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Why your personal brand needs real photography, not just AI magic

Insights | March 12th, 2024

Right, let’s have a heart-to-heart about personal branding in the age of AI filters and virtual realities. Sure, those computer-generated images can jazz up your social media feed. Hell, there are actual pros to them when used properly,  such as saving time and money. Nevertheless, when it comes to making a real connection, nothing beats the authenticity of genuine, professional photography. To many who operate in a business setting however, that’s a hard sale simply because the value of “authenticity” here is nearly intangible.

The Rise of AI vs. the Real Deal

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In 1983, sociologist George Ritzer Ritzer proposed in his article titled The McDonalization of Societythat in the later part of the 20th century the socially-structured form of the fast-food restaurant had become the organizational force representing and extending the process of rationalization into the realm of everyday interaction and individual identity. Fast forward to 2024, I’m sure you’ve probably heard the intense buzz about AI-generated images and filters that promise to make you look flawless with just a tap. But let’s be real—do you really want to blend in with the army of pixel-perfect avatars out there? Maybe some of you do, but your personal brand deserves more than a cookie-cutter facade. Authenticity is the name of the game, and that’s where a real photographer steps in. It does go without saying though, that the ease with which we get our needs met these days, makes this an uphill battle.

The Value of Hiring a Pro

Picture this: you’re scrolling through Google looking for an honest and hard-working real estate agent in your area. You find a well constructed landing page with beautiful listings and convincing result metrics. You then find the agent’s profile who’s photograph instantly captivate you. The agent looks serious, approachable, and professional. That’s the power of professional photography. A skilled photographer doesn’t just snap pictures—they capture your essence, your vibe, your brand in its truest form. From the perfect lighting to the candid smiles, every detail is meticulously crafted to showcase the best version of you.

The counter argument is that AI’s blazing fast progress allows it to hit all of those aforementioned hallmarks. But consider this: the human brain naturally knows when something is unnatural. According to the Uncanny Valley phenomenon first introduced in 1970, the “rendered human” might look almost real, but that slight chasm between looking “almost human” and “fully human” leaves you feeling discomfort or even revulsion. Additionally, it is suggested that online avatars that are made to help mimic the human touch may actually end up alienating people who are using such tools.

Price Tag Panic? Understandable

Client Samantha Sottile from Loom Luxury Linens

Ah, the dreaded budget talk. We (the photographers) get it—investing in professional photography might seem like a splurge at first glance. I’ll admit, in some cases it definitely can be. These days, professional headshot services can range from $250 to $1500 or more. It is fair to say that not everyone has the cash to spare for such expense in today’s economy.

If you are a business owner or client-facing professional, think of hiring a photographer as an investment in yourself, your brand, and your future which I expanded on in “How to get the real Value behind the price tag”. When you consider the impact that stunning portraits can have on your online presence and professional reputation, suddenly, it’s no longer about dollars and cents anymore. It’s about the priceless value of authenticity, a value proven to be deeply important in client-facing business.

In the example of the real estate agent, Imagine if potential clients feel that they’ve been lied to. Sounds unlikely? Well, reverse the roles and let me know how you’d feel. Knowing that the person you are about to invest your dollar with is as real and flawed as you establishes a strong baseline connection upon which business relationships can flourish.

Never rely solely on AI. There is a time an a place for AI headshots. They shouldn’t be used in resumes or “public-facing social media. Avoid misrepresenting yourself.

Marissa Morrison, Vice President of People at ZipRecruiter

Quick Facts

Pros of using a photographer

  • Authenticity (easily establish connection with audience)
  • Professionalism (conveys competence)
  • Familiarity (more relatable to audience)
  • Local business support

Challenges of using a real photographer

  • Cost (can be expensive for individuals or small business budgets)
  • Time-consuming (between scheduling, executing, and delivery of finals)
  • Some limitations (in variety affected by budget such as backgrounds, settings, styles)

Pros of using Ai-generated headshots

  • It can lead to hundreds of dollars in savings
  • Accessibility and convenience
  • Time saving and customizable

Risks of using Ai-generated headshots

  • Privacy & security concerns (can be used to create deep fakes or fake accounts)
  • Lack of human touch (dilution of trust between business professionals and potential clients/customers)
  • Misrepresentation of your true personality

Hey, thanks for looking.

In a world where everyone’s trying to be Insta-famous overnight, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of sameness. But here’s the secret sauce: be yourself, authentically and unapologetically. And when it comes to showcasing your personal brand to the world, trust in the power of real photography to tell your story like no AI filter ever could.

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