I´m a professional photographer and personal branding consultant. I´ve studied 150 profile photos of successful people on social media and here are 5 simple things for you to check to know if it´s time for you to update your profile photo:
- It´s a bit dated. If it's been a while since you've updated your profile photo, consider how much you may have changed over the years. Your appearance, be it a new haircut, new glasses or even a new wardrobe, has likely changed as well. It's important to remember that your profile photo is often the first impression people have of you, whether it is on social media, a dating app or even a professional networking site. Your profile photo should be an accurate representation of who you are now, not who you were a few years ago. Updating your profile photo can give people a better idea of what to expect when they meet you in person.
It's also important to consider that with the ever-changing trends in photography and photo editing, an old profile photo may appear outdated or low-quality compared to the current standards.
2. Cropped from a group photo: If your profile photo has been cropped from a group image, you may want to consider getting another one taken. It may give the impression that you don't have any solo photos that you're proud of, which can be interpreted as a lack of self-confidence. Also, most of such photos usually have parts of somebody’s arm or shoulder still in the frame, and it just doesn’t look ok to me. You may have picked that particular image because you may like how you look in it, or it may be part of a great memory, but to someone who doesn´t know you it can be very distracting and it may not be the best representation of you as a person, your personality, your style, your achievements, your aspirations, etc.
3. Or worse, it´s not even cropped: The only thing worse than cropping yourself out of a group photo is posting the entire group as your profile photo. We are left guessing which one is you. Make it easier for us. Give us a picture of you. A solo photo is a much more powerful tool to communicate your identity and your message. Give us a photo that makes us want to know more about you. A photo that makes us want to reach out and say hi, a photo that makes us want to connect. In short, don't make us play "Where's Waldo" with your profile photo, give us a clear and beautiful shot of yourself.
4. Overdressed (or underdressed): When it comes to your profile photo, it's important to consider what you're wearing and how it represents you. Are you wearing clothes you would normally be seen wearing at work or is your profile photo from a wedding or a funeral? It's important to make sure that your profile photo reflects your current style and personality. Unless your profession strictly requires you to always wear a full suit, being overdressed in a profile photo is a common mistake. It's important to strike a balance and find the right level of formality that represents you and your environment.
An effective photo has you dressed smartly and elegantly without looking odd or out of place. It's all about finding the right balance, you don't want to look like you're trying too hard, but you also don't want to look like you didn't put any effort into it. Think of it like a first date, you want to make a good first impression, but you also want to be comfortable and true to yourself. (or is that not how it works these days ;))
5. With a podium, or on a stage. We understand that you may want people to know that you gave a killer TED talk, but posing with a podium takes away from your whole story just because it puts so much emphasis on that one event. Use those podium photos in a brag post. Let people celebrate that special day with you. But for a profile photo, consider using an image that captures you in a natural and candid moment because it's more relatable and approachable. It gives people a glimpse of your personality and allows them to connect with you on a personal level.
A professional photo doesn't have to be taken in a formal setting. A photo that captures you in an environment that is relevant to your profession such as a workshop, a lab, a field, a project, etc. can also showcase your professional achievements and accomplishments. In short, keep it natural, candid and relatable, and avoid using props that are not a natural part of your daily life. It will make you look more authentic and approachable.
So what should you do instead?
Here are a few simple points to get yourself that winning shot:
- Dress elegantly but nothing extraordinary
- Pick a clean background, relevant to your profession or personality and uncluttered
- Make sure there’s great lighting (ideally natural light, avoid harsh shadows)
- Make sure your face is clearly visible (no sunglasses, avoid distracting accessories, hats and loud scarves)
- Bring out a genuine smile. A trick that always works is to have a conversation with whoever is clicking the photo, and talk about something that you know will bring out a natural smile.