Boost your business in a flash
Doren Gabriel, image 1st
Image is everything. Just ask Doren Gabriel, the founder of photography firm, image 1st.
His business comprises DG Corporate, which specialises in taking company headshots. It has experienced an 80 per cent increase in revenues over the past year as companies seek ways to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market.
Mr Gabriel, who counts Goldman Sachs, Salesforce, Gallup and the BBC among his clients, says: "When the recession hit, the makeover/entertainment side of our business started to slow down but demand for corporate headshots went up significantly.
"The market is massive and we feel that over the next few years, the sky is the limit."
Why the increase? "Business is more competitive for companies today. To them, image is everything and they don't want to be undermined in their market place. They feel that having quality headshots associated with their brand will increase sales."
And with social networking sites such as LinkedIn emerging, headshots have become even more important.
According to Mr Gabriel, 35, consumers have become increasingly social and visual. In the same way that many prefer to see a picture of what they are buying before they part with their money, people like to see who they are doing business with.
Here's how to get the best shot
● Try to communicate your best personality trait in the picture
● Make an effort with your appearance but avoid spray tans at all costs. It is important to look professional. Remove any oil and grease from your skin and hair
● Do not have a hot drink beforehand - they can make you look hot, sweaty and flustered. Keep your food intake light and healthy as if you are feeling bloated or tired it will come across in the picture
● Clothes: mid-tone ones such as red, orange, yellow, green and blue work best. Avoid busy patterns as they will distract people from looking at your face. Many like to wear white but it might wash out against a pale background so it is best to have some colours to hand
● It is important to get a good sleep the night before - you don't want to look tired
"People trust people and if you don't have an image which conveys this then how can you expect anyone to do business with you? Businesses need to be seen as being social. Gone are the days of cigar-chomping chief executives telling everyone what to do."
He says some firms report a 90 per cent increase in revenues as a result of updated headshots on their website.
Launched last year DG Corporate accounts for 70 per cent of group turnover, which is expected to exceed £1 million next year.
But the picture has not always been so pretty.
A self-taught photographer, Mr Gabriel founded image 1st in 2002 as a mobile headshot business.
He recalls: "I had some spare cash and invested about £1,500. I drove around London in a rusty van photographing business people for £20 a head but it wasn't long before I went bust due to a lack of interest."
Yet the launch of LinkedIn inspired Mr Gabriel to try again. In 2006, with the help of a £45,000 loan from HSBC, he set up a studio in Farringdon.
He built up an impressive celebrity portfolio including boy band JLS and dancer-cum-television personality Louis Spence and in 2009, opened a second studio in Miami. But as the entertainment work "dried up in the recession" and realising the potential of the corporate market Mr Gabriel decided to establish DG Corporate.
"I had always enjoyed the corporate shoots and felt it was the perfect time to go back to where I started all those years ago." He has since taken more than 10,000 headshots.
"What started out as a way to make a bit of pocket money has grown into a serious business.
"Jobseekers are posting their CVs online and need a professional headshot to get themselves noticed. It's very good news for us.
"Demand is there and growing week on week. Maybe businesses are panicking - they feel they have to jump on the bandwagon of looking good."
He continues: "Many people today meet solely through the internet and we believe a strong and clear image is essential for any business."
Mr Gabriel believes good photos can also lead to promotions.
Fees range from £125 a day for a standard head shot to £10,000, depending on the brief. He was recently asked to take a photo of a businessman on their yacht.
But in an environment of cost-cutting do companies really have such budgets for photos?
"There are massive budgets for photos. I am not talking about photo journalism - that's something else. If I was in that field I'd probably be broke."