I have on Linkedin since it beginning, I have watched the company go public, and I use it everyday to engage and to find great talent for projects. Every so often I will go through my connections. I reconnect with ones that I have not talked to in a while and if there is a profile that does not exists, I will remove. This process takes my number of connections down a bit. Last night I was going through my connections and I notices the profile pictures. Some were good, some were not so good, and some I stated “What the… ”
I found a couple of blog posts that I would like to share.
Eric Doggett is a photographer based in Austin, Texas. He also runsKillTheAmbient.com, a photo lighting and business site laced with a splash of humor. He has this to say about creating the perfect Profile Pic. His steps are more technical in nature, but essential for a quality picture.
1. Find The Light Before The Background
Forget the scenic overlook shot for your background. Great profile pictures are about great light, and that will always look better than a great background. What is good light? It’s light where the shadow transitions are soft, as shown below:
Where do you find said light? Open shade. Find a side of a house or building where the sun isn’t shining directly on you. Where the light is soft all around you. Where there aren’t strong shadows on your face or objects around you. That’s your spot.
2. Clear Up The Background
When you find your sacred photo spot, look at what will be behind you. Try not to have anything directly behind you for at least 15 or 20 feet, if possible. Solid and pattern walls are good, however. It’s ok if the area behind you is dark, but what you don’t want is for it to be significantly brighter than where you are. Ideally, you want all of the lighting as even as possible (this is why alleys and the sides of buildings make great places to take these shots).
3. Strike A Pose (And An Angle)
Whether you are using a timer with your camera on a tripod, or having someone take the picture, you want the camera to have a great angle on you. This doesn’t mean it *has* to be straight-on (although that’s the most popular). To thin yourself out a bit, angle your body about 45 degrees away from the camera, but keep your head looking at the camera. Try different ideas with your arms (straight down, on hips, one arm on hips, arms crossed, etc). These movements do more than give you busy work for your hands. They shift your frame (including your shoulders) around, which gives you more variation to your look. Also, try stepping back with one leg a foot or two, again to shift your weight/perspective.
4. Set Up Your Camera
You can share this part with your most-excellent-photographer-partner, who will be taking your picture. The ‘safe’ (read: boring) way to do this part would be to put the camera in “little green box mode” (i.e. automatic) and take your picture. Yawn. Let’s spice things up. Zoom in all the way. Now, step back until the subject fills the frame (and leave some space around all the sides). Make sure the flash is off (it’s really quite evil in this scenario). Take a picture. Did it rock? Cool! If not, try this trick to get the background to go out of focus:
- Turn your camera into Aperture Priority mode (usually designated as Av).
- Dial the aperture number (which is a number like 2.8 or 5.6) as low as it will go. 2.8 is great if it will go that low, but sometimes point and shoot cameras will start at 5.6 wh
en you are zoomed all the way in.
- Take the shot again.
It’s that simple! If the shaded area was a little blueish in color tone, you can warm up the image using Photoshop Elements or any other software that supports it. Here’s an image taken with a Canon G9 (a camera that’s almost 3 years old).
Kevin Lee wrote last year in this blog post with a lot of good research on Profile Pics.
How to appear likable, competent, and influential
PhotoFeeler, a neat tool that lets you get feedback on your profile pictures via feedback from actual people who vote on your picture, shared their learnings from over 60,000 ratings of competence, likability, and influence that were left on photos submitted to the PhotoFeeler app.
Here’s a quick overview of what they learned:
- Don’t block your eyes. Sunglasses drop likeability score, and hair, glare, and shadows drop competence and influence.
- Define your jawline. A shadow line that outlines the jaw all the way around helps with likability, competence, and influence.
- Show your teeth when you smile. A closed mouth smile has a small increase likability. A laughing smile increases likability even more, but you lose ground in competence and influence. The best smile, according to PhotoFeeler, is a smile with teeth. This leads to gains across the board in likability (nearly twice that of a closed-mouth smile), competence, and influence.
- Try formal dress. Dark-colored suits and light-colored buttondowns (with ties, for men) had the greatest effect on competency and influence out of all other factors.
- Head and shoulders (or head to waist). Close-ups on just headshots brought scores down, as did full body shots.
- Try a squinch. A squinch is a slight squint. The idea behind it is that wide eyes look fearful, vulnerable, and uncertain. Slightly squinted eyes may come across as comfortable and confident. PhotoFeeler found that squinching eyes has an increase across the board in competence, likability, and influence.
Guy Kawasaki Advice
One of my favorite influencer, Canva’s Guy Kawasaki, an early evangelist for all things tech and social media, has found four factors to be key for a profile picture.
- Faces only. No family, friends, dogs, logos, etc.
- Asymmetrical. Use the Rule of Thirds to create your profile picture
- Face the light. The source of light should come in front of you.
- At least 600 pixels wide. There are varying shapes and sizes of profile pictures on social media. A 600-pixel image will look great no matter where it’s viewed.
The asymmetrical advice in particular has a lot of solid psychology and design history behind it.
The Rule of Thirds is a method for composing the elements of an image to be visually pleasing and to be in sync with the way our eyes prefer to scan an image. Photographers know the Rule of Thirds well; it is a foundational piece of photography.
The way it works is by dividing an image into a grid of thirds both horizontally and vertically. Basically, put a tic-tac-toe board on an image.
The tic-tac-toe board creates intersections of lines, and according to Rule of Thirds, these intersections are where the eye is most likely to be drawn.
The design lesson here is to place your key elements along these intersections. Avoid placing a key element right in the center.
Blogger, author, and speaker Rebekah Radice does this to great effect with her profile picture.