What to Wear to a Professional Headshot Session

by Deborah Proctor


Are you looking for a job? Actively networking as you consider the next stage in your career? How do you connect with recruiters and get that all-important personal interview in this impersonal digital age? The difference between a job seeker and a successful job seeker may come down to one thing — the photo you post in your LinkedIn profile. 

As Career Services Professional, Jill Wesley, mentioned during an interview for our post about personal branding"The image you project online is very important and professional photography is part of that image."

Personal finance expert and author, Jane Bryant Quinn, agrees. In a recent article entitled "Looking for a Job? Go Social"* she gave tips for job seekers in this digital age.  Discussing the importance of setting up a digital profile, she added, "Post an appropriate head shot. Recruiters won't even look at profiles without one."

So what is an appropriate head shot for LinkedIn and other online media profiles?  To project a professional image - whether you are young and just entering the workforce, or you are established in your career path and seeking a change - you need a professional portrait, one that presents you and your personality in a manner that fits the career path you are seeking. If you have any doubt, just peruse a few online profiles and notice the difference between those with professional portraits and those with party or stand up against the wall photos. Which person would you be more likely to hire?

"OK,"you admit that a professional career portrait is important,"but what do I wear or bring to the portrait session that will set me apart?"

BJ Pfieffer, President/CEO  of Enterprise Solutions Technology Group, in Madison,WI, recommends the traditional suit or blazer with dress slacks, skirt or dress " It is always better to make the best impression by erring on the side of dressing up rather than being too casual."  

That being said, Focal Flame Photographer, Clint Thayer, encourages his career photography subjects to "be comfortable in your own skin or style." If you are not comfortable in the clothing you choose, your photographs will show it. "Yet, you need to have the mindset that you are using this portrait for something" whether that is to present a professional business image for your LinkedIn profile or a casual portrait on location for creative purposes.

Pfieffer agrees that personal branding with photographs is "an interesting way to showcase one's career specialty as well as personal style" but this needs to be  appropriate to the industry.For example:"an artist might have a photo of him/herself working on a project (or a series of photos as the project is developing) for a professional site, but for a personal site they might include photos of how the creative process affects their choice of clothing or space" which may be messy.

So bring that professional clothing (suit or blazer and dress slacks for men, with a skirt or dress with 3/4 or long sleeves for women) and use accessories (bow tie, scarf, conservative jewelry) to add a little personality. Start your session formally, then relax a little — take off the tie, take off the jacket and sling it over your shoulder, change to a sweater, or add a hat or signature jewelry to make a creative statement.


Before your portrait session, research the field you intend to go into. Wesley recommends, "check out the profile photographs of others in your field."  Pfieffer suggests, "go stand outside a company where you would like to work as the employees are leaving for lunch and observe."Both recommend applying the lessons you learn and matching the corporate style. 

As a photographer, Thayer takes that one step further. His goal is to create a portrait for you that says, "This is me!"   Whether through clothing choices, poses, or location — photographing his clients in their office or another locale — each Focal Flame career portrait is professional, but lets your individual personality shine through.

For a checklist of what to bring to your career portrait session, see "What to Wear, Bring, or Remember for Your Career Portrait Session." 

Help that new graduate set themselves apart from the crowd and land their first job by purchasing a gift certificate or scheduling a session.  

For more information, call 608-772-0048 or e-mail us, or fill out an inquiry form by clicking here.


* June 2013 AARP Bulletin/Real Possibilities 

Personal Branding: Using a Headshot to Portray a Professional Image to Employers


Graduation day - or perhaps the decision to go for a mid-career change - has finally come. After years of effort, hopes are high that you will land that dream job!! Yet there are questions too.

What can you do to project a professional image?

How do you make a good first impression?

How do you set yourself apart from the crowd so you're more likely to be hired?

To land that dream job successfully, you need answers to these crucial questions, so Focal Flame Photography (FFP) asked long-time Career Services Professional, Jill Wesley, for some advice.

Focal Flame Photography:  With electronic media becoming crucial in the job search, how important is a professional career portrait to compliment the work experience, qualifications, and skills one presents to a potential employer?

Jill Wesley: “By the time the employer meets you, they have already checked your LinkedIn profile and searched  other online sources (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) to learn about you. The image you project online is very important and professional photography is part of that image.”

