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Professionals’ guide to looking great in pictures

In a world where everyone has a headshot, it is important to know how to get a great photo without making yourself look silly. This is an exercise in honesty – we’re here to help you.

[ba-youtubeflex videoid=”9PSOSNqHgwA”]

How not to look like a tool

You’ve seen your competitors’ headshots and laughed, but do you know if they’re laughing back at you? The video above outlines some great tips for taking a good shot and it doesn’t involve a Sears studio…

We thought we would outline some possibly controversial tips in how to market yourself in your picture. We’re living in a digital era where our faces are used as more than bus bench covers, our headshots appear as profile pictures and pop up next to every single update we write on social networks, in our emailers, in our newsletters, our websites and more. Our estimation in reading thousands of Realtor blogs and tweets and Facebook accounts is that only about half of all agents online have acceptable pictures used online. Let’s fix that.

Photo DOs and DON’Ts

We introduce you to these quick tips because we’ve been to enough conferences and met enough people that look nothing like their picture that we have literally felt lied to and betrayed by a gorgeous headshot but BLAH person in person, which leads us to the first tip:

  1. If you’re not hot, who cares? You’re here to sell your brand, not blockbuster movies, so be accurate in your pictures, don’t Photoshop. People will be HULK angry if you have a picture online that looks like Angelina Jolie but you show up looking like post-bender Courtney Love.
  2. Don’t be lame. No props, no fake books in the background, no side poses with the hand under the chin, no puppies, no kittens (okay, maybe kittens), no sneakers with your 1980s shoulder pad business suit, and no phones. Do you hear me? No cell phones or office phones in your picture- we get it, you know how to dial and put the receiver thingy to your ear hole, but so does a second grader – you look ridiculous. Stop it.
  3. Please use a photographer. If you’re not going to, at least don’t use a crappy phone with low resolution or a webcam in the dark that makes you look like you should be interviewed by Chris Hansen in To Catch a Predator.
  4. Avoid situational images. No fourth of July star spangled banners or Christmas turtlenecks because you’ll have to change them frequently and they’re probably cheesy anyhow. See #2.
  5. No Glamor Shots. In 2011, if you’re using a Glamor Shot people are going to question if you have a second job in the “alternative” movie industry. You know what I mean.
  6. Be your age. If you use an outdated picture, people are going to talk about it, I promise. If you’re 50 and have grey hair, you are forbidden from using a picture of when you were 35 and a brunette. Be real.
  7. No props like sold signs. We get it, you are a professional, and probably a Realtor – it doesn’t need to beat anyone over the head. No pictures of you with your car, especially if it’s small and not gender appropriate. No thumbs up or “how you dooin? gun fingers” or people will think you’re on the cast of Jersey Shore. I admit, these all belong under #2, but we needed to spell it out in detail.

These are just a few pet peeves of ours and what people on Twitter said today when asked for their pet peeves.

Consumers are looking to trust you, and that’s a marketable trait, so let your photo be modern, simple like in the video, and realistic. Tell us in comments what pet peeves you have of professional headshots because if 50% of people are not doing this well, they need to know, even if it hurts. Sorry, puppy lovers.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Genevieve

    April 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    For some reason, I read the " no glamor shots line twice." Paranoia will destroy ya; thanks for the reminder, LAR. I'll forward you my new headshot before I post that bad boy.

    • Lani Rosales

      April 25, 2011 at 12:43 am

      Paranoia is funny! Thanks for not using any old nicknames, that's awesome. 🙂

  2. Jason Sandquist

    April 24, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I always see Groupon offering Glamour Shot deals… #justsayin

    • Lani Rosales

      April 25, 2011 at 12:45 am

      Seriously? They're still around? Well we know who is keeping the in business then…. lol

  3. Heather O

    April 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Okay, I'm only the marketing girl … but I notice these things working for my REALTOR® hubby. So my favorites agent poses are listed here: 1. Super-crossed arms, elevated w/cocked eyebrows and all while posed, back-to-back with their teammate agent. 2. Agents with elbow on an oversized ampersand (always are on the vertical bus cards) 3. Lens-flared, glamazon shots 4. 72 DPI photos – c'mon now … hire a pro or a college kid.

