some real talk about photos in marketing

KotisivukuvaI just got some new headshots done for my work (by Toronto’s wonderful Donna Santos) and it had me want to send you some thoughts on how photos impact your marketing.

It’s much more than you think.

We live in a day and age where less and less people want to buy from faceless corporations – we want to buy from other people. We want to know who we’re dealing with.

And yet, I go to so many website of businesses and can’t find any photos of any of the people involved. And it has the business feel so anonymous and sterile. 

Worse yet, I go to some sites and the photos they have of themselves are terrible. Their website is talking about ‘radiant health, energy and vitality’ and their photos are grainy, black and white and they look super unhealthy in them.

Or sometimes the photo is ten years old and then you meet them in person and it’s a bit of a shock. It’s a terrible way to start of a relationship, with the feeling that you were tricked and lied to.

Often people will discover you online before they ever meet you in person. Maybe it’s through google or social media or a friend recommending your website but, being real, they will then make a snap judgment of your very quickly based on what they see. It’s entirely unfair. And it’s how it is. 

And here’s my question to you: do the photos you use on your website (or you and your business, not just waterfalls and nature shots) capture the essence of the result you’re offering people?

If your work is ultimately about helping people create more freedom – does your headshot and the photos of you look free? If it’s about inner peace – does your headshot radiate inner peace? Is your work about helping people kick ass in life? If so, your headshot better scream ‘kick ass’. 

Some Real Life Examples of Photos Well Used:
  • I think Rebecca Tracey’s website uses photos on her homepage extremely well in a way that gets her vibe across clearly. You can check it out here:
  • Calgary’s Verge Permaculture nails it with earthy photos that would attract and resonate with folks into permaculture.
  • My colleague at Thrive Academy have a more upscale, motivational, businessy vibe that I think they capture well in the photos of them and their clients.
  • David and Michael at Meaningful Life Design have their headshots right in the banner that get their down to earth, joyful, rugged and wise vibe across.
  • Rapid Fire Theatre, with whom I’ve performed improv comedy for the past 21 years, does an amazing job of this. Most actors and performers have headshots but they make sure that younger players get them too and then put them up on the website connected to their bios. And it’s one of the most visited pages on the site. People love to learn more about their favourite performers.

It’s worth working with a professional you trust on this. Ask around. Look at the work of the photographer until you see someone whose work inspires you.

Why get your headshots updated?
I can tell you that, for me, getting my first headshots was nerve wracking. 
Performing improv comedy to hundred of people? No worries.
Public speaking? Easy.
A photo shoot? Incredibly awkward for me. At one point Donna lowered her camera and said, ‘Tad, it’s not a gun.’ I felt a bit more confident during my recent photo shoot.
But it’s worth it for three reasons.
  • REASON #1 – Get more clients: It’s amazing to me how something so simple as a series of really wonderful photos that capture the essence of you and your business can have such an impact. But it can. A picture is worth a thousand words and if the photos of your business (i.e. yourself, employees, your office or bakery) can capture the heart of your platform – people instantly ‘get you’. They feel you. And because of that they trust you more and open up. They’re drawn in because they think, ‘this looks like the kind of person who could help me. I like them already.’
  • REASON #2 – Feel more attractive: There’s something wonderful about getting new photos that can have you actually feel more attractive to yourself and more confident. It’s like getting a new dress, a haircut, a new shirt you really love and it has you stand taller inside yourself. And feeling attractive to yourself is one of the most client attracting qualities you can have.
  • RESAON #3 – It inspires you to freshen up other things: When you freshen up one aspect of your business, it can get you on a roll. After getting my headshots done, I put them all over my website and felt so excited to have current, up to date photos (my last ones were three years old). And then I noticed the old photo of me in my website banner. ‘I should update that too’ I thought. Which had a new and different looking banner with a wooden backdrop get created. And then I thought, ‘Man, I really hate the cover of my ‘Way of the Radical Business ebook’ – Maybe I could use some of the new banner as a cover for that (which is in process now). And then once I did that, I looked at my homepage and thought, ‘I’d love to freshen up this homepage too’. And then I thought, ‘hrmm. I should really redo that homepage video at some point.’ And what feels wonderful is that I’m not doing it because I have to or that I ‘should’. I’m doing it because I’m inspired to. And that feels good. It’s like spring cleaning – once you get going, it’s hard to stop.


What kinds of photos can you get taken?
  • Your Headshot: This is the obvious one and the most important. 
  • Your Staff: People will love your business even more as they get to know about the staff who they interact with regularly. It humanizes the business and has people be a lot more forgiving and accomodating.
  • Your Events: Do you host social events? Workshops? Do speaking gigs? Etc. Get those photographed! They’re great to share on social media where you can tag folks and show everyone what they missed.
  • Your office or store: Do you have an office space, cafe, restaurant etc? Why not take pictures of it so that people know what they’re coming to or where they’re speaking to you from if you work over the phone.
  • You at work: Do you work our in nature? In cafes on your laptop? In an office space? Give massages? Getting photos of you in action can communicate to much about what you do.


Where you can use your photos?
Your photos can be used in so many places . . .
  • in the banner on your website (like the new one you see above created by Edmonton’s Kim Tanasichuk)
  • on the homepage of your site: personally, I love being able to see who I’m dealing with straight away. I love the feeling of being welcomed into their website by the smiling face of the website owner. It’s like being greeted warmly by the owner at a local restaurant or cafe. 
  • on your bio page: so important! People want to know who you are. What you look like and your vibe is a big, big part of that. And you can have more than one photo of yourself on that page to help them get to know different facets of you.
  • on your products: if you have info products, consider having your photo on the cover of it – or at least the back cover of it so they remember who they bought it from.

