As a graphic designer, I’m often sent headshots to use in our magazines or online. I’ve seen some great photos cross my desk, as well as some cringe-worthy ones. Things like poor lighting, cell phone selfies, and poorly cropped wedding photos all make you look unprofessional.

So, why are professionally taken headshots so important when you can get your buddy with a digital camera to take a photo of you? A pro knows their craft — composition, lighting, and how to pose a subject. It’s their job to make you look great. Professionals (like you, remember?) seek out other professionals because they know the ins and outs of the job.

A headshot is also your first impression — take a look at your current LinkedIn photo; are you still using that headshot from that wedding party you were in years ago? That photo is part of your brand, similar to how a logo is to your business. Consider this: would you get a haircut from a stylist who looked unkept or kept their station messy? You might — but only once, I bet.

The beginning of this year, I decided to get new headshots taken, even though I didn’t have an urgent need for them, and could’ve easily justified not spending the time or money. This past week I found out I got accepted into a week-long artist residency this summer; the organization needed — you guessed it — my headshot for a press release. It felt great that I had one handy to send.

Unsure where to start if you don’t have a headshot? There’s always Google, but you could ask colleagues within your networks if they have a photographer they could recommend. Remember to try and get a good sleep the night before your photoshoot, wear clothes suited for your industry (and get that dress shirt ironed if that’s part of it), and consider having your hair done on the day of. I know, it sounds over-the-top, but your first impression counts!