    • Lani Rosales

      April 25, 2011 at 12:46 am

      Back to back is the WORST, I totally forgot about that one. Nothing screams "I'm 40 and haven't moved out of my parent's house" more than a back to back with your broker/mom…

      • Lori Luza

        April 25, 2011 at 8:23 am

        Heather, I'm sad to say it, but some of those sound like they did use a pro. The problem is that they either hired the studio at the mall, where props are part of the shtick. Or, maybe they hired a kids/family photographer instead of someone with experience in doing headshots.

        Good headshots come from a professional photographer with experience in that area… not from an hourly employee at the mall.

        • Heather O

          April 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm

          Lani, I just about snorted coffee all over my screen. You nailed it. And for the record I'm still giggling at the "How Not to Look Like a Tool" comment. ~ I am still a fan of someone leaning on the "ampersand" or the "&" sign on their business card … I completely blanked on the "on my cell phone and that means I'm busy" photo. ~ Lori, hey you tried right? 🙂 Can't hate on the fact you were trying to get the photo. It's true, but I think with Facebook, for my observation, photographers are at an all-time high and for someone not to get a new photo is more "I don't want to make the time" or "I'm afraid to reach out and get it done." Heck Yelp and Google reviews are a great way to find portfolios of local photogs. ~ This post rocks my marketing socks. :-)))

    • Mike McGee

      April 25, 2011 at 8:24 am

      Ah, you guys beat me to the back-to-back photos! There seems to be an epidemic of those in our market. Another one I hate is the jacket-over-the-shoulder look. Whose idea was that? If your photographer suggests an unnatural pose like that, fire him! I would love to post a link to my favorite example, but I guess that would be mean. 😉

  4. Paula Henry

    April 24, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    My favorite is the with the agent on the phone, then it was the cell phone. Really? Who thought that made us look cool. I'm certain someone is laughing at mine, but I do NOT have a phone. I could use a picture from a professional photographer. I do change my picture about twice a year, because my hair grows that fast. I have one with short hair and one with longer hair. Maybe, when I get my hair cut again, I'll try a professional shot. Of course, as i age, I think I'll just use my picture from when I first started in the biz 🙂

    • Lani Rosales

      April 25, 2011 at 12:47 am

      That's a good point Paula- for those of us who change our hair frequently, the profile shot HAS to be updated. I used to go from brunette to blonde and back a lot and constantly had to update!

  5. Ann Cummings

    April 25, 2011 at 7:02 am

    I've seen a few who've posed with their cars….still trying to figure out who said that one was cool. Or how about one using the computer that looks really really fake?

  6. "Tracey, the Safety Lady"

    April 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I hate to be a spoil sport, but as a real estate agent safety trainer, I have to caution you about where, how often and the types of pictures you use. Having been an agent and with a sister who is an agent, I know that pictures are important for branding. I also know they are important to criminals for profiling. I cannot stop you from using pictures everywhere, but can offer some great points.

    Glamour Shot-type pictures are a no-no. Pictures on your yard signs are a no-no. Criminals see what they want, (I hear agents say that they are too old or ugly and no one wants them, it doesn't matter to a criminal), they may be looking for someone old; (supposed easier target), younger (more technology tools to steal), males and females both have cash, credit cards, jewelry, etc. Everyone is a target. You make it easier to find you. If they see the perfect victim pictured on the yard sign, all it takes is one phone call to get that would-be victim (you), to meet them at that empty house, (and you all meet strangers at empty houses!).

    Use professional pictures if you absolutely must! Use them with care and distribute only to your known COIs.

  7. sfvrealestate

    April 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Lani, I'm so happy to know that you're a cat person!

    • Lani Rosales

      April 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm

      Oh Judy, it's almost an OBNOXIOUS affinity. Hi, I'm Lani and I'm a cat person. "Hi, Lani," the support group says. 😉

  8. Cliff Stevenson

    May 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    The phone pose kills me. Surprisingly, this shot is everywhere (at least in my market). You're so busy that you couldn't put the phone down for the shot? Having said that, I'm sure many could make cracks about my marketing photo.

  9. Valerie

    December 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Our team doesn't use photos. Our team is a green team and our logo is a green door which is on our cards, signs etc. Never felt the need for a photo and our customer's don't seem to mind. One less thing to worry about.

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