Headshots are used in a variety of ways to promote our composers’ works, ranging from posts on Instagram, to printed flyers or pamphlets, to large posters that make our convention booths pop. Many calls for scores or submissions ask for press quality headshots as well. With that in mind, high resolution images are key to good marketing and promotion, especially in this media-centric, digital age. In this post, we’d like to discuss some best practices, helpful tips, and aesthetic considerations that we keep in mind when choosing photos to use for promotion.
Technically speaking, there are some important standards to consider when preparing your headshot. As a general rule of thumb, image dimensions can very easily be decreased, but any time an image is enlarged beyond its original dimensions, pixels become visible and the image is not usable in a professional setting. Large, high-resolution images offer the most flexibility and for that reason, our production department prefers photos that are at least 8” x 10” at 300 dpi (2400 pixels x 3000 pixels). Photos at this resolution allow us to create crystal clear images for web and can also be resized effectively for most poster sizes. Any image that is smaller than that simply cannot be resized for use on a poster and will likely limit how large the photo can be on most print flyers.
One of the best things you can do to control your public image is to display your highest resolution headshot prominently and make it easily available to those who will make use of it. Whether on your personal website, social media channels, or simply in an easy to access place from which you can share it, making great photos available to press, publishers, and performance organizations will be invaluable when promoting your work. Any time we have a request for promotional material for one of our composers, we grab the highest resolution photo we have from our archive and send it along with press clippings, biographical information, and any other promotional material that might be appropriate.
If editing, exporting, or sharing your photos, make sure you are aware of the dimensions and resolution of the image in question. Most photo editors make this information readily available, but in a pinch you can always check the image properties by right-clicking the image file on your computer.
As for image file format, JPEG tends to be the most common, especially for use on the web, however lossless, or uncompressed, formats like TIF/PDF are preferable for print and archival purposes. If you are curious about the nitty-gritty details of image resolution, you can read more HERE. You can also learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of the most common image file formats HERE.
Your press photo should represent you at your best while also giving an accurate rendition of both your appearance and personality. Typically, photos framed from the chest up are best. Full-body shots or close-cropped facial close-ups make it harder to recognize the subject of the photo, especially at smaller sizes. A quick way to gauge this is to consider the distance between your eyes in the photo. Typically, if that distance is about a third of the image width, your face will be well represented for the purposes of a professional headshot.
Light and exposure are very important. Too dark and you risk a grainy image, too bright and you risk blowing out the details that make you unique. Without professional lighting equipment, opt for natural light. Sunrise and sunset offer the softest light of the day. You can also avoid harsh, direct sunlight by taking photos on a cloudy day or indoors near a window. A well exposed color photo will also convert well to black and white.
For professional photos, it’s best to keep backgrounds neutral. If you don’t have access to a professional photographer or high-end equipment allowing for blurred backgrounds, try standing in front of a pleasing wall, nice foliage, or any other non-distracting backdrop. It is also good to consider the color of your clothing against your backdrop. Wearing a black shirt and standing against a black background will usually create an odd, floating head effect.
Your face should not be obscured and try to be modest with makeup and retouching. Though certainly subjective, excessive editing tends to be distracting. Think of your headshot as a visual handshake. Posed, candid, smile, or no, consider the context in which you will likely be sharing your photo and the impression you would like to give.
Getting the Shot
If professional photography is unavailable, the average camera and/or cell phone today is capable of capturing decent photographs, but careful attention should be paid to backdrop, exposure, and ultimately the final image resolution. Most cameras provide file format options and most cell phones will allow you to choose what image resolution or file size you would like to share. When saving or exporting images, always remember to go with the highest resolution possible for the intended application.
Making Them Available
On a daily basis, we receive requests for promotional material for our composers from many different sources. The key to responding quickly and keeping control of narrative is having up-to-date archives and easy to access assets.
Having photos, biographical information, testimonial quotes, and even multimedia in an easy to find place gives you control over what content is used to engage your audience by third parties. Without this, journalists, promotions professionals, and event organizers are forced to either ask you directly for content or dig through the internet, often opting not to use anything at all to avoid the risk of inaccuracy or permissions issues.
One of the best things you can do to control your public image is to display your highest resolution headshot(s) prominently and make it easily available to those who will make use of it. If you have a portfolio website, it is best to have a clear “Press” or “Press Kit” section devoted to this very purpose. From a Promotions point of view, this is a wonderful resource both for marketing professionals and for press organizations that have come to expect this kind of availability. Through the use of your composer pages on our website, we are able to point to a regularly updated source of information for each composer accessible from anywhere that has access to the internet.
Social Media is another web based source offering you direct control of your narrative. If you maintain any professional accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or others, be sure to update your bio and photos regularly and post as actively as you are comfortable. As social media marketing continues to grow and develop, more and more companies are using these tools to engage their audiences. Press companies and event organizers are likely to tag artists in posts about related upcoming performances. We do our best to tag our composers in relevant posts on our channels to expand both your audience and ours.
It is also a good idea to keep a digital press kit handy on your personal computer. Like the web based solution mentioned above, this should include your most up-to-date bio, headshot(s), reviews, and any other media that you feel could be of use promotionally. Saved in a “zipped” folder on your computer, this file should be easily shareable via email, DropBox, Google Drive, or by whatever means you prefer to share digital files. Should a request come in, you’ll be ready to send it along in seconds. When high resolution photos are requested of us, it is easy for us to grab them from our archive and send them along with other promotional materials that we have created.
We hope these tips prove helpful the next time you update your press photos! When you do, be sure to send them our way so we can update our website and archive.