FFP: What do you tell grads just entering the workforce about making a great first impression?

JW: “Understand the norms of your industry and dress for the environment you will be working in. Check out websites for your field and view the LinkedIn profiles of people in your target industry to see how they present themselves and match it.”

Jill went on to provide these tips for dressing for success.

Business majors, looking to land a job in the financial, consulting, legal, or hospitality industries, should expect to wear full business attire. Anything else will be viewed by a potential employer as overly casual and thus unacceptable. This means:

For men:  A suit, tie, and shined shoes; clean shaven or neatly trimmed facial hair.

For women:  A skirt, closed toe shoes with a low heel, and hose. Jewelry should be compact and simple.

Both sexes: Cover tattoos and remove piercings, with the exception of one pair of earrings for women.

In more creative fields, such as music, computer programming, advertising, PR, and marketing, industry norms might be a little more relaxed. Prospective employers are likely looking for a little personality in the image your present; they want to detect some of the creativity you might bring to the work place.

Be careful not to be too casually, though. There may be more leeway to dress wild, yet in most cases, it is better to tone it down and go conservative to make a better first impression. Business casual is more appropriate for an interview.

Jill adds, " You want to present a professional image but not be too stuffy. . Put in the effort to check the norms for your industry and cultivate that image. If you have any doubts about what is appropriate to wear, dress up a little."

FFP: Is a professional portrait important to set one apart from the crowd?

JW: "It used to be that only upper level professionals had to have professional headshots. Now prospective employers will view your LinkedIn profile and your blog if you have one, so it is important for everyone to have a headshot...You will notice a BIG difference in the image projected by a professional headshot and a random party shot."

FFP: What are some of the common mistakes you see job applicants make?

JW: "Presenting too casual an image...You can always dress down by taking off a jacket or tie; it's harder to dress up if do not have what you need with you."  Closely related is taking the whole job hunt process too casually.

Jill concluded the interview by adding that "a professional portrait would be a great gift for a college graduate." It is an investment in their career future — one that would "set them apart from other graduates that might not realize the importance of a professional image."

Focal Flame Photography is currently booking professional headshot sessions. What's included?

  • A consultation with our photographer where we discuss the purpose and intended use of your portrait
  • One hour of Madison photographer Clint Thayer's undivided time and attention, in a location of your choosing, indoors or out
  • Web-ready digital images of up to two different poses capturing your desired professional image

 For more information, to purchase a gift certificate, or to schedule a session, call 608-772-0048 or e-mail us

Need tips on what to wear to your portrait session? Click here for ideas! Watch this Blog space for information about how to portray yourself at different stages of your career, and learn more about professional headshot sessions.

Girls on the Run: Meredith Rhodes Carson on Coaching Confidence


By any measure, there is a need for strong girls in the world. Meeting this need requires guidance from one generation to the next. Arising from humble beginnings as a running and self-empowerment program for thirteen elementary-aged girls in 1996, Girls on the Run has exploded into an international effort involving over 130,000 girls and 55,000 volunteers across over 200 cities. Girls meet twice weekly for 10 to 12 weeks to train for a 5k run and talk about topics ranging from what positive self-image means to how to deal with bullying.

But despite the magnitude of Girls on the Run International, at the local level it all comes down to the individuals who make it happen: volunteer coaches.

One such volunteer is Meredith Rhodes Carson, Girls on the Run coach for a team at Thoreau Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin. Carson has a tremendous depth and range of experience: PhD-level consulting in explorative geology, professional health coaching for brides-to-be, and mother of two active young children.

Focal Flame Photography writer and co-owner Robyn Perrin recently followed up with Carson about some of her experiences as a Girls on the Run coach.

Robyn Perrin / Focal Flame Photography: For those who aren't familiar with the Girls on the Run (GOTR) program, what's involved in a typical practice?

Meredith Rhodes Carson: GOTR practice is divided into several parts; a brief introduction where we discuss the main topic of the lesson (i.e., healthy eating), a getting on board/warm-up where we explore the topic a bit deeper and get the girls moving by playing a short game (i.e., softball, where they are 'pitched' questions about healthy eating), a quick stretch and strengthening routine, and then the actual workout which involves running/walking laps around the practice area.  To wrap up, the girls recognize each other with 'energy awards' and we end with our GOTR cheer.  

