in a professional headshot. It will signal to admissions that you mean business and are serious about your application.
  • As I already mentioned “coloring within the lines,” you must do this with your headshot. That means selecting a wardrobe that matches the program you are applying for. For example, the business and medical fields are both very regimented. So dress the part by selecting pieces that make you look polished, put together and planned. You want your headshot to say, “I will one day be highly employable.”
  • It is also not a bad idea to take a few different headshot looks that can be used for different purposes and/or organizations. For example, have a headshot taken with a business professional look, a business casual look and a headshot that shows your personality/creative side. I am involved with singing and performing, so when I had my headshot taken I did a business professional shot and a performance shot. They each will be used for different purposes, but both communicate that I “fit the part” for the role I am executing.

Q: What do you advise clients not to wear for their headshots?

The things I tell my clients NOT to wear include: athletic wear, anything with writing on it even if it is your alma mater, t-shirts, or sweats,. Basically, anything you would wear to work out in or clean out your garage in is off-limits.  I also encourage my clients to research the culture of the colleges/universities that they are applying to make sure their headshot and clothing choices fit that particular institution

Q: Can you share any funny admissions headshots stories with us?

Let’s just say that your job is to stand out for the right reasons. The right reasons will be your qualifications, not your hilarious headshot.

Q: Do you have any last pieces of advice you’d like to share with us?

Think about the admissions and application process as a sales pitch where you are the product. You want to communicate that you are going to make an institution proud when you graduate. Of course, this can be done through your essays, grades, and undergraduate work, but the headshot is an important piece of the packet that should not be overlooked.

If you’re ready to book your headshot session for school applications, do it here!

Company Picture Day Doesn’t Have to Suck

March 26, 2018 Published by . Leave your thoughts

If you are a follower of the American Marketing Association – Chicago Chapter’s blog, you might have read my guest post on perfecting all staff bio photos. I discussed not only why the “meet our team” section of your website can make or break your company’s branding efforts, but also how to create a well-branded look and feel for your headshots. In addition, you’ll find tips on how to run an all staff picture day like clockwork.

Today, I want to take it one step further and discuss how to get your staff excited for picture and tips for making the day… well, less like a root canal.

Ok, so let’s assume you’ve completed the basics, decided on a look and feel for the photos, scheduled your photographer, and sent an all-company evite well in advance with details on the day, time and location. I’m sure after your “PICTURE DAY!” email was opened, you could probably hear some rumblings throughout your office. The most common questions or should I say stress points are:

  • What should I wear? What is Susan wearing? I don’t want to be too matchy-matchy.
  • My hair looks best in the morning; can I book a timeslot then?
  • Will it be a headshot or full body shot? Do I have to wear nice shoes for a headshot?
  • Where will these photos be used?
  • Will I get to choose my fave? If I can’t choose the photo the company uses I’ll quit.
  • Maybe I can call in sick that day.

And the list goes on and on…and understandably so. We all have that one memory from school picture day, family portrait sessions, prom photos, etc., that have scarred us for life. However, our goal is to block out bad picture day memories with an experience that will make our staffers want to update their headshot every year. Now, let’s get into the “it doesn’t have to suck” picture day tips.

Wardrobe Advice

First things, first…send out all company communications that clearly communicates ideas for what to wear and also, what not to wear! The wardrobe should be in alignment with the decided upon look and feel. You could even create a Pinterest board or mood board with color and outfit ideas, such as how to create a layered look with neutrals and an accent color.  Make sure everyone knows that these aren’t simple I.D. badge photos so they can put together a professional-looking outfit.

Let Them Choose Timeslots

Set up a schedule where everyone can sign up for their own timeslot for their headshot.  Some people know their hair looks best in the morning and will want to get in early, while others might want to get a blow out on their lunch hour for perfect hair in the afternoon.


Ok, I know this an obvious one, but a snack and drink setup close to the shoot location is always a good idea. Everyone loves free food and it tends to lighten any mood. When deciding on food and drink options, stick to clear liquids that won’t stain and snacks that won’t get in your staffers’ teeth. Make sure toothpicks and floss are available for those who need it!

Photo Shoot Survival Kit

In addition to the free food, create as I like to call it a “Photo Shoot Survival Kit” station. This could simply be a couple tables with the necessities such as blotting paper, individually wrapped combs, hairspray, cotton balls/swabs for touch ups, disposable tooth brushes, floss (as mentioned above), bobby pins, collar stays, safety pins, needle and thread, club soda for stains and of course, mirrors!

