let’s retire the word ‘headshot’ please.

I wrote something on Instagram a while back about how the very mention of the word “headshot” makes me cringe. The word brings to mind those school pictures with two lights in front of a blue backdrop. Don’t get me wrong: I actually love studio lighting and utilize it - just not always in the conventional way. (Enneagram: 4:: individualist). So, when someone requests headshots, my first response is generally, “Please take a look at my website and visit my portfolio.” Once they reply, “Yes, I love your work, I’d love to work with you,” I send them a pdf file that’s probably a little long for some folks (some people love to know exactly what to expect; others want to ‘wing it’). Then, I set up a call to talk. And, the reason for this process is this: as much as I love my work, everyone views photographs differently. I don’t aspire to be Amber Shumake The high volume Dallas Fort Worth area headshot photographer. I want to work with a handful of clients every couple of weeks and create art that’s unique to each individual. I want you to ooze with pride when someone requests that you attach your “headshot.” I suppose I abhor that term because gone are the days when corporate photographs need to be tucked-in and stuffy. Photos of you are the first way in which clients and potential clients connect with your message and “meet” you. You might as well make a great first impression; otherwise, you’re likely turning your dream clients away. 

And, if you’re reading this, I’d imagine you’ve been told something about the way you look that has traumatized you. 

I’m gonna let that previous sentence sink in. I moonlight as a trauma therapist. Perhaps the message that “you’re not photogenic” or “you smile weird” or “your eye is lazy” or “your teeth are ugly” or “you look fat” or “you look sick and too skinny” or “your nose is too pointy” are not capital-T traumas. But, I’ve been providing commercial photographs for small business women in these parts for a few years now (I shirked this work in the beginning of my career because it’s not as easy as photographing a child…that’s for sure), and I’ve worked with exactly one woman who told me she loved how she looked. One. One out of hundreds. You probably read that and thought, “Omg, who was it? How arrogant!” 

For me, it was absolutely refreshing. 

You see, we live in a society that’s poisoned us into believing we should hate how we look - that our sole purpose should be to be smaller in body and…well, power. It took me about 33 years to realize the power piece. Because if I’m counting my carbs every day and making my macros (who am I kidding…I don’t even know what that means) and doing my cardio and practicing yoga and lifting weights and removing all the hair from my body and embarking on my nightly skin care regimen one hour before bed and getting eight hours of sleep and doing all of the other things that society has told me I need to do in the name of beauty, I don’t have time to pursue anything else. Side note: if all of the aforementioned things bring you joy, then - by all means - carry on. Live and let live. For the record, I do some of those things. Some of those things bring me endorphins and strong, stable joints that are capable of carrying a heavy son and photo equipment; some of those things bring me the mental clarity to become quiet enough to hear how I can best serve here. 

So, I feel my work as a photographer who predominantly photographs women is an opportunity to invite you to set all that you’ve been told about how you look aside and instead see yourself from a place of power because it’s in you. You were born with It - we all were. It’s waiting for you to see it and own it and share it with other people who haven’t quite found their power yet. This is a role I don’t take lightly. So, I walk you through every step of the way. And, can I just say that more often than not at the end of the shoot, women say, “Wow, that was fun,” and “I loved spending time with you.” 

Since writing about my disdain for the word “headshots” I receive emails with the subject: headshots? I don’t know what we’re going to call them. But, if you send an email with ‘headshots?’ as the subject, I’m gonna know we’re on the same portrait page. 

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