This particular post by Seth Godin struck a chord with me this morning because several times in the past few weeks, people have asked my thoughts or advice either about their portraits on their business cards and/or web sites or they want to know how they can improve the pictures on their web site.
Since we all know folks who ask counsel from everyone they encounter until they get the advice they want to hear, the first issue I must resolve is whether someone really wants an objective response or just wants an “expert” to say what they’re doing is great. My return question is usually along the lines of, “Are you pleased with the images and the results you’re getting from them?” If they are, my job may well be done. I’ve generally found that if someone is satisfied with where they are, they’re just not that interested in moving to new ground.
In other words, if someone’s spouse/child/friend shot their web portrait with a Blackberry and touched it up in Photoshop Elements – at no charge – they don’t want to hear about the poor lighting that makes their face look red or that their web images are simply outdated. Very few people want to hear they lack sophistication. However, in Godin’s words, “We place a high value on sophistication, because we’ve been trained to seek it out as a cue for what lies ahead. We figure that if someone is too clueless to understand our norms, they probably don’t understand how to make us a product or service that we’ll like.”
Let me ask you a question. Say you meet someone at an event who could potentially serve a need you have, for instance, a realtor or a CPA. You’re having an encouraging conversation with strong possibilities of working together when you ask for a card. As you’re talking, you glance down and immediately notice the flimsy card stock, cluttered design and a photo of your companion with his/her company sign in the background and an expression that looks as if it was caught in mid-enema. (The added bonus comes when you flip over to the back to read, “Business Cards are FREE at vistaprint.com!” Classy!)
Is this really the “professional” you want overseeing the details of your business or personal affairs?
In another post by Godin earlier this year, he detailed some of the things you may want to consider when you’re having a business portrait done. It’s a great starting point. One thought I’d add is to have the person shooting your portrait engage you so that you’re relaxed and reveal your true personality.
Admittedly, my interests are served when business people hire me to create their portraits. But this question is raised a lot and I’m more concerned with folks making a decision to do what’s in their best interest.
I believe it’s always best to present one’s image on the same level of business that one wants to be working on, not a level below. Every marketing/branding book and blog I read says that we are in the age of “Brand You”. When the economy and job market are at it’s tightest is the time you need to be most concerned with your image and your “brand”.
What does your portrait say about your market sophistication?