Is professional photography worth paying for?

by JD Blogger LLC

Quality website design doesn’t come cheap. You’d think that convincing a prospective client to cough up the money for a design project would be the hardest part of the process.

There’s one thing that’s harder…getting attorneys to understand the importance of professional photography of themselves, to slot into a new AwkwardSkivviesdesign.

Nonverbal cues matter

If you’re getting ready to list your house with an agent, and they drive up in a car with the bumper held on with duct tape, how likely are you to give them your listing?

That’s exactly the same message that a bad personal photograph sends on your law firm website.

When asked why Y Combinator success story invests in professional photography, Creative Lead Venetia Pristavec replied, “Quality breeds trust. When you’re introduced to a new place, you look for signs that the information comes from a reliable source. Our listings with professional photographs earn more than twice as much money as those without them.” [Source: Fast Company, April 2013, emphasis mine.]

What NOT to do

In many years in the design business, I’ve seen a lot. My retinas have been seared by scary photographs over and over (although, thankfully, none as scary as the one at the top of this blog post!)

THIS photograph, however, is a treasure trove of don’ts. If you want to test yourself, make a list of all the things wrong with it before scrolling down (I count 5):


1. The mess in the windowsills. This is the equivalent of the duct tape on the bumper. If I see this, how likely am I to think that this attorney is prone to losing files and missing deadlines?

2. The diploma growing out of his head.  A professional photographer is trained to pay attention not just to the subject, but to what’s going on in the background.

3. The harsh light. See the hard shadow behind his ear? Flattering to no one.

4. The wopped up suit jacket. Note how the back of his jacket is trying to climb up his neck. That’s because he’s sitting in a regular office chair. Professional photographers seat their subjects on stools for a myriad of reasons – one of which is that it lets jackets hang straight off the back.

5. The subject’s tie is seriously askew. Great if he’s doing shots, not so great if he’s IN a shot.

This photograph is irredeemable. No amount of artful cropping, sepia toning, or background removal can fix ALL of its issues. Plus, not every website designer is a former professional photographer, like ours. Making websites is a different skill set than working magic with crappy photography.

Photography done right

Good photography doesn’t have to be uber-formal, done in a suit and tie, or even shot in a studio with studio lighting. It can be relaxed, informal, in an outdoor setting – but it needs to be shot with a correct lens, by an individual who knows how to read light, minimize background distractions, pose a subject and compose an image. After that, a good eye for processing that image is every bit as important as skill in the traditional darkroom used to be.

Here are two examples from another client, in both formal and informal versions:


When something is done right, it often takes a pro to point out just how right it is. Note how well-done the lighting is in both shots. He looks healthy, not sick like he’s dying from terminal fluorescent lighting. His jacket and tie are smooth, and his pose is relaxed and confident in both photos. He doesn’t look “JCPenney headshot” stiff.

See how he almost appears to be floating in the shot on the right? That’s a high-key lighting setup on a white background – not easy to do well, especially if the subject is also wearing white.

Yet the photographer managed to make the background disappear, while still keeping him distinctly separate (his head doesn’t look like it’s floating, as it would if the white shirt were as overexposed as the background). This is the type of photo you want to get if you wish your designer to integrate you into the design itself, rather than as a separate portrait.

How much should this cost?

Markets vary from coast to coast, and photographers charge by skill and reputation much like lawyers do. However, in most markets, $200-$300 should get you a handful of high-quality professional shots and the rights to use them on your website. In more expensive markets, like New York and San Francisco – maybe up to $500-$600, depending upon the photographer.

It’s always hard to quantify ROI on creating trust via nonverbal cues like design and photography – but wouldn’t you hate to think you lost just ONE client, one case, one referral, due to a lack of follow-through with something so simple?

Cynthia LaLunaCynthia LaLuna is the Creative Director for Rowboat Media.

Top photo:

Good examples: Thanks to Harry Shulman


Written by:

JD Blogger LLC

JD Blogger LLC on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.