Find Mediators Near You:

Avoid the Top Ten Headshot Mistakes on Your ADR Website

Suzanne Falter-Barnes is a platform builder. She’s a media packaging specialist who helps small business professionals create an online presence that conveys greater credibility, instant authority, and more impact. I think of Suzanne as the E.F. Hutton of platform…when Suzanne speaks, we should listen.

So I’m thrilled that Suzanne has given me permission to share her article on getting a terrific professional headshot photo and avoiding the most common mistakes. If you don’t yet have your smiling face on your ADR website, it’s time. If you do but it’s not a professional-grade photo, then keep Suzanne’s guidelines handy when you pick up the phone to call photographers.

So … it’s been a few years. Your headshot still shows your aging Dorothy Hamill do from 1992, and has a rather, well, young quality to it. Not only that, you show up to do presentations or talks, and people say “Wow. You really look nothing like your picture.”

Sounds like it’s time for a new headshot. So allow me to guide you in the right direction, as headshots are a critical piece of creating the online credibility you need to build platform. Yeah, appearances ‘don’t count’ in the larger scheme of things. But they sure do when you have exactly 1/20th of a second to impress your Net visitor with your message.

Here are the mistakes most commonly made that make a headshot less than it can be.

  1. Including your child or dog. Don’t do it … unless possibly you are writing about your children or your dog, because that experience is central to your business/content.
  2. Setting up shot against a Sears background. Bah to all veiny grey backgrounds, and all the other ‘canned’ background looks. They have a very canned quality that makes your headshot look like you didn’t spend the big bucks. Only professional actors can get away with this because there it is industry standard. Instead, go for an environmental shot – against bricks, books, clapboards, a garden, trees, etc..
  3. Wearing big jewelry. Somehow jewelry looks gigantic on film … keep the hoops out of it and big jewels and go for something simple, modest and undistracting.
  4. Skipping the hair and makeup person. Believe me, if you are a woman, you almost definitely need this. We have complicated hair, and facial flaws that show up in film when they’re not ordinarily detected. Furthermore, the make up we wear every day is not the same as that used in photo shoots. You’ll be amazed at the difference pro styling can make.
  5. Hiring a friend. This is an error when that friend usually shoots architecture, packaging, etc… and not people. Or if they are journalists who are not sensitive to styling, creating mood, etc.. If your friend is actually a professional portrait photographer, then great! Use them.
  6. Not thoroughly checking out the photographer you hire. It’s easy to look at a portfolio and be wowed. But do call references the photographer provides … or look up some of their clients on the Web just to make sure services were provided as promised.
  7. Not getting black and white and color shots. You need both, and in high resolution, for a properly outfitted Media Room on your blog/site.
  8. Not getting more than a headshot. It’s helpful for your blog or site sometimes to have a shot that shows your body, or at least part of it. For an idea of what I mean go to
  9. Shooting in only one outfit. You want a variety of looks – business, business casual, and possibly something else, if your work requires it (i.e., yoga clothing, dance costuming, etc.). Also – avoid patterns, florals, etc and go for interesting solids. No black or white.
  10. Not showing you at work doing what you love. A nice extra (OK, I guess this is optional) is getting an additional shot in which you’re shown doing this work you are an expert at. The only exception would be on the phone or at the computer with a headset on. That’s a bore to look at. But if you are a body worker, say, or a sailing instructor, or an expert at speaking … let’s see you in action. (Sometimes these stills can also be pulled from video.)

Learn how to get known so you can not only find your biggest audience … but you can attract calls from major media and publishers. Check out Suzanne’s freebie, The Platform Jump Starter, at

Suzanne’s the real deal.


Tammy Lenski

Dr. Tammy Lenski helps individuals, pairs, teams, and audiences navigate disagreement better, address friction, and build alignment. Her current work centers on creating the conditions for robust collaboration and sound decisions while fostering resilient personal and professional relationships. Her conflict resolution podcast and blog, Disagree Better, are available at… MORE >

Featured Members

View all

Read these next


Focusing On Interests Rather Than Positions — Conflict Resolution Key

Life is far easier when people have the sense to see things our way. In the real world, however, capital planning, corporate borrowing, annual budgeting, and priority setting all tend...

By Steven P. Cohen

Anyone For Coffee And Donuts

From the Mediation Matters Blog of Steve Mehta. In every mediation, one of the first questions that arises is not what is the bottom line or what do we need...

By Steve Mehta

The Importance of Mediation in Family Business Management

Managing a business can be difficult enough—but when your in-laws are the board of directors and your sister is the CEO, management of a family business can also become a...

By Joseph Berljawsky