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'Say Cheese!' Headshot Day Offers Glimpse Into The Picture For Today's Workforce

In the era of online job applications and a website for almost every business, a vacation photo you cropped your family out of might not cut it as your LinkedIn profile picture. On a recent day at the Colorado Workforce Center in Glenwood Springs, photography students from Colorado Mountain College offered professional headshots.


Getting a professional headshot might give some people flashbacks to school picture day.  

Attendees sit down in front of the camera, follow directions to tilt their heads this way and that, in strange, even unnatural ways, while photographers give instructions to smile, be serious, even smirk.

The student photographers work in teams of three; one takes the shots, another checks the images on the screen and a third runs up to subjects to fix their hair, or adjust their clothing.

Jenny Fautsko just finished her session. She’s dressed in a blazer and has her auburn hair styled and ready for picture day. Fautsko is here for a headshot that will go on the website of a nonprofit for kids with disabilities.

"I’m the mom of an awesome son that lives with special needs," she said.

Fautsko is also a professional photographer herself and says taking her own picture probably wouldn’t have turned out well.


Samantha Freese knows that presenting your best image is key in today’s workforce, no matter how long your resume is. She’s the youth career coordinator for Pikin and Garfield counties and helps people polish cover letters, practice interviews and apply for jobs.

Freese says many of the clientele at the Colorado Workforce Center have done seasonal work, landscaping or construction for their entire career.

“They age out of it because their bodies don’t hold up once they turn 40, 50, 60, but they still need to work,” she said.

She says she has to teach older clients the importance of a digital presence, with a great photo as a centerpiece.

"They might not even have an email account, let alone a LinkedIn account," she said.

That can make it harder to find work, when so many job applications are now online.

Diane Semerack is here for a headshot, but she’s not just looking for a new job.


“I’m building a website for a business I’m launching,” she said.

She’s starting a counseling and life-coaching business, but this isn’t her first rodeo. She’s owned her own business before, and knows how important a professional-looking website and photo really are.

Samantha Freese has to explain to younger clients all the time not to use a selfie, a photo they took of themselves, when they’re job-hunting. She sees that a lot, partly because of the expense of professional photos.  

"One, it’s really hard to find someone to take your photo, and two, it’s hard to find someone to take a good photo," she said.

Enter the Colorado Mountain College photography students here today.  

Murphy McCoy stands behind the lens, taking shot after shot of the client perched on the stool in front of her. She says that tilting someone’s head two degrees, or adjusting the light slightly, can turn a just-OK photo into a great one.  

"You realize how difficult and challenging it can be to make such a simple looking image. It’s actually a lot of work," she said.

Emma Ross and Taylor Franzen say helping people relax is the hardest part, and the most important.

"Not the positioning of, like, tilt your head this way, tilt your head that way, smile. That’s easy. It’s making them feel comfortable enough to get something other than a just a picture," said Ross.


"Yeah, a more genuine smile," added Franzen.

It’s a tricky balance to make people comfortable, but also direct hand positions, head tilts, smiles and serious expressions.  

Franzen says there’s one key.

"Even if the picture isn’t what you want yet, you’re like, 'You look amazing,'" she laughed.


While the shots they take today might help someone else find a job, these students will benefit, too. They say that a headshot photographer will be some of the easiest work for them to find right after graduation.  



Contributor Christin Kay is passionate about the rich variety of arts, cultural experiences and stories in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has been a devotee of public radio her whole life. Christin is a veteran of Aspen Public Radio, serving as producer, reporter and interim news director.