Professional Help

You’re investing in a photographer, so why not invest in some professional “make me look good” help. Consider contracting a few makeup artists and hairstylists to provide onsite touch ups. They are experts at de-shining faces, taming fly-away hair and overall confidence boosting help prior to your team going in front of the camera. And turning picture day into “pamper day” never hurt anyone.

Strike a Pose

Quick, look natural…no one ever! Ask your photographer to come up with a few easy poses to instruct staffers to replicate. In addition, have your photog shoot a couple of different looks for each. That way everyone will have different options to choose from. Speaking of options, it’s always a nice gesture to send photo files to your team and let them choose their own fave headshot!

We hope these tips inspire you to create an all staff picture day that is experiential and fun for all. We realize these tips do take more time and effort to plan than just scheduling a simple picture day, but remember you don’t have to plan alone! Consider creating a committee or group to help with the big day.

Check out more info on how Organic Headshots puts together great company headshots here!

Q&A with Susie Grant, SPHR: Human Resources Pro Breaks Down the Polished Profile

March 11, 2018 Published by . Leave your thoughts

So many folks swing by our studio for professional headshots to update their LinkedIn profile, so we chatted with our friend Susie to get some job search tips. Susie Grant is a Human Resources Business Partner. With an extensive background in human resources and recruiting, Grant has experience in HR advisory, employee relations, developing sourcing strategies, and staff forecasting. She sat down to offer some insight into what HR professionals look for in job candidates and how your professional presence (both in person and online) can impact your ability to land your next gig.

 Q: What are your top tips for job searchers?

It is certainly an industry cliché, but getting noticed is the first—and arguably most important—step. I think what is most important to remember here is while your resume plays a big role, social media is becoming increasingly more important. Recruiters and HR professionals are continuing to rely on networks like LinkedIn, Indeed and Glass Door when vetting candidates for interviews. We’ll go into some of that more in a bit.

Outside of polishing up your professional presence online, I also love the following tips:

  • Keep it concise: Different industries have different standards, but most of the time you want to stick to a one or two-page resume.
  • Tailor your story: Don’t just toss your name into the hat and hope it sticks. Review and revise your resume for each application and tell the most thorough story about why you are right for the job.
  • Do your homework: Study the job board and find a position that really speaks to your interest. Before you apply, consider if you really want this job, and what you can do to convey that in your application. The more strategic you are about where you apply, the less often you’ll have to do it!
  • Bring your ideas: Talk about what kind of impact you’ve made in your current role. Whether this is process change, innovative ideas or creative solutions to challenges, telling that story (with numbers, if you can!) makes a huge impact on future employers.
  • Make a list, check it twice: Nothing is more important than proofing. It sounds obvious, but having an error-free resume and application goes a long way!

Q: Anything job candidates should make sure not to do?

A little common sense in an interview is a must! Of course, interviewers understand this is a stressful situation, but this is also your time to shine. Present with confidence when talking about your skills, why you want this new position and why you would be a good fit. Think about how to convey that you either (1) know you are going to be good at this role or (2) what about you indicates you can be easily trained for this position.

Q: What kind of role does a headshot play when you’re looking at job candidates?

This is where social media has made a huge impact on the recruiting field. How you present yourself with a headshot online is more important than ever, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. With the rise of networks like LinkedIn, it’s pretty easy to be a passive jobseeker online. If you’re connected to the right people and are actively updating your profile, recruiters will start coming to you.

That said, consider the fact that (not to sound too creepy here) someone is always watching! Make sure your headshot is up-to-date and that your profile online is complete. It makes you seem more polished and approachable.

While there’s nothing wrong with a traditional, shoulders-up headshot think about ways you can get creative, if it works for your industry. If you’re in a field like banking, sales, or law, you may not want to stray too far from the traditional look, but if you’re in a creative field, think about ways you can change up your wardrobe or let your personality shine through.

It doesn’t need to be the best photo you’ve ever taken, but putting a little thought into your photo selection is important! No matter what, I don’t suggest cropping yourself out of a photo from a night out with your friends…no matter how good the lighting is. J

 Q: How can someone be sure they are memorable? Anything that makes them memorable in a bad way?