I invite you to look at your website and social media presence and ask yourself where you could freshen up your photos. 

Consider trading services with a photographer you love. It’s worth it. 

seven before and after headshot examples

I was just chatting on the phone today with my new colleague (and increasingly pal) Maruxa Murphy.

During our chat she mentioned a photographer, Christina Morassi, who had a real gift for capturing people’s essence in her photographs and had some great before and after shots to prove it.

Now, I’ve written before about the importance of having a great headshot and given some before and after examples – but I don’t think you can have too many examples.

Somehow it feels like, in the ‘after’ photo, they let themselves dress more authentically. They wore clothes that expressed more deeply who they were. There’s something that feels a bit more real, warm and human – more authentic – about the setting chosen for the after photos.

When I look at the after photos I feel like I get a much better feel for ‘them’ and whether or not they’d be a fit for me. In some of the first photos there’s a sense of ‘trying’ to look good, professional, empowered but in the after photos – there’s more of a sense of them being relaxed, comfortable in their own skin and allowing who they are to show. The first ones seem ‘impressive’ but the afters feel beautiful.


See the difference:

Before —————————After

My clients OLD business portrait /After Flipping Their Switch

Rose Cole ~

Tracey Trottenberg ~

Stephanie Radkay ~

Katharine Dever ~

Lisa Steadman ~

Julie Steelman ~

Wendy Prior ~


What do you think about the difference?

Leave your comments below.


If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.


Three Headshot Photo Scenarios

Regarding your business headshot, here are three possible scenarios:

SCENARIO #1: No Photo. This is terrible. Reading a bio without a photo feels hollow. They get no sense of you as a ‘person’. You will seem abstract.

SCENARIO #2: A Bad Photo.
This might even be worse. I can’t tell you how many ads I’ve seen for holistic practitioners where they practitioner looks unhealthy. That’s worse than ‘no photo’. It’s like screaming at them ‘this doesn’t work’.

Or like a happiness coach with a photo of them that makes them look too serious. No go. Start over. Or a photo that is ‘tooooo professional’. You know the type. it looks like they’re trying soooo hard to seem powerful. Maybe the photo is blurry, grainy, shadowy etc. Or the photo is fine but what they’re wearing isn’t working. Or they really could have used a bit of makeup to take some of the shine off their face.

The wrong photo can absolutely kill an ad dead and send people reeling in horror from your website.

SCENARIO #3: A Great Photo. When you have a GREAT photo – people are actually drawn to look at your ad. They are drawn to the words. They look at you and think, “wow. this person looks radiant, happy, friendly, powerful and like they embody what their business is about”.

Your credibility goes through the roof. Your marketing materials come alive with a warmth and vibrancy they’ve never had before. They are excited to meet you. And YOU are excited to give out your materials and send people to your website (instead of feeling subtly embarrassed by them and needing to make excuses for the poor quality photos). Are your photos great right now? If people aren’t actively telling you, “wow! what great photos” then they probably aren’t.

To see some great examples of photo headshots just click here.


If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.


Examples of Great Headshot Photos

Ingrid Crynz

Michael Talbott Kelly

Let me give you some before and after examples of good and bad photos with explanations from my pal and genius photographer in Toronto, Donna Santos. To the right is an example of a great photo. It’s of my friend Ingrid Crynz. This is how good you want your photo to be. To the left is that of Vancouver therapist Michael Talbott Kelly. These photos are great.

For years I had a picture up on my website. And I had clients actively finding ways to tell me how much they hated it. Like inserting it awkwardly into conversations. But I felt a bit helpless. I had amateur friends take photos here and there but nothing ever really felt ‘right’ for me.

Until I met Donna.

As soon as my new photos went up on facebook I started getting attention. I got lots of ‘oooohs’ and ‘aaahhhs’. So when I hosted one of these Headshot Days my clients were already sold. They loved my new photos so much. Including every photo on this website.

“When first saw Tad’s before photo (left) I felt he had a question mark on his face, the confidence is not there and it doesn’t reflect the ‘expert’ that he says he is. After spending just a few minutes with Tad,  I realized that we needed to capture his wits, confidence and his sense of humor. His groundedness made him a magnet to all types of people so I wanted to keep that as the central theme of our photo shoot. I also wanted this photo to speak to his clients, so from lighting, wardrobe and set-up, I kept it minimal that conveys openness. I think the after photo really captures Tad as the person and as the marketing expert for the hippies.” -Donna Santos

Jaime Almond

“Jaime’s photo on the left is not that bad but it also is not good enough to justify her classic traits, beauty and brains. Instead of hiding behind a computer, pulled away in this dimly photo, I made Jaime come out and face the world in full confidence and with no hesitation. Her expressive eyes now speak more directly to her audience – reassuring and worthy of trust.” Donna Santos

And here are some more examples of what a great photo looks like . . .

A Sample of Donna Santos' Work

Check out Donna Santos’ website for more examples and maybe to get a photo session if you’re in Toronto.

And if you want a refresher on why a good photo matters click here.


Do you know of someone with a great headshot? Let me know! I’d love to add it here and give them some free publicity.


If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a

free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.