FFPWhat inspired you to become a GOTR coach?

Carson: There are a couple of things that inspired me to become a GOTR coach.  When I was growing up, I had some serious issues with self-esteem.  I remember going through a funk (which I would call depression today) in middle school; I was bullied on the school bus, I had a hard time finding real friends, and my mom was facing her own demons at the time.  Fast forward to today: I'm raising a 9-year-old daughter and I desperately want to make sure she has the tools to deal with the stressors of growing up and the confidence to know that she is awesome and that no one should convince her otherwise.  I also wanted to find a way to volunteer in my community - in a way that would help me to grow.  Coaching GOTR has been a great learning experience for me.

FFP: What has been the most rewarding aspect of coaching? 

Carson: I think that the most rewarding aspect of coaching has been to see the girls change over the course of 10 weeks.  I see leaders emerging, I see confidence being gained, I see compassion, I see friends choosing to be in situations that make them happy, I see that many of the girls are learning great things in school and bringing those gifts out to share. 

FFP: Has anything about being a GOTR coach been surprising or unexpected?

Carson: I am surprised by how much the girls transport me back to my youth.  Some of the conversations that we've had really hit home.  Conversations around body image and relationships and missing friends who have moved away... The other coaches and I have been moved to tears after practice remembering what it was like to be in their shoes.

FFP: How has the staff at GOTR-Dane County supported your efforts? 

Carson: The staff at GOTR - Dane County are awesome!  They have been very supportive, incredibly so.  They held new coaches training and first aid sessions to start the season off.  They let me sneak another girl onto the team in the early weeks (would have been so hard to turn her away), they make lesson planning a breeze by sending out weekly reminders about what is coming up, they've provided all of the materials for the lessons, and most of all, they've provided individual support to the girls when needed.  We were able to provide a great new pair of running shoes to one of the girls on the team.  GOTR support is amazing.  They are really committed to making this program successful.

FFP: For those considering coaching a GOTR or Girls On Track team in their community, what advice would you share?

Carson: If you are on the edge about becoming a GOTR coach, I would offer this advice.  You might approach GOTR coaching as a way for you to grow personally, not with the idea that you don't have what it takes to coach, or that you have nothing to teach the girls, or that you don't know how to run (because it's not a running program).  My default state throughout my adult life has been to be sort of scheduled, to play by the book, to plan and maybe to over-plan.  Coaching GOTR has enabled me to let loose, to let things happen and unfold, to throw the book away when good things are happening, and to appreciate how each lesson is played out.

While the lessons are literally written out for you, the spontaneity of practice is rewarding.  Not to mention that the girls really do value the program... they know me now... It's great to be hugged in the hallways at school.  I'll forever be Coach Myrtle. 

FFPHow has GOTR influenced the rest of your family?

Carson: I have a jealous little guy at home, who would really like to be a Boy on the Run.  

FFP: What do you want the community to know about GOTR

Carson: I found out about GOTR through a friend - who happens to be a former GOTR coach.  We were discussing how to raise a confident daughter (and I really didn't know, as I lost that confidence when I was growing up).  My friend said to me, "She needs to do Girls on the Run."  She was right.  TheGOTR program is designed to give our girls the tools to be positive, to treat themselves well, to understand their emotions, to practice gratitude, to value what's really important, to cooperate, to stand up to peer pressure and bullying, to understand how harmful gossip is, to choose friends that lift you up, and to work together to support their community. 

Please join Girls on the Run Dane County for the 2nd Annual Spring 5K on Saturday, June 8 at McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg, WI. 

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Actor Headshot Photography: Jason Wilson, Voice Actor


If you think about it, hardly a day goes by without hearing the talent of a voice actor. Whenever you listen to the radio, television, movies, or online videos, professional voice actors make messages come alive and keep audiences engaged, and yet relatively few are recognized as household names despite the importance of their craft. With an uncanny ability to alter their vocal pitch, inflection, and accent, professional voice actors can emulate a wide range of characters and ages.

But does a voice actor need a headshot in their portfolio? Absolutely, said broadcaster and voice talent Jason Wilson, who goes by Jason Ryan on-air. A radio professional with over 16 years experience, Jason said, “Just because I use my voice, doesn't mean they shouldn't see my face, right?”

