Tips on Choosing a Great Speaker Photo

When you’re trying to choose a speaker photo, sometimes your main concern is just managing to find a photo of yourself that you don’t hate. While that’s a good first step, it’s important to keep in mind that this photo is one of the best tools you can use to make a great first impression on people who haven’t seen you speak before. Regardless of whether you’re using a professional photographer or just taking the headshot yourself, here are a few tips for what to avoid if you’re ready to go beyond a photo that’s just adequate and instead move to one that can help you make a connection with the other conference attendees.



Don’t use a photo that’s out of date

Your photo is going to be how many people at the conference first recognize you, so it’s incredibly helpful to make sure the person in the photo looks as much like the person at the conference as possible. While it’s good habit to get a new speaker photo every few years, also considering updating the image you use if you make a major change to how you look, like if you dye your hair a drastically different color or grow a beard.



UnclearSkip busy backgrounds

A photo with a lot going on behind you can look a bit messy or distracting. Keep it simple and aim for a clutter-free background that allows you to be the focus of the shot.





Juli_hat and sunglasses

Avoid things in the way of your face

That picture of you in your favorite hat and sunglasses might be the photo of yourself you like the best, but more often than not accessories like those get in the way of people recognizing you from your speaker photo. That’s why conferences (and attendees) often prefer if you skip items or props that obscure your face in the image you choose.





BlurrySkip photos that aren’t clear

A photo isn’t helpful if people can’t tell what’s in it. Blurriness, dark shadows, or light sources that are too weak or distractingly strong can get in the way of clarity. So can compressing the photo file too much.

Thankfully there are a few easy fixes for this that anyone can use. When taking your photo, look for soft light that doesn’t cast harsh shadows (indirect sunlight is great for this). Also avoid having a strong light source behind you as it can make you look like you’re in the shade. If you’re feeling up for a bit more of a lighting challenge, then try looking up “three point lighting” on YouTube or Google. Once the photo is shot, be careful not to compress the photo file too much as it could make the image pixelate.


Juli_Distorted BW_1

Avoid effects that distort the photo

Filters and effects can make a photo seem more interesting or artistic, but they’re another feature that can get in the way of a clear image. While a small amount of post-production editing is fine, avoid choosing photos with filters that distort your image and make it hard to recognize you.





CostumeMake sure your photo isn’t a mismatch for the conference

Every conference has its own different feel, and that might affect the kind of speaker photo you’ll want to choose. A highly academic conference might not want your speaker photo to be of you parachuting from an airplane, but a conference themed around learning from risk might think that same photo is perfect.

Before you choose a photo, think about the tone of this particular event and even take a look at the speaker photos from previous years. Then look for a photo of you that feels like it belongs with the conference, but still feels like you too.



Don’t forget the photo guidelines!

Most conferences will give you guidelines for the photo file, size, name, and even possibly format. These rules ensure that your photo is the right shape and resolution for any place the conference may use your image, including both print and web.

While most conferences tend to have photo guidelines, don’t forget that they don’t all necessarily use the same ones. Taking a few moments to double check that your photo meets the guidelines of the specific conference you’re submitting to can save you the trouble of having to send in a new image later on.


So what can a great speaker photo look like? Well, you’ve seen terrible photos of Mark, Juli, and I – now here are the photos of us we actually use when someone asks us for a headshot.

MarkHeadshot_2014Juli_Good photo 1BWoods Profile Picture

Have your own tips for creating the best speaker photo possible? Be sure to add them to the comments section below!


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