I know many people might share this perception of themselves, but trust me when I say that I tend to look really, really bad in photos.
To give you an idea, an airport security guard once looked at my passport, looked at me, made a face, and said, “that’s a really bad photo.” And that’s from someone who sees a lot of photos.
Trouble is, even for the least photogenic among us, you don’t want to be a faceless silhouette or question mark on social media. And even if you’re one of those lucky people who give Gisele Bündchen a run for her money, finding the right, consistent photo to use across social media profiles can still be a challenge.
Why is a good photo worth your time and effort?
A good photo gives you a chance to make a great impression. It also helps you establish your personal brand online. When you have a consistent photo across your online presence, it’s easier for people to recognize you, develop an understanding of your personality, and start a relationship. Plus, it’s convenient. If you have a photo of you ready to go, that’s one less thing you have to worry about when joining a new social media platform.
Even though I knew these things, I had different photos across all of my social media profiles. Frustrated with a slew of blurry photos, devil eyes, and haphazard cropping, I set out to get a single professional-looking photo that I could use across my social media profiles, including this blog. (If you comment or post to blogs and web forums regularly, you may want to check out Gravatar to set up an image that follows you from site to site.)
Here’s what I learned in the process of striking a pose.
7 steps to a better photo
1. Enlist a friend to help
Self portraits are tricky, so getting someone to take your photo for you is a worthwhile first step. I was lucky enough to get a talented colleague to take 20 minutes out of his day to help. Whether you have a friend who’s a brilliant photographer, or just know someone who’s willing to point and shoot, this would be a good time to ask them for a favor.
2. Pick a look and a setting that will create the tone you want
Think about how you’ll be using this photo. If you interact with your business or organization brand on social media, what holds true for brand personality probably holds true for you. Wear what you wear to work on a day when you’re looking polished. If you’re a consultant, that might be a suit. If you own a garden store and your customers usually see you more dressed down, it’s better to look casual. Similarly, the setting should fit the tone. It’s ok to have some visual interest in your background, but make sure it’s not distracting. You’re the star of this show.
3. Lighting matters
Good news: you don’t need a professional lighting set up to take good photos! You only need some natural light. Just don’t position yourself right in front of a light source, otherwise you’ll get “backlight,” a fancy term for when the light’s behind you and makes your features tough to see.
Looking relaxed is obvious, but important. You want to look at ease. Take a few deep breaths, smile, and trust that at least one of the photos taken of you will turn out well.
5. Take a lot of photos
Take as many photos as you think you need, then take more. While you could get it right on the first shot, it might be the 40th one that’s really the best. If you’re using a digital camera, you should also take a look at photos in real time to make sure you’ve got something good to work with.
6. Do some photo editing, but don’t go crazy
In addition to the photo editing tools you might already have on your computer, free apps like Instagram for your smart phone can help you incorporate photo effects. Whatever you choose, just remember, less is more. Too much editing might distort the photo or reduce the quality.
7. Format your photo for the web
You’ve got the perfect photo that captures your personality and you’re ready to post it to a profile or two. Problem is, LinkedIn (or Facebook, or Twitter) is saying it’s too big or the resolution looks terrible. Don’t panic! You probably just need to format it differently to make it “web friendly.” How you do this varies by what photo editing tool you’re using, but typically making the photo 640×480 pixels is a size that works.
All eyes are on you
These are just a few things you can do to “put your best face forward.”
Send us a comment to let us know your tips for taking great looking photos. And don’t forget to include your new awesome social media picture.