Getting a great profile picture.

Are you on LinkedIn? Facebook? Google+? Not to mention Tumblr, Twitter, Youtube, Second Life, Yelp, Pinterest, FourSquare or dozens of other social media sites? 

Social media is everywhere these days, and it is often the first place people look when they want to find out more about you. The internet has made it very easy to find out a great deal about you before someone even meets you.

Employers, for instance, don't just look you up on LinkedIn, they also look for your Facebook account and maybe even search Twitter to decide your likes and dislikes and whether you are a "good fit" for their organization. It can affect your chances of being hired even before you have had an interview. 

While you should, and probably do, set your permissions so that few people can see all of your information, there are pieces that are always visible to everyone. One of the first things they see is your profile photo. 

So you need to ask yourself, do I want that first impression to be a picture of me having a beer with my friends? Is that how I want my prospective employer (or date) to see me? Consider your audience; If all you care about is your beer drinking buddies, they may love that photo, but if it's your prospective employer? Maybe not.

Being Noticed - in a good way.

Recently I received an email from LinkedIn suggesting I check out what has been going on in the lives of some of my connected friends. It had a series of photos from their profiles. 

Some of the photos drew me in much more than the others - and for different reasons.

Audience - Who your audience is will make a difference which image is picked. A girl looking for a date will likely be attracted to a much different image than a casting director looking for an actress.

Relationship - If you have an existing relationship with a person you are more likely to be drawn to their image than to others.

Size - Bigger is usually better and the size of the image does make a difference. This is not usually an issue with a profile as there is only one image, but in a collage like the one shown here, it can make a big difference. A bad photo can be promoted over a better one.

Crop - For the purposes of a profile picture, a tighter crop around the face will usually draw more attention to a person. You feel closer to them. If, however, the image as a whole is larger, this is less of a problem and may actually seem invasive with larger images, so consider where the cropped image is being used.

Pose - Your photo should express what it is you want your audience to see. It should be confident and inviting, without being overbearing. It should express some of your personality without being overly casual.

Clarity - The clearer the image is, the less the person in it fades into the background. A higher contrast image will make the person stand out more - but a high contrast image with too much going on in it may not be any better. The subject (you) can still get lost in the background.

Lighting - Lighting plays a big part in the contrast in the image - well placed shadows can help to accentuate features and make the image of the person more attractive.

Have a look at the images again and think about each of the criteria above. Decide what it is you are attracted to in each of the faces, or what it is that makes you pass them by. Then decide which image you would click first and consider your reasons for doing so.

Ironically, it was not the image of the professional photographer that drew me first in the set above. It was the one with the high contrast background, the great lighting and the look that said come check this out! Of course it helped that I had taken the picture, but I think it still would have drawn me to that photo first.

It was the head-shot of Lindsay Palmateer who I had worked with for a head-shot session and who was using that head-shot as her profile picture. The crop was not tight which might have been better in the smaller image thumbnail, but in this case she had no control over the size. But her pose, the clarity and the lighting were all factors in drawing me to that particular image.

A professional photographer will work with you to make an image that is clear, attractive and expresses confidence and approach-ability. The kind of image that will draw people to it. And from there have them begin to listen to the message you want them to hear, whether that be that you are worth hiring, or that you would make a great date. 

Whether you are looking for a job, promoting your business - from full time real estate, to selling Tupperware on the side - or trying to get hired as a professional actor a great head-shot leads the way. Even if you are just one person representing your company in some small way, you need to present an image that encourages others to trust you and from there have a desire to get to know who you are and what you have to offer. That leads to successes. In other words, it pays to have a professional head-shot.

Using Uncle Jim's snapshot of you at the beach might be a fun picture and one you would love to share with your friends, but is it really how you want to represent yourself to first time viewers of your page? Maybe it's best saved for your timeline with permissions set to friends only.

The Difference

As a further comparison, have a look at these photos... 

These are both photos of the same person used on social media and are public facing - one is used on facebook (left) and one on Linked-In (Right). They both make a statement and tell a different story. Ask yourself, if I were looking at both of these photos for the first time (which many of you likely are), which one would you hire to be a nurse? Which one would you hire to be an actress?

Consider each of the criteria above and how it changes your view of the person when looking at each of the images.

Having the right photo on social media makes a difference. Doing it right means hiring a professional to help you create an image that not only captures who you are, but presents you in a way that others will want to learn more about you.

If you are in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, I can help. Feel free to contact me today to find out how affordable a professional head-shot that suits your needs can be. Or check out more on my "head-shots" page here:

Whatever you do, check your selection against the criteria above and be sure your image is one that is going to send the right message and tell your story in a way you know others are going to want to listen to.

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott, all rights reserved.


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