How to Take a Good Profile Picture of Yourself

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A photo is around a long time, especially when transmitted around the world via social media. Almost anyone can see an online photo and even download it, which means deleting it online won’t help you escape an unflattering photo.

Good “spontaneous” photos don’t just happen. You have to know how to take a good profile picture of yourself and have a plan in place. You need to think it through in advance so you have the photo readiness – not the photophobia – that delivers the message you want.

Years ago I saw comedian George Carlin during a promotion tour of one of his books. When people asked to be photographed with him, he agreed. In every shot, he would hold his hand in a “thumbs up” gesture toward the other person. It instantly animated the photo plus maintained the self-esteem of the person by making it look as though Carlin was giving him or her a thumbs up.

A friend of mine talked about her friend Carly Fiorina, “During Hewlett-Packard negotiations Carly didn’t want to be photographed, but she was aware that she was anyway. She held her head high and maintained a slight smile, so that when it happened it turned out favorably.” Later I read a quote from Fiorina: “I’m a very deliberate person. It doesn’t mean I’m infallible. But deliberate. Very little happens by accident.”

Reality stars with their selfies admit to taking several hundred shots at various angles, with different lighting, changes of clothing, and numerous facial expression try-outs before the one they select gets posted. You’re not a reality star, but you want a profile or avatar you’ll be proud to share.

If you’re going to be photographed, you might as well take deliberate action to ensure the photo sends the message you want.

How to Take a Good Profile Picture of Yourself

Place Yourself in the Right Background and Lighting

Whenever you’re going to take a photo or selfie size up the area and move to where the photo has better background and lighting. You don’t want a cluttered or distracting background if you can help it. Try to position yourself in front of the light. Light facing you, not behind you, is better so that you don’t look “shady.”

Flatter Your Posture

At a business event men could button their coat jacket to appear neater and conceal excess stomach hanging out. Turn at a slight angle; it’s more flattering to the camera’s eye than straight on. Have an arm bent at the waist slightly away from your sides (like you were holding a drink but don’t be holding a drink!) to look relaxed, even though it doesn’t seem more relaxed.

Watch What You’re Holding

Don’t hold a glass in your hand, even if it’s water. To the photo viewers you’re a “drinker,” a party person. It becomes your “history” because it’s in print, and it sticks in their heads. They wouldn’t say the cliche, “a photo is worth a thousand words” if it wasn’t true.

Add Physical Contact Where Appropriate

Reach out and touch another person in the photograph, if possible (appropriately, of course). But keep your posture erect, and don’t slump or lean on someone or something. Let people see you are willing to engage with others.

Position Your Head Correctly

Make your neck longer, but also lower your chin and put your head like sliding it on a shelf so the photo shot isn’t up your nose. Push your face forward slightly to jump into the picture. Keep your head level.

Make Eye Contact

Widen your eyes and look the photographer dead in the eye (even though you can’t really see the person’s eyes). The famous paparazzi, Ron Galella, said, “Eye contact makes for a good picture.”

Smile

Have a comfortable smile and engage your eyes.

Know What You Want

If it’s a formal setting with a professional photographer think through what you want as a finished photo; don’t just rely on the photographer posing you. Prior to the session review business publications you read and pay attention to photographs of executives. Think how different poses, dress, backdrops, and so on affect you. Tear out and give samples of the ones you’re impressed with to the photographer. It’s more efficient for him or her to see what you have in mind.

If a picture really is worth a thousand words, then knowing these tips on how to take a good profile picture of yourself will help you communicate the best version of yourself.

Ready to be a more effective leader?