Breaking down the Perfect Profile Photo
Getting face to face sure has changed in the age of social networking. Whether you entered social networks with a purpose or you sort of found yourself there serendipitously, it’s pretty clear by now your profile picture is being judged. Whether we like it or not, our profile picture quality reflects the quality of our work. Take control of those first impressions and make sure your photo is projecting the right image about you and your brand. Having a perfect profile photo can put your viewers at ease and increase engagement.
Before we break down how to take a quality photo, the most important aspect of your profile picture is to understand its intent. Consider the network you’re sharing it on and how you wish to be perceived there. It may seem obvious that your LinkedIn photo should be more professional than a Facebook photo, but what if you use Facebook for business? How authentic do you really want to be? If you're in a creative field, you may have more latitude when it comes to being original with your photo, but in the end it reflects who you are.
A profile picture should feature “YOU”. Avoid group shots or awkwardly cropped photos which have extraneous arms or objects spilling out of frame. Keep it professional. You may have rocked that outfit on Thanksgiving, but the red solo cup is not helping. And don’t even THINK about taking a selfie.
From a technical stand point the most important things to consider are lighting, background and pose.
- Lighting – If you’re not using a professional photographer, natural light should work best to provide enough light while making the image look warm and inviting. The trick here is just the right amount of light. Avoid strong light that will cast harsh shadows. Find a location and shooting angle for the softest light and softest shadows.
- Background – Just because the loading dock has the right light, doesn’t mean anyone wants to see the dumpster in the background. Try to get ample space between you and the background. Something with texture might work well, but remember you should be the focal point.
- Pose – Avoid the sorority “skinny arm” and be sure to angle your body about 45 degrees away from the camera, while keeping your head facing the camera. Try a few different poses and angles to find the one that is the most flattering.
When it comes to how people feel about your photo, no one knows better than Photofeeler, a website dedicated to profile picture effectiveness. Check out their infographic below. The study was based on over 60,000 ratings of perceived Competence, Likability, and Influence for 800 profile photos in our PhotoFeeler database.
There’s an old expression in production “we can fix it in the mix” referring to the post production tools used to enhance and “fix” the look and sound of a performance. Adobe’s Photoshop has become a verb referring to adding someone to a group photo or touching up a picture. With Photoshop you could do a complete digital make over and remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add make up and on and on. We recommend using restraint. Let’s face it, maybe you didn’t get the best night’s sleep before you took the photo. Or perhaps you nicked yourself shaving. Or maybe you should have used a flash. The rule of thumb when it comes to photo touching is don’t do too much. Keep it looking real and use the tool to add warmth and clarity. Remember, someday you may actually meet these people face to face and you want them to recognize who you are.
Looking for more way to increase brand building? Check out these other blogs about using audio and video for branding.