Myrna Kresh, has 30 years of experience working with emerging and established photographers. Formerly the Executive Director of the Advertising Photographers of New York, Myrna energized and expanded APNY’s Assistant and Emerging Photographer Programs and has a profound understanding of what it really takes to make it as a pro. Myrna is an industry insider, producing and representing visual artists, in their commercial and personal projects.
Dear Right Moves,
It’s embarrassing to admit this, but as I am an only child I have no sibling to ask, and my friends would think I was crazy if I asked them , and my parents would say I’m perfect, so, I’m writing anonymously to you. How am I supposed to know what other people think about me when they meet me? Do I seem confident? Do I seem to know what I’m doing? Is my voice OK? Is my handshake OK? I have absolutely no idea. Can you help me?
First Impression Phobia, Trenton, New Jersey
Dear First Impression Phobia,
The questions you ask are all good ones. How DO you learn how to be “good” at a first impression? Sure, you can be told not to slouch, not to lean against a wall when you’re waiting to be interviewed, to take your hands out of your pockets, and to be a good listener.
You can be told that when you bring a portfolio to an interview, do NOT apologize for the condition of the book, or prints that are in the book, or an image that didn’t quite come out as you expected it would. If you need to apologize for your work, do not show it.
More nuanced, and more difficult to describe is how to control the overall impression you give, an impression that begins with your handshake. A “bad” handshake is a big turnoff. Too weak? Too strong? Too tentative? In case you haven’t been told, that moment of initial physical contact may be a deal breaker, before you even say hello. Do you have a half-handshake, when you put only your fingers into someone’s hand? A sure tell that you’re uncertain or weak. Is yours the dreaded limp handshake? Or possibly the bone-crunching handshake, the pumping handshake, or anyone of a number of “wrong” handshakes? Here’s how to fix it.
If you’re in school, ask your teacher if he or she would consider a series of classes in “role playing,” where the teacher and the class critique your presentation. How others see us is a big eye opener. Stage the room with a couple of seats, one for the teacher who will be playing the photographer, one for you, maybe a small table for you to show your portfolio. The teacher will have 5 questions for each interviewee to answer that will be critiqued at the end of the class, along with general body language and voice modulation.
How you present to a potential boss, or friend, or client is one of the most important untaught lessons you can learn. You just may have to create your own opportunity to learn it.
PRACTICE first impressions in a safe environment with a teacher and classmates you trust. None of this comes “naturally”.
To submit your advice questions to Right Moves, send an email firstname.lastname@example.org.