9 Tips To Creating Professional Profile Pictures For Your Social Media Channels

Your Profile Photo is only small but it’s everywhere on Social Media. In this article I will help you ensure that:

  • Your image stands out among everyone else’s
  • Your photo looks like it’s been taken by a pro
  • People will want to connect with you

As your profile photo appears in the timeline of your followers and fans every time you comment, like, re-tweet, share or post on any of your social media platforms, it is worth spending a bit of time getting it right.

1. Show your face

If we know what someone looks like, we feel that we know them a little better. This means that business relationships are easier — especially at that ‘getting to know you’ stage. If your profile picture doesn’t show your face, people may think you’re hiding something or that you are not prepared to ‘show yourself’ in your business dealings.

Much as this lady may well have great legs, we don’t know what she looks like, we wouldn’t recognise her if she walked into the room. We cannot gauge anything about her personality from this photo.

Compare that to the profile photo of Teresa Heath-Wareing. Teresa really shows her personality in her profile photo — she is strong, in control and also approachable. She is someone you would trust.

2. Don’t share

Another common mistake people often make is to include other people in their profile photo as well as themselves — they have a lovely photo of them with their baby or their dog. This sends out a confusing message and should be avoided. Unless, of course, your business is about babies or dogs! It’s not uncommon to see pictures of people’s children INSTEAD of themselves:

This implies that this person isn’t prepared to push herself, she thinks her children are more interesting than she is. I ask you (and her!), who is running her business and her life? Is she, or are her children? How important is her business to her compared to these two (albeit very cute), kids?

3. Use the space wisely

The circle is very small, and it appears even smaller when being viewed on a phone. According to Marketing Land, nearly 80% of social media research is now performed on a mobile device so we need to ensure everything we do on social media is optimised for a smaller, rectangular screen.

Nearly 80 percent of social media time now spent on mobile devices – Marketing Land
One of the more revealing discussions in comScore’s 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus is about social media. It…marketingland.com

What do I mean by not wasting the space? Think, what is your most important asset here. It’s your face. People don’t need to know what you’re wearing or what a great body you have — so just show your face. There really isn’t space to show off your designer shirt or your amazing physique, even if you are a personal trainer. You can show off your assets in your profile header. If you show a full body shot, again, people will not recognise you when they meet you and your profile will just look like a shape. Don’t crop too close, but close enough to be recognised.

This young lady is tremendously stylish but if that profile picture appeared in your feed, it would be hard to recognise her.

4. Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is based on research which says that there are key points in a frame which our eyes are attracted to and things at those points tend to be more appealing and interesting to the eye.

The rule of thirds encourages photographers to compose images to prevent everything being centered in an image and thus creating a more interesting and eye-catching photograph.

As our eyes are our strongest asset, if we get our eyes positioned in the photograph where people are more likely to focus then — boom — we’ve captured that viewer!

See how this girl’s eyes are completely captivating, they’re sitting right on that top third. (Thanks to DP review for this image). She is beautifully framed, the proportions are perfect.

When you’re editing a photo on your phone and you press ‘crop’, a grid appears over the image. This grid chops your photo into 9 pieces (similar to a grid of 9 on an Instagram page), it divides your image 3 ways vertically and horizontally. If your eyes are on or near the top horizontal line, they are on the 3rd divide — perfect! So when you (or whoever), takes your photo, remember/s to leave enough space around to crop if necessary. If you want to know a bit more, take a look at The Rule of Thirds: A Simple Way to Improve Your Images

5. Eye to eye contact

We are really establishing how important this is aren’t we?!

When we talk to someone and they don’t look us in the eye, we think they’re a bit ‘shifty’ don’t we? We don’t trust people who can’t look us in the eye. It’s the same with photographs. You want to show you have confidence and trust by looking right down that lens when the shutter is released. Having ‘eye contact’ with the viewer of the picture brings them into the photograph and makes it seem as though you are interested in them.

This guy looks like a really nice chap, smily and obviously really engaged with, well, not us! He is obviously much more interested in the tall person he is looking at then in us, so we don’t feel a connection to him.

This man on the other hand, although appears a little menacing perhaps, IS interested in us, we feel a connection with him.

So make sure you look right into the lens when you have your photograph taken, pretend it’s your friend or your partner.

6. Look friendly and approachable

Even our slightly menacing chap above is managing a wee smile so we do warm to him. If you can manage a smile — go for it, if not, look as if you’re happy and not so stern that you’ll scare people away! Even in the most formal and of industries it is acceptable to look a bit more relaxed in your profile photo; let a bit of your personality shine through. Check your body posture too — sometimes standing up makes you a bit more upright which can make you appear a bit more menacing. However, don’t slouch on a soft, comfy sofa as if it’s a family snap. The best position to be photographed in is sitting on a stool or a dining chair (although make sure you can’t see the back of the chair in the image).

7. Choose your photographer wisely

As the image is so small it’s ok to take your profile photo on a good phone camera. Don’t use a ‘selfie’ as you’ll be too close to the camera and your face will be distorted, unless of course your arms are about 6 feet long!

You could use the timer setting on your phone and place the phone securely at a distance. If you get someone to take your photograph for you, make sure you feel comfortable with them so you can totally be ‘yourself’. If you can stretch to a professional photographer, do it, but if budget is tight you might want to save that money to pay someone to take a photo for you header — this is much bigger and more eye catching.

8. Use contrasting colours for your background

If you’re blonde and you photograph yourself wearing white against a cream background — your profile photo is going to look very, well, pale.

As a tiny image on a phone, with all the other profile pictures, this profile photo would not stand out at all, it would really be lost.

Compare that to the profile photo of Debbie Clarke which really zings off the page/out of your screen doesn’t it? Debbie always wears bright colours and there is always an element of yellow; her profile picture really does stand out from the others.

9. Remember — as with everything we do in business — it’s not about you

Why are you in business? Why are you working? Everything you do in your business and employment is about your customer, your client. Without them, you wouldn’t have a business. So always think about what they would want, what they would deem acceptable, normal, interesting. With regards to your profile photo, dress appropriately! If your clients are in the creative world, you may not want to wear a jacket and tie; something more relaxed would probably be more appropriate for a profile photo — wear what you would wear to work (well, on a good day of course!). As per my earlier point, even if you work in the most corporate of environments, you don’t have to wear a jacket and tie but obviously if you feel more comfortable doing so, then go for it — it would be seen as completely acceptable.

So there you go, how to make your social media profile look professional and stand out from the myriad others on social media!

It’s really not that difficult either. Go on, take a good look at your profile photo and see if you’ve followed my tips here. If not, then get another one taken. It is such a valuable asset that you can’t afford for it not to be the best it can be.

Not sure if your photo is good enough? Email me and I’ll take a look for you.

sarah@sarahclaysocial.com

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