8 helpful guidelines for your ideal professional photo

While physicians and healthcare providers are vigilant guardians of their professional reputation, they may not realize that a not-so-professional photo just might be talking behind their back.

OK -- we'll be the first to admit that not everyone is incredibly photogenic. But regardless of the “raw material,” healthcare is a people business…where trust and confidence begins with the first impression. And having a truly excellent executive portrait helps build and extend your first-class reputation.

Unfortunately, a professional's professional photo is often neglected in healthcare marketing. It shouldn’t be. Visual information is more impactful than verbal or written communications. Pictures connect people to people on an emotional level.

Prospective patients, professional colleagues and others are very likely to see your photo before they meet you in person.  A quality photo engenders trust, confidence and sincerity -- the intangible but vital elements of your professional reputation.

For the sake of your professional reputation and your brand...
Do you even have a recent and decent professional photo? If you need a picture to send to the media or professional society would you be scrambling to find something appropriate on short notice?

Our recommendation — for doctors, surgeons, administrators, technicians and staff — is to have and use top-quality professional business portraits. And here are eight guidelines that experience tells us will help you get the job done right.

1) Schedule it. The most common excuse we hear is "no time." Of course, everyone's busy, but give this a realistic priority. Set a timeline; put dates on your calendar. And allow enough time to get it done right without being rushed.

2) Use a professional photographer. Do-it-yourself efforts don't produce professional results. Generally, profession photography is reasonable in cost. And considering the dozens of ways good portraits are used over a long period of time, a decent budget is well worth the investment. 

3) Check samples and references. Good photographers post their portfolios online and tend to specialize. Search for "executive portrait," "corporate photography" or even "flattering headshots." Ask colleagues for references, and don't settle for a generalist or someone who is simply convenient. 

4) Meet in advance. Talk with the photographer about your needs, expectations and budget. Will this be done in a studio, at your office, outdoors, on location — or more than one of these venues? What is the final deliverable? Does the photographer provide makeup, digital "touch-ups," props, backdrops or other options? 

5) One sitting = many shots. There's not a lot of extra effort required to produce variety in clothing, backgrounds and expressions. For both men and women, bring more than one conservative option, but avoid anything flashy or distracting such as wild stripes, plaid or busy materials. Avoid attire that is too formal, too informal or trendy. The background should be neutral and/or natural.

6) Take direction. What looks natural through the lens doesn't always feel natural or comfortable. Your photographer will tell you to look into the lens, lean this way or that, move your hands or whatever, so go along with the instructions for the best results.

7) Expressions, expressions, expressions. Instruct the photographer to take lots of images — lots. All the subjective likes and dislikes aside, you'll want to make final selections from among many options.

Ultimately, you'll want at least two primary expressions in your library, with a variety of poses, backgrounds, attire, etc. for each. Depending on where and how your photo will be used, the two general categories are:

Caring Confidence. This image should convey sincerity; expression of concern (no big smile); and someone worthy of trust for "official" business applications.

Personable and approachable. Here's where a wide smile, and a more relaxed feeling can communicate friendly professionalism; for the less formal uses. 

8) Update yourself. If your professional photo is five or more years old, take a new one. Eventually — probably sooner than later — people will notice the difference.

The world is increasingly visually (and image) oriented
The uses for professional portrait photography have grown with the demands of the Internet, online marketing and social media. People expect to see what you look like in hospital or medical practice advertising, PR and publicity releases, peer connections and CVs, the hospital or surgicenter welcome wall, annual reports, newsletters, brochures and dozens of other places.

Ask yourself, is your professional photo as good as your professional reputation?

© Copyright Healthcare Success Strategies, Inc. Published with permission from the authors.

About the authors: 
Lonnie Hirsch and Stewart Gandolf, MBA, are two of America’s most experienced healthcare marketers. They have a combined 30 years experience, have written hundreds of articles and have consulted with over 3,500 healthcare clients, including medical groups, hospitals, doctors and corporations. Additionally, Lonnie and Stewart have spoken at hundreds of venues across North America to tens of thousands of healthcare executives and doctors. As co-founders of Healthcare Success Strategies, they lead a team of over 40 Healthcare Marketing All-Stars. You may reach either of them directly by calling 800-656-0907, through their website at www.HealthcareSuccess.com or via email at .