Mugshots, Gravatars, and JC Penney

Michael Hyatt, in his book “Platform,” strongly recommends getting a good headshot to use as your gravatar. A “gravatar” is a “globaly recognized avatar.” An avatar is the photo that shows up on your Facebook page, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.

In building my platform to promote the “Cloddy”book, I knew I needed to get a better photo than the one I was using. Hyatt thinks a good head shot is so important that you should hire the best photographer in town to do it. But I didn’t want to spend a lot. So I considered doing it myself. That would have been a mistake considering my limited photography skills.


Hyatt also strongly recommends not using a “portrait factory” as he calls it – like one at a JC Penney store. In contemplating what I should do, I thought, “At least JC Penney will have a better camera than I have and hopefully a better photographer than myself.” So I went to JC Penney and checked out pricing. I could get a headshot for $50.

Hyatt in “Platform” gives several tips on getting a good headshot:

1. Don’t take the photo in a studio at a portrait factory. Instead, take the photo at home or office or outdoors – somewhere on your natural turf. This will make the photo more natural and interesting. I ignored this advice. Trust me. There is nothing natural or interesting about the studio in a JC Penney store. But the photographer suggested a brownish background and it worked out.

2. Hyatt suggests smiling with your whole face – including smiling with your eyes and mouth – a natural smile. A likable smile.

3. Hyatt recommends taking a lot of photos. My photographer took ten, but would have taken more. We looked at the photos and selected the one we thought was best. Not all of them were good. But thankfully, it only takes one.

4. Then I had some ideas of my own. I asked the photographer if I could stand while she took the photos. That was ok with her. I don’t like sitting stiff on a stool. It just does not seem natural to me. Prior to going to my appointment, I also went to the mirror to find my better side if their is one – and then I smiled a few times to see what was goofy and what was not. I also told the photographer to not highlight the thinning hair section on the top of my head.

CAVEAT: I was fortunate to have an able and experienced JC Penney photographer take the photo. I might have just gotten lucky. Some photographers at portrait factories may not be the most skillful or experienced. I’d suggest asking some questions and making sure you get the photographer that you believe will do the best job.

Do you need to update your headshot?

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