Posts tagged branding

Turbo-charge your marketing, one mug shot at a time

mug shot

“Make sure you get the mug shot,” I heard my photo editor say as I carefully packed my camera bag, preparing for my first official assignment as an intern with the (now much-diminished)  East Valley Tribune in Mesa, AZ. I was a student at nearby Arizona State University, where I was also photo editor of the student-run State Press.

I’d heard the term ‘mug’ before–it was how we referred to the 6 x 9 pica-sized tightly-cropped headshots often run in newspapers and commonly associated with the mug shots of suspects taken and distributed by law enforcement.

There was nothing glamorous, sexy or artistic about them. They were straight-forward and not what I had in my mind as I contemplated all of the possibilities of the now-forgotten assignment I was about to shoot.

But Paul, my photo editor, knew better. A cool, wide-angle portrait that showed a person tiny in the frame, looking off-camera in an angsty way, surrounded by the light and shadows of the environment might play well across three or four columns as a lead image on a page. But if that story jumped to a new page, as it often did, or if we later decided to run additional follow up stories on the same subject, that cool artistic image would be much less valuable. More useful in those instances was a standard, straight-on headshot portrait, or mug shot. I quickly learned that if I took those headshots along with the artistic pretty portraits, I could guarantee a happy photo editor and happy page designers too. Fail to do it, and I found that as the intern I was the one sent back to shoot a 10-second mug shot of a subject because other photographers (or I) had failed to do so the first time around.


mug shot


Of the many lessons I learned as a photo intern, this was one I never forgot. It made me think about the practical uses of images, rather than just the artistic merits. Both are important considerations. It also taught me that people have a fundamental desire to see and connect with other people, and that having a mug or a headshot in a story made people much more likely to read it, connect with it and understand it.

That was true then, and it continues to be true in the world of Linkedin, Facebook and online media channels. Rather than a two-second mugshot, I create headshot portraits that take quite a bit more time and care. These headshots are unsung heros that are both simple and indispensible for many professionals. They are the yeoman workers who do the heavy lifting when it comes to a personal or corporate brand. When done well, they promote and propel a brand, build trust and connection, all without shouting, ‘look at me’.

mug shot

I used to say that a good headshot can’t help you, but a bad one can sure hurt you. In this visual, social media world, when I see a professional profile with a missing or obviously amateur portrait, my mind wonders: is it because you aren’t professional, are anti-social or simply because you can’t be bothered? None are an appealing scenario.

A good headshot is a long way from the ‘mugs’ we used at the newspaper. They are portraits, created with purpose, intent and function in mind. They convey real information and some intangible emotion as well. In short, they leave a few things unsaid so that the viewer can form their own opinion. They are straight-forward, and they communicate, clearly. Instead of being used in a purely utilitarian way, they must shine in their own right. No longer mugs, but finely-crafted portraits.


mug shot


I have a sister site called Maine Headshot, dedicated solely to these kinds of portraits, mostly taken in-studio. My tagline is, “Portraits that Work”, because a good headshot should do just that–work for a brand 24/7, 365.


Reach for branding success

“Branding” is one of those words that seem to be applied to everything, and with good reason. Every bit of text, every graphic, every image that conveys both positive and negative information about your company or your person is affecting your ‘brand’.

Are you still using that two-year-old portrait to represent you or your business? Worse, are you a brand fanatic when it comes to your website and printed materials but have a Facebook page featuring you holding a beer at last July’s block party?

Now more than ever, brands need to be professional and consistently applied. You need to look your best wherever on the Internet that Google directs your potential clients–and competitors.

Any business or individual wanting to have an immediate, positive impact to their branding should analyze their brand’s visual footprint around the internet and then devise a plan to prop up the places where their brand might show some wear. This process can be as simple as getting an updated portrait or other images that gets systematically applied.

Several of our clients update their portraits up to six times a year, keeping things fresh, professional and always new.  While that may not be your cup of tea,  revisiting your visuals annually or every other year is a good idea.

Give your business brand image an overhaul

There’s a tagline at the bottom of my business card: “Image Matters”. Sounds obvious, right? Still, too often, many businesses who take such great care to take care of customers, or to produce a great product or service neglect to attend to their visual brand image. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got when first launching my own business was to develop a good relationship with a good designer. I have, and I know many others I trust and like as well. This decision has made my life easier and continues to bring me clients. In short, these visual professionals make my brand into something that is consistent and professional. Now I’m free to do what I do best–take great images for my business clients.
Businesspeople often assume that custom photography of the sort that is commissioned and shot specifically for their needs is too expensive. But you don’t necessarily need a big wallet to have the same quality images that you see used by Bangor Savings Bank, L.L. Bean, or other large to medium-sized companies. Working with an experienced business photographer who you like, who understands your industry and who can help you plan the best usage for your images can be a rewarding experience and one that is affordable. It’s possible to get an affordable image library of custom stock imagery created for your company’s use for years to come.
So when I see small companies and business individuals settling for less-than exciting visuals, or generic stock images, I want to tell them: Image Matters!