Create an A+ Social Media Photo in Eight Easy Steps

Most people know that the devil is in the details. Along those lines, it’s important not to overlook your social media profile photo, whether you’re searching for a new job, considering a career change or simply trying to expand your network. Image matters.

For tips on taking the most flattering social media profile photo, I spoke with Becky Hale, studio photographer at National Geographic.

Social media profile portraits come in all sizes. Therefore, Hale says, “As an overarching rule, it’s important to use a photo that scales larger and smaller.” For example, the size of the Twitter icon most commonly seen in your stream is just 48 x 48 pixels, while the ideal LinkedIn profile photo is between 200 x 200 pixels to 500 x 500 pixels.

Hale told me that anyone can take a nice profile photo by following these eight tips:

1. Go for simple and clean. Less is more. Avoid messy backgrounds, and don’t wear distracting clothing or use lighting that’s too complicated.

2. Don’t be an imposter of yourself. If you’re hoping for a face-to-face interaction with those in your social network, it’s important to be recognizable. Don’t use a photo that’s five years old. And if you change your hair style significantly, it’s time to update your photo.

social media profile photo3. Be natural. Hale said that in her industry, she would look ridiculous wearing a business suit. Instead, she chooses a simple shirt. “The context needs to make sense for you. It needs to have universal appeal,” she noted. For example, don’t use a photo of yourself wearing a winter coat or your wedding dress. (Yes, I have seen this on LinkedIn and Twitter!) While it may be a nice photo, it doesn’t make sense out of context.

4. Don’t aim too wide. “You want the photograph to really be about your head and shoulders,” Hale said. “If you include too much of your body and the image runs small, your head is going to look tiny.”

5. Look at all the angles. Sometimes people have a fixed idea about their “best side” but don’t limit yourself. “The beauty of digital is that there’s no harm in shooting those 10 extra frames of each side of your face,” Hale added.

6. Take the high road. Being photographed from above is a more flattering look for almost everyone, even if it’s as subtle as having the photographer standing on a small stool, or a step above her subject. No stool available or the subject is extremely tall? Ask them to sit on a chair, park bench or the steps of a building.

7. Go for open shade. For example, a doorway can provide flattering fill light that frames you and keeps your face from direct sunlight.

social media profile image8. Pick a known quantity. If you’re someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy having your photo taken (me included!), ask someone whom you trust to take the photo. You will be more relaxed, and it will be reflected in your picture.

So go ahead and have someone take your social media photo using these simple tips, and let us know how it turns out. In the meantime, if you need some comic relief, check out these examples of bad social media profile photos.

And thanks to my Robert Half colleagues, Evelyn and Leah, and my friend Emily, for letting me share examples of social media profile photos! 

Do you have any tips for taking a great photo for your social media profile? Share them in the comments section below.

How NOT To Select a Social Media Profile Photo

Tags: Social Media