“In 40 milliseconds, we’re able to draw conclusions about people based on a photo.”

(ref: BufferSocial)

Yes, there is an art and science to creating the perfect Headshot for your profile photos. Whether they be for your Facebook, Linkedin or other Social Media sites, your website’s About Us page or for your email signatures you’ll need to make sure they are remarkable.
Because in as little as 40 milliseconds people will judge you based on your profile photos before they even get to read your bio or written profile. But do not despair, for we have the perfect formula so you are able to create the perfect profile photos.

Follow these 11 tips to create profile photos that will make you more likable, credible and influential!

1. Know your ‘brand look’ and style.

Do you know what your ‘look’ is? What colors work for you, make you stand out and get noticed? What style of clothes best reflects your brand? Think of this as your ‘uniform’ that you go to when dressing for your business meetings. If you are unsure of what works best for you, we recommend that you engage the professional services of an Image Consultant. And discuss this with your photographer during your planning session as it’s paramount that you have it worked out before your photo shoot and are fully prepared.

2. What’s the right expression? 

For most people, it will be a smile showing your teeth. Think friendly approachable, competent and successful.  If you don’t normally smile or you prefer your teeth not be shown then go with lips closed with a slight smile or smirk. Remember that either way your goal is to look likable, professional and influential. It’s a good idea to practice in front of the mirror, this might be a little confronting but great practice to know your expressions.

3. What’s the best composition and cropping?
Include your head and shoulders, up to about mid-chest height, unless you add in something of interest, like an obvious prop, or get in closer for impact. Position yourself slightly off centre and to the left which adds to the ‘look and feel’ that you’re facing into the content of the page. And you should be facing into the light so your face is bright and clear without any harsh shadows.

4. How to pose? 

Standing will give you the best posture and help you look slimmer and more confident. Your body (from your shoulders down) should be facing towards the right of the photo at about 30 degrees to the camera and hence into the page and not front on like a passport photo. 
Your face and eyes should be facing straight into to the camera, head forward stretching your neck, like an emu, and slightly down to create a defined jawline which will highlight your face. 
Eyes, now this is a tricky one, should be ‘squinshed’ (a phrase coined by the great Headshot Photographer: Peter Hurley) this is where you slightly bring up your bottom eyelids, not squinting your eyes, as this will create a more powerful and commanding look. However, this may not be the best idea if you have small eyes, so practice in the mirror to see the results.

5. What to wear? 

My answer to this question is always, it must be on-brand for you, reflect your personality and your style. So always be true to your brand and ensure your photographer designs the look that will compliment this. Generally speaking darker clothes (eg. mid-dark colored jacket and a lighter shirt/top) with a clean light colored background works best. The profile photo is meant to show you so keep it simple and direct.

6. Accessories
Only wear the items you normally would wear in front of your Target Market or at the first contact with your clients. This way what people see in your photos will translate into reality.
If you wear glasses for at least 50% of the time in front of your clients, not if you are using them for reading, then you should wear them in your profile photos. And watch for glare and color cast created from the lenses of your glasses and compensate by slightly tilting your head until they are minimised or eliminated. Your photographer will be able to guide you on how to achieve this.

7. Should you include props or logos?

Generally speaking, this is a no-no unless the prop is very clear as to what it is, specific to your industry and it adds to your message and branding. Several of my profile photos include one of my cameras, it’s an obvious item to everyone, it’s large enough to be clearly seen and adds to the message that I’m a professional photographer. To add some oomph, you can include some logos of the media outlets you’ve been featured in, but only a few, make sure they are well known to your target market and ensure your profile photos are taken leaving space for the logos to be added in later.

8. Hair, what to keep and what not to
Get your hair cut at least 1 week before your photo shoot so that it doesn’t look too sharp and freshly cut. If you colour your hair do that as well at the same time. 
Make sure you have groomed your facial hairs, eyebrows, nose hairs, ears hair and neck hair. You’ll look and feel so much better when you’re viewing the photos during your photo shoot without having to imagine what you would look like with no nose hairs or bushy eyebrows once they have been photoshopped out.

9. How many profile photos should you have?
The magic number here is 3. Three different profile photos that are all on brand and are your style. Make sure your photographer gives them to you in colour and B&W so you can change them every 2 months so they last for a full year.
This will avoid ‘banner blindness’ which is what happens to 86% of the population when people see the same thing over and over again in the same place online. Your photos have an expiration date, no more than 1-2 years, depending on how many you have and how often you use them. We’ve created a Photo-Decision matrix which is part of our Personal Branding Guide that will help you determine when it’s time to get new photos, you can access it here. So, establish a good relationship with your photographer and get them updated regularly to keep your content fresh, up to date and relevant.

10Specifications of your photos

– Format: Square
– File type: JPG or PNG for use online (not BMP, TIFF or PSD)
– Size: Width and height, 500pixels, as this is the current size recommended for Linkedin plus it still looks great on other Social Media sites.
– Colour or B&W: get both for variety

 and change your profile photo on a regular basis, say once every three months.

11. What to avoid?

– Selfies, as they look cheap and unprofessional which will damage your brand.
– Looking too sexy, like a criminal, bored or overly excited.
– Ladies, no bare shoulders as you may appear naked and that might attract the wrong type of inquiries.
– Adding fancy graphics on top of your photos. 
Including other people or pets.
– Thinner clothes are better than bulky ones, so no thick jackets or coats, bulky scarfs and chunky jewelry covering your neck, unless of course that’s part of your brand and style.
– Hats, unless you always wear one.
– Clothes with large prints, abstract colours and loud logos.

In summary:
Your Profile Photos need to be on-brand with your styling, posed in a specific way so you look appealing and attractive to your audience and that you have at least 3 photos for maximum variety and cut-through.

And here’s some examples of Profile Photos we’ve created for our client and how they are being used on Social Media sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.

Download our FREE Personal Branding Accelerator Checklist:

50 Ways To SUPERCHARGE Your Personal Branding

Discover the 5 BRANDING CHANNELS you can promote yourself and raise your profile PLUS the 50 different practical and brand image building ways that you can use your photos to build your brand.


BufferSocial: The research and science behind finding your best profile picture
25 Mar 2015

GraphBaron: Banner Blindness – Causes and Solutions

No date provided