Undead “professional” portrait disaster

Around this time last year, I decided I to get a portrait taken.

I was getting ready to launch my copywriting biz at the time, and I wanted to look professional.

The photographer I chose was a guy named Kevin. I met Kevin when I was working my first job as a writer and graphic designer at a college near Pittsburgh.

Kevin did all of our marketing shoots, and I used to help him set up his equipment and pester him with photography questions during the longer sessions.

He’s a master at getting people to relax and look natural in front of the lens.

The shoot itself was a blast. Kevin had me do some crazy stuff like snap pencils in faux writer’s rage and jump in the air, pumping my fist.

The raw previews looked fantastic, and I picked a few of my favorites for Kevin to retouch.

When Kevin finally emailed over the finished portraits, I eagerly downloaded the files and popped them open…

And I just stared in disbelief.

The studio had gone, shall we say, just a leeeeeetle overboard on the retouching.

My eyes, normally a hazel-green, glowed like safires.

The skin on my face was creamy smooth—nary a line, crease or blemish anywhere.

The entire effect was… surreal.

I looked more like Edward from the Twilight movies (yes, I’ve watched them, don’t judge) than myself.

Maybe it’s just me, I thought. So I showed them to my wife and asked what she thought.

She just started to giggle…

Clearly, this wasn’t going to work.

When you’re marketing anything, you’re creating an image of your product in your prospect’s mind. And it’s natural to want that image to be as positive as possible.

You’re making the prospect a promise about what their life will be like with your product.

But there’s a critical line. The promise has to be believable, or the whole image you’re creating crumbles.

To paraphrase the late great copywriter Eugene Schwartz:

One promise fully believed is worth a hundred half-believed.

So I went back to Kevin and asked him to dial it back a notch.

Put the creases back on my face. Make the eye color more natural. Leave a few blemishes on my skin.

Afterward I looked a little less like a movie star.

But I looked more real.

And people trust real.