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Getting an Awesome Profile Picture

Profile pics

I’ve been preparing to photograph a few people for their social networking profile pictures. While I was doing my research, which involved looking at a LOT of profile pictures, I realized there are clear dos and don’ts that when followed, almost inevitably result in great profile pictures.

Here are the most important rules to follow if you want an awesome profile picture!

  1. First and foremost, shoot a dedicated profile picture. Don’t cut it out from a group picture, don’t use your passport picture, and definitely don’t use the picture you tore out from your library card / exam hall ticket.
  1. No group pictures. You may be BFFs, but keep that out of your profile picture. Don’t make people work at figuring out which one is you in your profile picture – there’s nothing more painful than having to figure out who you are if you have even one more person in your profile picture.
  1. Keep your face visible – no shades, no hair on face, no mask, no headgear, no facepaint. Your profile picture is how your friends find you from multiple people in search results. It’s really important to be immediately obvious who you are, and showing your face is the best way to do that!
  1. Keep the expression near neutral – smile, frown, be serious, but not in a way that distorts your features. Showing your face is of no use if you’re yawning widely in the picture – your tonsils are not as recognizable as your face! Again, the key here is to be instantly recognizable to people who are looking for you.
  1. Your face must fill as much of the picture as possible. Profile pictures often get resized into really small ones, and a lot of the time they are viewed on mobile phones. Filling up your profile picture with your face ensures it stays recognizable at all sizes. Never use a full length picture as a profile picture – the most you can include is up to the middle of your biceps.
  1. Show off your interests – use a prop – a camera, a bat, a racket, a paintbrush, your pet. But don’t forget rule 3. Your profile picture is also where you show off what makes you you. Get a prop or two in the frame. Be creative – keep in mind your prop is sharing space with your face in your profile picture. If horse-riding is your hobby, a picture of you sitting on a horse may not be the best idea – instead, a picture of you standing with your face close to your horse’s face might be a better choice.
  1. Wear something you look awesome in – something others tell you you look good in, not necessarily what you think you look good in. Remember that your entire outfit is not going to be in the picture and dress accordingly. Wear an outfit which has got you the most compliments.
  1. Keep your face well-lit, but not so well-lit that you’re squinting to keep the light from your eyes. Shoot outdoors only in the morning or evening, when the light is not harsh and is not creating unflattering shadows on your face. If you must shoot in the middle of the day, go indoors and open a window to let in some sunlight.
  1. Use a sharp clear picture – if it’s blurry or dark, it’s out. Use a pic taken with a camera rather than a mobile phone or webcam. Pictures shot in clubs or parties with mobile phone cameras are a definite no-no, regardless of how stunning you look in them. Get a friend with an SLR to shoot your profile pic for you. If you’re rolling in the stuff, or just want a killer profile picture, hire a photographer!
  1. Ensure that the background is fully blurred out or very uniform. It should not take attention away from your face, which would totally defeat the purpose of your profile picture.

Take a look at my profile pictures at the top. You can see where the rules have been followed, and where they have been broken; where they work and where they don’t.

Go on and get an awesome profile pic and share yours in the comments!

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