Rating the candidates – by their pictures

They were one of the biggest talking points from The News last week.

The head and shoulder photos of election candidates – published exclusively in The News – generated a great deal of discussion about the quality – some for being good, and some for being, well, not quite as good.

So we asked Stephen Barker, a Waikato commercial and editorial photographer, and Waikato digital marketer Josh Moore to tell us what they thought.

Here’s what they had to Say.

Stephen Barker

Stephen Barker

Portrait photos are an essential part of my business. My clients are big and small businesses, and they all see the value in getting a professional look for themselves.

So, in these candidate photos, there’s an obvious difference between those that have gone to the effort of presenting themselves well and those that don’t seem bothered about the impression they make.

The best headshots are the ones with a pro approach. There’s some basics at play in achieving this. Clear and sharp images with good lighting and a plain white or very light backdrop work well. Backgrounds should avoid busy patterns like leafy trees, curtains and distracting office features.

People generally look better with shoulders facing slightly away from the camera and the head facing front on. If you have to use a cell phone, definitely don’t do a selfie! Your features will be out of proportion. Get someone else to shoot it. Make sure the lens is super clean. Try using the portrait mode if it has that feature.

Top row, clockwise from left: Cherie Weinberg, Crystal Beavis, Bernard Westerbaan, Krystie Brickland, David Slone, Susan O’Regan.

Get them to step back a bit then zoom in a little. This gives a more flattering perspective. It’s worthwhile trying different expressions from happy and smiley through to relaxed and confident. Just don’t look scarily too happy and don’t look to mellow or even grumpy!

Another tip when getting your headshot done is to not wear anything too wintery i.e. no thick jumpers, jackets or scarves. Neither too summery! i.e. no Hawaiian shirts or thin shoulder straps or too much skin.

Go for something seasonally neutral, and don’t have too busy a top. Avoid black, any logos, prints and patterns, and go for block colours instead.

Overall, I’d recommend hiring a professional photographer to capture a great portrait for people standing for public office. It’s worth an investment, likely starting around $120 to $150 plus GST for a basic headshot. You’d be paying more if you want to try some different outfits.

My best five headshots, in no particular order were Bernard Westerbaan, Cherie Weinberg, Crystal Beavis, David Slone and Krystie Brickland.

Josh Moore

Josh Moore

It’s interesting to see them all side-by-side.

It becomes very obvious that so few of the candidates have actually invested in a professional photo, which surely is marketing 101. A profile photo is the first impression people see and, like it or not, we all make snap judgements of people within seconds.

In fact, Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face! Yet many of the candidates seem to be unwilling to invest in this most basic level of marketing.

In my opinion the standout for the best photo is Susan O’Regan. Definitely the best photo in the line up and helps her standout from the competition.

  • Stephen Barker has more than 40 year’s experience and has not taken any of the candidates’ photos.
  • Josh Moore is managing director of Duoplus.

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