As afternoon air talent for Lite 107.3 WSJY (Fort Atkinson, WI) and announcer for theNAHL Junior A League Janesville Jets hockey team, Jason realized that he wanted to also pursue additional avenues as a voice professional. “Voice acting is an extension of what I do at my radio station,” said Jason. “I’m able to create with sound and paint a picture using my imagination.”

Selected to be represented by the talent agency Lori Lins Ltd with offices in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago, Jason found need for an updated actor headshot in his portfolio. One challenge: extremely short notice for the interview with the agency.

DSC_8669 copy-imp.jpg

No problem whatsoever – Focal Flame Photography was able to book a session that met Jason’s timeline. Photographer Clint Thayer and assistant Josh talked with Jason to determine his desired look. “For my headshots, I wanted to convey professionalism and a very sharp look.  I’d like for people to look at my headshot and think, ‘This guy’s got his stuff together.  He didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday,’” said Jason. “But I didn’t want anything too ‘stuffy’ or ‘formal,’ just something nice and clean.”

The resulting images covered a range of poses and styles, and Jason selected some classic black-and-white images with clean composition for his signature actor headshots. Mentioning that the photo shoot was relaxing and fun, Jason said, “Clint was very easy to work with.  He knew what was going to work at the shoot and wasted no time in getting what he wanted.” As for recommending Focal Flame Photography for headshots to other acting professionals, Jason was straightforward. “Of course I would recommend Focal Flame to others. If you want professional pictures, you go to Clint and Focal Flame.”

As Jason anticipates upcoming auditions through the talent agency, he expects a range of opportunities that will allow him to stretch himself creatively. “As I told [agency representatives] at the end of my orientation, ‘Just keep feeding me.’  I’ll do whatever they throw at me because I know I can do it and do it well.”

We couldn’t agree more. Jason’s future sounds great – literally.

Interested in more info about professional headshot photography? Click here to learn more!

Professional Headshots


Getting quality professional headshots in Madison, WI used to be something only actors worried about. But in our increasingly visual age, where LinkedIn is the new business card and networking though Facebook might lead to the next job interview, people in all fields need a professional image.

Professional headshots, also referred to as corporate headshots or business portraits, have one purpose: to present a powerful visual element that coincides with business or personal goals. The professional headshot offers instantaneous association between an individual's professional persona and their image. By authentically reflecting a person’s personality, the portrait can increase personal and career branding.

These exact reasons influenced Kim Beck Seder’s decision to have her picture taken. Beck Seder, a graduate student, had been awarded a scholarship by the American Musicological Society. “I decided to get a headshot taken since the governing body in my field wanted to put a picture of me up in front of everyone at the annual business meeting.  I figure it can’t hurt to have a professional photo taken to be displayed in front of so many people, some of whom might be interviewing me for a job in the near future.”

In addition to her very specific need for a headshot, Beck Seder realized some future employers may request a photo along with her application. Other uses of professional headshots include social media and websites, corporate publications, and promotional newsletters. Presenting a consistent professional image that communicates BeckSeder’s personality was important and influenced her selection of a photographer. 

Needing professional headshots taken in Madison, WI area, Beck Seder turned to Focal Flame’s photographer, Clint Thayer. She said, “I know Clint’s work and his passion for capturing excellent images – still or moving.  I also knew we’d have the flexibility of doing the photos outside, which really suits my personality and lifestyle. One of the things I really like about my favorite headshot is that I look professional and engaged, but also youthful and energetic, which is needed in my field.”

The importance of facial recognition to personal branding can not be underestimated. The unifying element between the LinkedIn page, the personal website, and the face-to-face handshake is a quality professional headshot. Thayer, who has shot dozens of professional headshots in Madison, WI for UW Department of Medicine, points out, “The value of a headshot is that it captures an individual visually just as a resume portrays them in words.”

Beck Seder concludes, “I definitely think I made a good investment in having these photos taken. The professional image you send out in the world is more important than you think.”

Looking for a professional headshot photographer in Madison, WI or Milwaukee, WI? Contact us today! Join the conversation on the Focal Flame Photography facebook page, Twitter feed, and Google+