5 Reasons Why Photography Is Like Coaching


At first glance, photography and coaching may seem poles apart. But since talking to John Cassidy, and experiencing a studio shoot with him, I’ve been reflecting on the parallels between the two. Here are five things that I think great photographers and coaches both do.

1)    Establish rapport

Whether as a coach or a photographer it’s difficult – not to mention unpleasant – to work with a client who doesn’t want to work with you. Both professions demand highly developed people skills, the ability to set others at their ease, draw out their interests and personality and establish common ground. The Headshot Guy Liz Gooster

2)    Work with people’s strengths

Helping people look their best when it counts is critical to being a highly sought-after photographer. Likewise, coaches help their clients recognise their top strengths and skills and guide them towards using them in a way that optimises their performance.

3)    Build confidence

A flattering photo that looks good and at the same time reflects the real you is a guaranteed morale booster. It gives people a sense of who you are and can work wonders for your self-confidence. Similarly, whatever the presenting issues and priorities coaching clients may express, lurking beneath is often a lack of confidence, to a greater or lesser degree, in some aspects of their abilities or identity. Effective coaching will gradually surface and explore these issues and along with maximising the use of personal strengths and opening up fresh perspectives, will enhance confidence. Just as a brilliant portrait shot is not faked or airbrushed, real confidence is based not on reassuring platitudes but on a realistic awareness and acceptance of genuine characteristics and expertise alongside flaws and weaknesses.

4)    Make people look good

While this is an obvious goal for a photographer, it may seem less immediately part of a coach’s role. However, through raising self-awareness, confidence and insights into what makes others tick, coaches ultimately equip their clients to be at their best more of the time. And if you’re performing well, feeling appropriately challenged and as a result fulfilled, you will be presenting your most credible, authentic, ‘good looking’ self to others.

5)    Define and develop their clients’ brand

We are all unique: no one else is quite like you, with all your individual gifts, quirks and qualities. An excellent headshot captures your essence, a perfect picture distils who you are in a way that a thousand words will struggle to do. It is a visual portrayal of your personal brand. Clearly not all coaching clients are overtly interested in building their brand. But good coaching raises self-awareness, an increased understanding of who you are and how you operate. This brings with it a clearer idea of how you do things differently from others, of what your signature strengths are, what constitutes, in other words, your personal brand.

As The Headshot Guy, John has a fantastic strapline: Lighting people up. It’s no coincidence that many coaches describe some of the most satisfying times in their work as ‘lightbulb moments’, when a client glows with the dawning of a new insight or a new idea. It may also be said that coaches help their clients shine a light on their way forward. So while the portrait photographer works in a brightly-lit studio, and the executive coach is more likely to be found in a corporate office or meeting room, for me there are more similarities in the work they do with clients than might appear at first glimpse. I’d love to hear what you think and which other roles you think overlap with coaching and/or photography!

Liz Gooster is an executive coach – she is a member of The Alliance Coaching Partnership and a Tutor with Meyler Campbell coach training company.