a peek inside the fishbowl

30 Apr, 2018

Headshot purgatory (Plus a tool to help you find your best headshot)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff|The business of blogging

Many of my Facebook friends are posting old headshots of themselves right now. It’s kind of a jokey thing but it’s actually been fun to see everyone’s photos. (Also, interestingly, there are more than a few people out there whose various social media profiles are sporting photos that are a decade old! Update your headshots people!)

Whether it’s web or business card design, accounting, writing, or photography, I have always believed it’s a good idea to delegate business needs to other pros when needed. Professionals need to look professional, right?

I take lots of photos of people – both in my personal and work life – but I hate having my own photo taken. Perhaps it’s because I’m self-conscious, or I’m feeling awkward or unlovely sometimes, but usually when I’m having my photo taken I feel like I’m being punished for past sins. I’m not sure if I’m pickier than most but I rarely like a photo that’s taken of me. Perhaps that’s why Mark has given up taken photos of me and there aren’t actually that many pictures of me in our massive photo library. Sigh.

So, when someone asks me for a headshot, you can imagine that it sends me into a wee panic because it’s not like I generally have anything on hand.

This one goes back a while, but for a time, this was one that I used for conferences and media stuff. Mark took it on our back porch by the way:

Take two

Later, I used a photo that was taken of me when I became editor of Capital Parent Newspaper. I used it for absolutely everything. (The photographer was Jason Code.)


Then I used this photo of me – that I still love – by Ottawa photographer Jessica Deeks. It was for a fun story that ran in a special edition of Ottawa Magazine that basically described my perfect day in Westboro:

A peek at the Ottawa Magazine special "Neighbourhoods" issue. I was Ms. Westboro!

For a while I was also using a photo that Sara McConnell took during a family photoshoot in 2015 at the Experimental Farm:

Head shot from 2015

Fast forward to today. Although three years doesn’t seem like a very long time to go between headshots, I don’t feel like I’m the same person I was when those photos were taken, so I thought I was due. Does that make sense? Also, I wear my hair very differently now!

What was the rush? Well, I needed to submit a photo for the Westfest festival program (I’m emceeing for a bit on Sunday afternoon!) as well as for the relaunch of the Kitchissippi Times. I asked my colleague, Ted Simpson, to take my headshot. He’s a really great Ottawa photographer who has been part of the Kitchissippi Times longer than I have. I’ve always liked Ted’s style and relaxed attitude so I figured this would be a winning combo for a successful photo session. (I was right.)

Context is everything, so we opted to shoot at SuzyQ Doughnuts. Their nicely-lit coffee shop setting would make the photo feel authentic. (I love their donuts AND coffee, after all.) We settled in a couple of seats near a window, chatted a bit, and then the camera came out. Egads. Of course, having one’s photo taken with onlookers and staff isn’t ideal, but we made the best of it. And you know what? It wasn’t awful! In fact, it was actually pretty fun.

My donut was excellent, by the way.

He sent me a few photos and I chose this one (which some of you have already seen on Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the rest):

New headshot!

What I like about it is that (a) I feel like it looks like me, dare I say it’s even a little bit flattering (b) the lighting is nice. I think it looks like me, but it also represents me well, if you know what I mean.

After it was all done, Ted asked me how I felt about portrait retouching – which I appreciated – because I don’t actually like headshots that are overly airbrushed. I want to keep it real, within reason, of course. I told him I embrace my grey hairs and wrinkles (both have been earned, IMO) but to feel free to make any blotches or fly-aways disappear.

Some time ago I heard of a website where you can submit your photo if you’re wondering what kind of impression it will make on your business connections on LinkedIn. It’s called Photofeeler, and it was mentioned in a marketing/branding podcast I listen to so I thought I’d try it out.

Basically, you go through and “rate” other people’s photos according to some easy criteria and if you do enough of them, other people will rate yours. According to my Photofeeler results, here’s how my new headshot compared with one of my older ones:

My Photofeeler results

I guess the gelato I’m holding makes me much more likable, however, my “competency” scores quite well in the new one.

Voters can leave comments on the photo as well. Someone wrote: “I find the arms a bit dominant and I would prefer it if there were no other people in the background.” Regardless of the arm issue, I think I’ll keep this one for awhile. ;)

2 Responses to "Headshot purgatory (Plus a tool to help you find your best headshot)"

1 | Festina Lente.

April 30th, 2018 at 5:19 pm


Nice photo. My two cents. I would definitely crop it. I always provide a mix of tight face to full body (like the one you provided). Because they will maybe do the cropping and I’ve seen some not-so-good crops.

2 | Sabrina

April 30th, 2018 at 7:44 pm


I think this photo captures both your professionalism and your warmth. There is a ‘knowing’ look in your eyes that suggests you really know what you are talking about! Prompting me to get my own headshot updated!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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