Portraits are your chance for an attorney to see how you’ll “play” on the stand. It’s not a beauty contest. It’s a do-you-look-trustworthy “audition.”

Your portrait should never be (a) missing, (b) a selfie, or (c) present off-putting demeanor–like an argumentative stance or angry expression.

Think about what you see in your patients that tell you they are off-limits. Arms aggressively shielding the chest, forced grins, an unintended grimace, failure to make eye contact. You know the signs and can apply this knowledge to yourself.

A photo of you, as a Forensic Expert Witness, should convey you are:

  • knowledgeable
  • trustworthy
  • fair
  • easy to connect with
  • personable
  • of professional demeanor

For forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, you’re up against a jury’s preconceived notion of psychiatrists and psychologists:

  • warm
  • a good listener
  • confident
  • experienced
  • likable (no one wants to tell their secrets to someone they don’t like.)

Attorneys know that during cross-examination, opposing counsel’s goal is to goad you to show hostility or defensiveness. Your photo should convey you are unlikely to falter.

Secrets to a good photograph:

  • eye contact
  • a smile, or a warm resting face
  • clothing that is professional, but not slick or especially expensive
  • posture and body language consistent with the qualities outlined above
  • your face is in context–adding a background or props turns something flat-like a headshot- into a story. You can be sitting at a desk, in front of a building, at a law library, standing beside something doctorly or legal, on a witness stand.
  • good lighting. Go to a professional for your photograph. Poor lighting can ruin even the most compelling expression.

Your facial expression isn’t the only feature of an inviting portrait.

Practical details

  • A good local photographer. Search online with the name of your community and “commercial photographer.” Look at the photographer’s online gallery of business and family portraits. (Most professional photographers have this website feature.) If you don’t like what you see, move on to someone else.  Look beyond a headshot gallery. Family portraits, for example, reveal the photographer’s skill and ability to capture warmth and people at ease in their environment.  That subtlety belongs in your photo.
  • More than one position.  Get more than one photograph and in a variety of postures and both full body, partial body, and just your face. This gives you more options later including the chance to present more than one side of your presentation.
  • Second set of eyes-Feedback. Run the photo results past clients and friends, get feedback before making your final choice.  Talk with a person who is both skilled in your field, marketing in med-legal, marketing to attorneys (aka juries, judges,) graphic design and photography.
  • Do it over if you don’t like the results.  If you don’t like the photographs, get a different photographer and do it again. Portraits are so important in the field of Forensic Expert Witness work that the return on your investment is likely to outstrip the cost and inconvenience of a second photo sitting.

Photographs on Your Website.  A photograph is one of the most important elements on your website, and everywhere you promote yourself.  Further, your photograph is probably all over the internet, on your social media sites, profiles in professional referral services, and among the endless mining of photos that Google does every day. In fact, search your name on Google and then click on “Images” on the top bar under the url address. If you pop up-is it a picture you like?

Companion article: Check out the “What do you broadcast to attorneys and jurors?” under Practical Articles.


This is a compilation of portraits from the website of Antwerp law firm Van Goethem. I selected this example because it shows a range of expressions. I only find one I would consider for a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist. Which do you think it is? By no means are any ideal, in my opinion. (Graphic header: compliments of 123rf.com, Satori Studios)

Practice Development for Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant

Email go@forensicexpertpro.com or Call (415) 302-9589

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