If you’re using a professional photographer for your headshot, which I would highly recommend, make sure you come prepared to communicate exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re willing to step outside the box a little, give them an example or tell them what you’re hoping to achieve with your photo. Taking a moment to brainstorm will ensure you’re comfortable with the photo you get and that it really captures the personality you’d like to display on your professional profile.

Think about it this way: you want convey relevant parts of your personality. Relaying things like creativity, confidence and an outgoing personality are a plus. Things like your love of reptiles, your massive action figure collection and your dirt bike skills…maybe not relevant. Be you, be confident, but do it in a way that makes sense for the job you want!

Whether it’s a more traditional headshot or something on the creative side, if I see a qualified candidate has taken the time to create a complete online profile, I can usually be confident they are a dedicated candidate and are serious about their career.

If you’re in a job search and need a professional LinkedIn profile photo, book your headshot session today!

Swipe Right – How to nail the online dating profile photo

February 12, 2018 Published by . Leave your thoughts

At Organic Headshots, we’re not all business. Sure—we are all about having that polished, professional photo for your company’s website or your LinkedIn profile. But there’s also a time and a place for something a little more, well, personal.

We often have clients come in and ask for two different looks—one LinkedIn photo and one “for personal use.” I’m never in the business of embarrassing a client, but I’ll ask straight up: “Are you planning to use this for a dating profile?” With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we’ve got dating on the brain and are bringing you our tips for getting your best “professional” online dating photo.

First, I want to share a little bit of background on why this topic is something that resonates with me. My husband and I met on about six years ago…but there’s a little more to our story than that. After a few dates, we decided we were going to see each other exclusively and take down our online dating profiles. I logged into an OKCupid account I had ignored for some time. When I logged in, I saw months of unread messages, and there was a familiar face in my inbox – my new boyfriend, Joel. He sent me a message about six months before we connected on, and much to my surprise, it was marked as read! Out of shock and curiosity, I opened it again, and suddenly remembered reading it when he sent it.  He had signed his message, “write back, Joel,” and I remember thinking, “I DON’T EVEN KNOW THIS GUY AND HE’S TELLING ME WHAT TO DO NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER,” and I didn’t respond and forgot about it.  Six months later, he receives a message on from the very girl who had ignored him months back, and he thinks to himself, “THAT GIRL HAS THE GALL TO CONNECT WITH ME 6 MONTHS AFTER I MESSAGED HER AND GOT NO RESPONSE?!” And now we’re married.

If that story doesn’t make you feel okay about telling me and my team when you’re seeking a photo for your online dating profile, maybe these tips will help.

Be Honest: Don’t be embarrassed to tell your photographer what you’re really there for! Sure, it can be uncomfortable to tell someone you don’t know that you’re looking for love online, but I’ve been there—plenty of us have been there. And we want to help you get a photo that gets clicked on! In order to get the best photo, it helps for your photographer to know exactly what you’re using it for in order to craft the best look and feel.

Get Comfortable: No matter what you’re using your professional photo for, it’s important to relax. We’re not going to lie—if your career doesn’t have you in front of the camera often, it’s completely normal to feel out of your element. If you’ve told your photographer what you’re looking for, there’s nothing else to be nervous about. Getting a shot that is natural and shows your personality is that much easier if you can try to forget the camera is there and just have a casual interaction with your photographer.

Be You: This sounds obvious, but being true to yourself is the best way to get a truly “organic” looking photo. We don’t just mean “act natural” here. Think about what you wear, how you do your makeup and hair, the kind of accessories you choose (we have more tips on that here). It sounds cliché, but remember that you want this profile to reflect who you actually are. And that doesn’t only mean not posing next to a Maserati Quattroporte if you drive a Honda. Yes, it’s your first impression with a future significant other, but nothing good ever comes from forcing a certain persona online. We know it’s easier said than done, but be yourself, and leave the tough work to the people behind the lens!

I hope these tips have eased some of your nerves about building your online dating profile. Wishing you all a happy Valentine’s Day!

About Organic Headshots

Michelle Kaffko has been running Organic Headshots since 2005, taking corporate headshots and executive portraits for thousands of Chicago area professionals. Organic Headshots gets down to the root of why someone needs a headshot and for what purpose, enabling them to deliver the best product possible for all of their clients.