My favorite terrible ad of all time is an ad for a small town taxidermist.
The fact that I collect taxidermy should be considered immaterial to my love for this commercial.
It’s important to note that this ad wants to be terrible-on-purpose, which it accomplishes very well. Unfortunately, it’s so funny because it accurately mirrors very real ads that are terrible-on-accident.
Many of those terrible ads are legal in nature, for lawyers or firms. Why are so many legal headshots and ads so awful? This is speculation, but I blame the fact that law firm advertising was made legal in the late 1970s, just in time for tons of ads to come out in the 1980s, when nobody had any taste.
It’s not the 80s anymore, though, so why do these terrible ads persist? Is this some kind of mythological punishment for our hubris or something?
We may not be able to get rid of all the bad ads, but you can avoid being like them with these simple tips.
The best camera advice you will ever receive is very simple:
- Sit or stand up straight
- Face the camera but turn your body to a slight angle (aim for a ¾ angle)
- Relax your shoulders
- Relax your face
- Just before the photograph is taken, exhale
You will instantly improve any photograph by following those tips.
2. Tough on crime, not on the camera
Why do so many lawyers think that the only way they’ll look serious and tough is to glare at the camera? The camera is not the plaintiff in a ridiculous frivolous lawsuit. You don’t need to stare it down.
I mean it. If you feel that you have an awkward smile (many people do in pictures, since it’s posed), you can overcome that with tricks.
The first trick is to press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and smile with your mouth closed. This will help relax the muscles of your jaw.
The second trick is to close your eyes shortly before the picture is taken. Then open your eyes slowly, and smile as you do. It will create a more natural, unselfconscious look.
Whatever trick it takes, you must smile. Ads with smiling people do 50% better than ads where people are not smiling. You’re trying to attract clients, not scare them.
3. Context is key
You think that the casual clothes make you look sporty, and the beach background makes it look like you’re laid back. You don’t take your job too seriously! You’re not like those other lawyers.
Well, you think wrong. Far from making you look relaxed, these details make you look like you don’t care about your job. Nobody cares about your after-work hobbies, interesting though I’m sure they are.
When people go looking for a lawyer, they want to find a lawyer. Don’t give them your Saturday self. Give them your most professional. If you have a background, have it be in your own office. If you can’t stand your office (or the lighting, which is fair), use a neutral solid color for your background.
4. Edit your legal headshot properly
Photo editing is wonderful. I don’t allow a single image of myself online until I’ve touched it up with a beauty app. Unfortunately, while the tools to edit your own photos are more common than ever, the skills to do so are not. Photoshop isn’t magic. You cannot upload your picture and expect it to be automatically fixed.
Trust an expert to do the editing (and, for that matter, the photography) for you. You wouldn’t let a photographer represent you in court, so why are you letting a lawyer or a paralegal do your headshots?
If you answered that rhetorical question, then you probably aren’t going to listen to me. If you’re being stubborn, at least keep the editing to a minimum. Nothing will take you into uncanny valley faster than having an eerily perfect, doll-like look in your legal headshots. Just put a black and white filter on your pictures and call it a day.
5. Try to match
If you have a firm full of lawyers who all need a headshot for your website, you need to have consistency. Having a webpage full of clearly different qualities and styles of lawyer headshots looks unprofessional. It lacks an aesthetic harmony and distracts from the important information, like your lawyer biographies.
You don’t want to have your photos be noticed for how bad they are. You want them to be tasteful and similar, and to fade into the background. Spring for having a photographer come in and do a brief shoot of the whole firm. When you have new hires on the team, invite the same photographer back again. Your site will look much better for it.
Now proceed… with caution
You’re as prepared as I can make you. Be careful and do your homework before having your headshots done, either for your site or for a banner ad.
Ready for the next level? Consider reading up on marketing your legal firm. Start with 5 Legal Marketing Buzzwords to Know (and 5 to Avoid), 5 Reasons Your Legal Blog Isn’t Driving Leads, and Internet Marketing for Law Firms. And as always, make sure your law firm runs smoothly with law practice management software; a great headshot might get you clients, but a well-run law firm retains them.
Do you have any photography tips you swear by? Share them in the comments below.
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