5 Ways To Put The "Pro" In Profile Pics

Your profile photo is an important part of your online image, so if you still have an egg as your Twitter avatar or a blue-and-white silhouette for your Facebook page, it's time to step things up. (Hint: This photo is a "don't.")

If you still have an egg as your Twitter avatar, it's time to step things up.

Your profile photo is an important part of your online image. Not only is this pic the first thing people see when they look you up on the web, whether you're using Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+, this image is now regularly transported into people's in-boxes and pulled onto their phones as users rely on services such as Xobni to put faces to their digital networks.

It's worth noting that these images have also moved well beyond tiny digital squares. Facebook, with its Timeline feature, gives you two opportunities to promote yourself—a large cover image and a smaller profile pic. Google+ gives you the option to insert a main image and then a series of images across the top of your account. LinkedIn is more traditional, with room for one photo, but you can manage who can see that picture to include your connections, network, or everyone. 

Here are five tips to put your best face forward online.

1. Go pro.  You can't go wrong with a professional headshot. Use a solid-colored background and ask a photographer friend or hire a professional to capture your image. For example, Ford's head of social media has a professional picture with the company's logo embedded in the bottom corner. He also includes his business information beside his photo, and his background image extends his brand, portraying the same look and feel. 

2. Be your brand.  If a professional headshot is too stuffy for your business, try to capture the essence of what you do in your profile pic. Travel expert JohnnyJet (@johnnyjet) does just this on his Twitter page. He shares a close-up shot of himself in travel gear on one of his many adventures. His background image is composed of dozens of thumbnails of his many travel experiences, making it very clear that he's not a banker, but a jet-setter.

3. Animate yourself.  While I've seen animated profiles go horribly wrong, there is a place for these moving images.  Take a look at technology blogger Cali Lewis's banner image. This sequence of professional photos, including the logo from Lewis' online show, help to give her entire page a more professional feel. Also, these moving images make her page stand out from other, plainer-looking pages. To animate your Google+ banner, check out this post on Ghacks.

4. Have fun.  There is no shortage of creative profile pics, but some of the most interesting work in this space has been done within Facebook's Timeline. A copywriter from E3, a web design agency in Italy, shows off some extraterrestrial love in his cover art and profile image. This clever photo integration helps to give his Facebook account a quirky and interesting look. If you plan to use your Facebook account for building your brand, it's a good idea to figure out how you plan to use both of these image opportunities to promote what you do. 

5. Avoid the "MySpace pose."  As whimsical as it may seem, there is nothing professional about a profile photo you snapped in the mirror on your smartphone. While there is a time and a place for self-portraits, your avatar isn't it; in other words, don't waste this precious real estate on a crummy image. If you want to take your own profile pic, ensure that you use a decent camera, shine light on your face so you're not backlit, and allow for some headroom so your hair isn't cut off. Also, wear clothing that reflects how you would dress in your professional world.  

Now it's your turn—say cheese, and don't forget to smile!

For more tips on building your personal brand and working smarter, see Amber Mac's Work Flow series

[Image: Flickr user Lintmachine]

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  • Gordon Gooch

    Great article Amber!  I couldn't agree more that the profile photo is so important, whether on Facebook, Twitter or online dating.  Sometimes it's really hard to get people to understand that the image they put out there is how they are judged.  This goes to the heart of "your personal brand."

  • Anita Wiindisman

    Thank-you for the tips Amber.  

    Here's a telling statistic from LinkedIn as to why you SHOULD upload a photo: 

    Professionals that add a photo are seven times more likely to have their LinkedIn Profile viewed in general than people who don’t have a photo.  (Source:  http://blog.linkedin.com/2011/... )

  • Sue Griffey

    This information is so important...I've already written about it on my blog (hoping to get the message to some of the professionals I've mentored): http://suementors.blogspot.com.... This post is inspiring me to write about it again in hopes the eggs will start to disappear! Thanks.


    Thanks Amber.  I'm sending this to all my clients -- and many colleagues.  This is a recurring battle (okay, maybe "skirmish" is more accurate) when dealing with boot-strapping ventures.  (And you know who you are ... )

    There are some things you can do well yourself, perhaps better than anyone; but this isn't one of them.  If you want to be perceived as viable and professional, you can't look like you work out of your dorm room.  Even if it's true.  So, Amber, thanks for this excellent synopsis of the whys and hows of doing this one thing properly.

  • Greg Apps

    The sample pic is a perfect example: eyes closer to the camera then your chin. Every movie star does it naturally. Look at all your personal photos, you prefer the ones that obey this.

  • Wendy Snyder Soucie

    In the age of transparency, haven't we outgrown avatars and funky anonymous names. I am for real names, and real head shot pictures.  Unfollow avatars, eggs, bare chests and the rest. Am totally with MeBuell and Clare Verrano on the animated profile gif.

  • mebuell

    No, no no no! Animated icons = Satan the devil. I tolerate very few tweeters who have an animated gif as their profile pic. The rest are unfollowed. 

  • Clare Verrano

    Animated icons: NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!   I've unfollowed  more than a few people on Twitter for this crime.