Choosing A Head Shot And Images To Communicate Your Life Science Messaging

I recently had head shots taken on a very hectic trip to Seattle, and I was not as prepared as I would have liked to have been. Thankfully, with the help of a great photographer and my sister helping me to prepare, I got some good shots which weren’t in the style I had intended. Head shots and other imagery associated with your brand, personal or corporate, should match your company’s position and messaging, which you should explicitly define internally. Choices made by your employees, including images for marketing materials and head shots, will then more clearly portray the value of your life science brand.

Larger companies may have a style or content guide which indicates the messaging, voice, and imagery that the company uses. For smaller companies like Comprendia, I’ll admit we don’t have a formal document because we are relatively small and I thought I understood and could communicate it clearly. However, when excellent photographer Connie Riggio asked me what I wanted the pictures to convey, I stumbled a bit. I know the mission and messaging of Comprendia, how we help companies communicate their value, yet I was struggling to explain it because I am too busy and perhaps too close to it.

We run into life science companies that also struggle with their messaging and value proposition. When they started their company, they had a clear vision of the niche that their products would fill (hopefully). After a few years of dealing with the details, they may lose sight or be so close to the issue to see it clearly. If you are in this position, perhaps an exercise where we look at Comprendia’s value proposition, and how my head shots fit with it, will help you to explore and refine your own.

When I started Comprendia in 2008, I knew a fair amount about the life science marketing agencies that existed, and was inspired by their success. I have a very science, computer, and web ‘heavy’ resume, and also began to see the burgeoning role that science communicators would play, using tools such as blogs and Twitter. I decided this would be our niche, to champion science communication between life science companies and researchers, using social media as our toolbox.

We want to challenge ‘business as usual’ for life science companies by encouraging engagement with researchers at every level. One aspect of our messaging is the images on our blog, which are all simple and illustrative, mostly isolated objects meant to serve as an analogy. This imagery conveys our modern viewpoint of communication, which is to be clear and to connect with the reader. For personal imagery, we want to appear as approachable communicators, and we practice what we preach by helping out scientists online by serving as champions for their blogs, etc. and IRL (in real life) with monthly life science networking events in San Diego.

In keeping with our mission of communication and engagement, we’re asking you which head shot I should choose! The photos are numbered, please leave your choice of #1, #2, or #3 below, based on your perception of Comprendia and the points raised in this post. Also, I encourage you to think about your company’s positioning and message (write it down!), and to consider whether your imagery accurately conveys it.

Special thanks to Connie Riggio Photography in Seattle, she is more than just a fantastically talented photographer, she knew how to lead me into the shots I needed. She’s willing to travel and would be an excellent choice when you decide to redo the head shots for your company.

Which head shot would you choose for me to communicate Comprendia’s messaging and why? Please leave your vote for #1, #2, or #3 as a comment below, along with the reason(s) behind your choice if you have time.

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  1. #2 – its outside the norm, shows “there is more to me than you think” with a bit of humor with your smile

  2. Oooh hard one. I love the purple & grey in #1 (one of my favorite outfits is that exact combo) but think that its a bit formal if you’re trying to portray the “fun and approachable image”. Of #2 and #3 though I’d pick #3 for @comprendia and website. #2 is really cute but maybe better for your @marycanady account.

  3. Apropos as I’ve been thinking about this for the past few weeks. I realize it is time to get beyond shooting myself with my iPhone and I don’t want a driver licence photo, but I don’t need Annie Leibowitz either. How does one choose a photographer and what should one pay?

  4. Also, I would think there is a difference between headshots you might use for a social media avatar vs own website vs something you send to a PR/marketing person for use in brochure or advertisement. Comments?

  5. Oh vote. Um, #1 only because I am conservative that way. #2 and #3 feel like Hollywood headshots.

  6. I’d go with #1, #2 and #3 are a little too casual. Use one for business and the others for your personal SM accounts?

  7. #1 – Professional yet friendly “approachable communicator”
    #2 – too casual
    #3 – maybe if you wanted to communicate with artists… [meant in a good way :) ]

  8. Mary, they are all lovely, you are looking great! I’d go for #3.
    #1 formal, conventional, and you look just very slightly uncomfortable
    #2 don’t like the angle, makes me feel seasick (sorry!)
    #3 just right. won’t scare a scientist, but not too casual (imho)

  9. They are all lovely and I would choose #1 to represent your business.

  10. Thank you for sharing your profile process. I am relatively new to the whole thing and it’s informative to see what industry professionals think. My gut reactions are:
    #1: I agree with other posters that this looks formal.
    #2: Very casual. Would look cool and artsy as a B&W, but doesn’t strike me as “professional”
    #3: Strikes a nice balance, so it’s doesn’t seem like you want to sell me a house. I think this one appeals to me the most.

  11. I really like #3.

    It’s friendly, appealing and professional without being too formal.

  12. I think Lori spelled this out pretty well. I’m going with #3 too.

  13. I’d go with #1. You’re leaning forward a bit in that one. They always say that’s good posture for interviews. It says “I’m interested in what you have to say”. And since as a consultant you’re constantly interviewing for jobs, it’s the one that says “hire me to help you communicate better”!

  14. I like #3 the best as it looks the most natural. However, I would crop it a bit (same goes from #1).

  15. I think #1 is the most professional looking.
    #2 is the kind of image you use on a dating site or a ‘soft focus’ PR piece that talks about how you use the skills you learned at work to start a non-profit rescuing puppies (for example).
    #3 nice pic but still to casual.

    All just IMHO

  16. I’ll speak to your geek side and recommend A/B testing the profile pictures.

  17. If you are about helping folks think creatively and differently about life science marketing, I think #1 is too traditional–too much of a marketing suit. So that leaves 2 and 3. I really like 2, but the suits that you are trying to win over might be less responsive to it. So perhaps three is the best photo–it’s more conversational, which is what social media is about conversations and relationship building, but still has an air of professionalism, skill and knowledge about it. Keep some copies of number two around though. It’s an awesome photo. Love the expression.

  18. Wow thank you to everyone and I hope you didn’t feel spammed with comment email!

    It is so fascinating to hear everyone’s thoughts and to see how important this choice is as you all have strong opinions!

    My favorite is #3, and I’ll admit I tried to set you up a bit in a ‘Goldilocks’ sort of way (too formal, too relaxed, just right as Fiona said). The votes ended up being tied between #1 and #3, so I will take Brian K’s advice (@labspaces) and use #1 for the website and #3 for my social media avatars. And #2 for my puppy rescue nonprofit (lol)!

    Thanks to everyone and I’m certainly willing to give you all free advice on your head shots or image styles.

    P.S. Lisa: #1 was taken in a place called the ‘graffiti garage’ in Tacoma, and I may have indeed been afraid I’d sat on something squishy.

  19. I would choose #3 hands-down — the look is vibrant and energetic. I especially like it cropped down to eliminate the knee, since the knee-up look looks too relaxed (I would think you are trying to convey your energy). In this case I also like the busy but blurred background, since it seemingly places you in a busy, active environment — a real go-getter.

  20. > I’ll speak to your geek side and recommend A/B testing the profile pictures.

    Haha! Why didn’t I think of that?!

  21. I’m LOL’ing at Lisa’s comment that #1 looks like you sat on something squishy…a more specific version of Fiona’s comment that you looked slightly uncomfortable. Now I see that too.

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