The Importance of a Great Profile Picture

Profile photo Heather FonsecaDo you remember glamour shots? It was all the rage in the early 1990’s to get all gussied up, go to the mall, and have a photographer take photos of you in lots of marabou, makeup and big hair. Back then taking a glamour shot was just a fun thing to do, but these days having a good portrait isn’t just vanity, it’s a necessity. If you’re on the web you need a profile picture for Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, to name just a few popular social media sites. Any online group you sign up for will require a screen name, password and a profile photo. I’m often surprised by how many people don’t have a good image to use along with their name. Believe me, people notice if you still have an “egg” icon on Twitter or “mystery man” on Linkedin. If you don’t have have a great looking profile picture now is the time to get one!

A Few Profile Pictures

The first profile picture I used on the web was a blurry self-portait taken on my I-phone. It featured my favorite bug-eyed sunglasses and pale lipstick. I used it around the web for a couple years until it was kicked out by a random shot taken on New Years Eve. There were many others as well. The end result was that every one of my social media sites had a different profile shot taken at a different time. It was a mess. Branding experts tell us to choose a single image to represent our brand, then use it over and over again to solidify our online presence. Personally I think using the same exact photo is a bit boring. I thought a group of photos taken at the same time would create a single brand image but still give me some options to customize the icons for each of my social media sites. I needed one image that said “professional” and a few that were more fun and whimsical. I also wanted a photo that represented my creative side and a couple glamour shots too.

So my husband and I went out late in the day one afternoon and took a bunch of photos. Here are the results.

The Professional

As soon as I saw this shot I said “That’s the Linkedin”! Of all the photos we took it’s the most uptight and business-appropriate.

Profile Picture Heather Fonseca

The Glamour Shot

Head tilted back, big smile and eye contact, this one is more flirtatious than professional.

Profile Picture Heather Fonseca

The Creative

Filters give this shot it’s “instagram” look, which is why you’ll find it on my Instagram profile as well as Twitter.

Profile Picture Heather Fonseca

 Do’s and Don’ts for Taking a Good Profile Picture

  1. Do take your photos outside in natural, but not direct, sunlight. We took all these shots right before sunset, when the light is soft and warm. Other good times include early in the morning and anytime on a foggy or overcast day when the light is diffused and soft.
  2. Don’t wear trendy clothing that will look dated in a few months. A simple neckline with straps or sleeves is best. Avoid strapless tops as they might make you look like you’re not wearing anything at all!
  3. Do load on the makeup, especially foundation, to even out your skin tone and bring some color to your face. I’m wearing quite a bit of eyeshadow, liner, mascara and blush in these shots, but you can’t tell because the light washes the color out of my face. (And yes, this applies to men too. Why should women be the only one’s to get help with their complexions in photos?  Dab on a bit of foundation and some powder. You can take it off right afterwards.)
  4. Do have your hair cut and colored before you go out on your photo shoot. You can’t really tell in these shots, but it’s been a while since I’ve had my hair highlighted. There were a lot of photos I loved that were ruined by three inches of dark roots.
  5. Do find a quiet place to take the shots. I take photos all the time for my fashion blog but even I am camera shy sometimes. People making fun of me or pointing (it happens!) tend to throw me off. If you don’t want to be bothered by rude onlookers go somewhere private like your own or a friend’s backyard.
  6. Do fill up the card on your camera! We took almost 500 shots to get ten great ones. The more shots you take the more probable it is that there will be a few really good ones to choose from.
  7. Don’t be so serious. Smile! There are all sorts of studies that show that people gravitate towards happy faces.
  8. Do try a number of different poses and head tilts to get a variety of looks.
  9. Dont’ be afraid of Photoshop. It’s OK to soften blemishes or blur out the background, just be careful not to do so much work that the results look fake.
  10. Don’t just put your great new photos online. Consider putting your new profile shot on your personal business cards so people remember your face.

Do you have a great profile shot? If not, are you thinking about taking some photos? Do you agree with my do’s & don’ts? Have any to add?

Note: This article was originally published on my fashion blog, The Style Confessions. You can see it here: A Few Profile Picture Ideas. As it deals with both professional and creative issues I thought it would be a great addition to my website as well.

Comments (2)

  1. November 1, 2014 - 11:47 AM

    Great photographs! I only have a Blogger and Flickr account, and I only use it for my dolls, so I have a picture of one of my dolls as avatar, but for other purposes I would use also a picture of myself, your tips are really useful, I’m convinced a well chosen photo is very important!