The formula for cool profile pictures is flattering angles, expressions, lighting, and poses.
Better self-portrait photography skills will impress your friends and attract more clients. We have cool profile picture tips to help you stand out from the social media crowd!
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What You’ll Need
- A tripod – the taller and sturdier, the better! It should reach your height so that you can be comfortable when posing.
- A camera – this can be a smartphone camera too. But for the best results, I’d recommend using a DSLR.
- A remote – this will take photos for you, which means you won’t have to run back and forth to get the perfect photo.
- An editing program – a program like Lightroom or Photoshop is great for light retouching work.
Why Is It Important to Have Great Profile Pictures?
Social media is a puzzle in which profile pictures play an important role. First impressions are difficult to forget.
Accounts without profile images are suspicious. But low-quality photos aren’t an option either.
Think of real-life scenarios. Imagine going to a business meeting dressed in pyjamas and slippers. Your clients will think you’re unprofessional and won’t forget that! The same applies to the world of social media.
Choose the Right Profile Photo for the Right Platform
There are lots of social media platforms out there, and they all have different purposes. You need to adjust your profile photo style so it fits the specific platforms.
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Facebook is for connecting with friends and classmates. Your profile photo can be more casual and you don’t need to keep that many rules in mind.
It can be a photo that was taken during travelling. Or showing you while you do something you love. For example, I’m using the one below. I like hiking and I admire the beautiful colours of Lago di Sorapis.
Notice that it isn’t a professional photo. My face has unwanted shadows and there is a tree trunk in the background. But you don’t have to be a perfectionist about a Facebook profile photo.
When I worked as a tour guide, I used to have another Facebook profile photo. It is me, sitting in a gondola in Venice. I have my clipboard and phone in my hands which is how I was usually seen by my groups. I’m smiling and I don’t wear sunglasses which make my face open and friendly.
I always created Facebook groups for my travellers. They saw my profile before they saw me, so it was important to convey the impression of a friendly yet committed tour guide.
If you are using Facebook to promote your business, you should have a more professional profile photo. Especially if you have a photography business.
Instagram is very similar to Facebook. Go casual if you use it for personal reasons. Opt for professional photos if it’s for business.
It’s smart to use the same profile photo for several social media platforms. People can find you much easier that way.
There are a few things you should avoid, even if you go for the casual look. Do not choose a profile photo that shows you in sexy lingerie or shows too much skin.
Also, it’s better not to have your new partner in your profile photos when the relationship is very fresh. You might end up changing your profile photos frequently. And everyone will know about your current relationship status.
We shouldn’t forget to talk about LinkedIn profile photos. It is a social media platform for professional networking. People are posting their CVs and employers are posting jobs.
It is a platform for which you need to have a professional portrait photo. It can be a simple one where you are wearing business attire or a simple white shirt. You also want to get your hair and makeup done. Why? Because it shows the effort your put into the photo.
Make sure that you still look recognisable. Otherwise, you might experience some awkwardness during a job interview.
Technical Tips for Self-Portraits
Before you plan your shoot, you need to know how to use your camera’s technical settings to your advantage.
It should take you around 5-10 minutes to set up your camera.
Find a Well-Lit Location to Flatter Your Features
This can be a shaded area in a park, a room on a bright day, or any other place that has good lighting.
Natural light is the best source of light for good profile pictures. It will make your face glow, add depth to your eye colour, and light up your background. Unlike artificial light, natural lighting won’t create colours that are difficult to edit.
Avoid Hard Light for a Softer Image
Hard lights will add too much texture to your photos and make you squint.
Don’t take photos outside at midday. Instead, go out when the sun isn’t too strong. The golden hour is a great time to take warm, well-lit self-portraits. Soft and ambient lights will make your skin and facial expressions smoother!
If you’re indoors, photograph yourself in front of a curtained window. Diffused window light is one of the best lights for classic profile pictures.
Take Vertical Photos to Show a Pose
If you want to emphasise more than your face, rotate your camera to a vertical position.
Vertical photos will show off your outfit, posture, and pose. They work better for that than a horizontal photo. Vertical photos considered to be a rule in portrait photography.
Choose the aspect ratio wisely and stick to the common ones (e.g. 4:3, 5:7, 4:5)!
Use Autofocus to Ensure Sharp Images
Instead of guessing where you’ll stand, set your camera to autofocus. This will ensure that you’ll look sharp no matter where you stand.
Be careful when taking self-portraits in places with lots of foregrounds. If something is covering your lens, your photos can end up looking blurry.
If, for whatever reason, your camera can’t find you, hold your hand above your head to catch its attention.
Try to use a manual remote trigger or a remote app on your smartphone if your camera has a built-in WIFI!
Have a Mini Test Photo Shoot Before You Start
Even if you’re using a remote, you need to make sure that your self-portraits are in focus.
During the first few minutes of your photoshoot, go back and forth.
Make sure that you’re standing in the right place and that the composition looks great and your image is tack sharp. Ideally, your eyes should have a crisp focus on your photo.
Check that nothing is covering your face!
This will help you improve your weak spots and find your best creative strengths.
Use a Large Aperture to Separate Yourself from the Background
A large aperture, such as f/1.8 or f/1.4, will separate you from your surroundings. And it will create beautiful background bokeh.
A smaller aperture, like f/6.0, will capture more details on your face and in the background.
The aperture you choose depends on your taste.
For me, the perfect profile pics use a large aperture. Separating the subject from their background makes them stand out.
Keep in mind that a wider aperture always requires more precise focus!
Profile Picture Posing Tips
These tips and tricks have helped many photographers look cool in front of the camera.
Take Smartphone Selfies Before You Begin
It’s likely that you don’t stare at yourself in the mirror all day. This means that you’re not aware of your best angles and poses!
You don’t have to practise in front of the mirror. Use your smartphone camera to try out different expressions, angles, and poses instead.
You can even take a few photos to reference during your actual photo shoot.
Stand up to Look More Comfortable
If you sit straight on a chair, you’ll look stiff. But if you stand upright, you’ll look both professional and comfortable.
Face the Sky to Avoid Unappealing Highlights
This is to avoid highlighting textures or under-eye circles.
Face the sky or any other light source you’re using. You don’t have to look away from the camera.
All you have to do is raise or move your head so that an even amount of light covers your face.
Don’t Press Your Arms Against Your Body
If you press your arms against your body, you’ll make them look large.
Keep your arms away from your body to avoid this.
You can put your hands on your hips or stretch them away from your body instead.
Stand in Front of a Simple Background
Vibrant backgrounds can be distracting. So make sure your location isn’t filled with busy background details.
Make Sure Nothing is Covering Your Face
- The photograph below is a well-executed one. But it wouldn’t make a great profile pic. The subject’s face and expression are barely visible.
This includes hair, hands, sunglasses, or random objects in the foreground.
If your face isn’t easy to identify, your profile picture won’t stand out.
Be Extra Tidy for Professional Profile Photos
While fun profile pictures can be a little messy, professional ones demand tidiness.
Before your shoot, iron your outfit and style your hair. And be sure your eyebrow hairs aren’t all over the place (this is a common problem!).
In this way, you can also save time a lot of time on editing and retouching!
Best Backgrounds for Awesome Profile Pictures
A slightly textured wall will make your profile photo stand out.
A plain wall will put the spotlight on your subject.
Parks, beaches, and forests are all great background subjects. The mild greens and yellows of nature, especially in autumn, will complement your features.
Do not forget to use a lower aperture value to avoid the distractions from the background!
You can use a mirror as your background to create surreal effects in Photoshop. First, take a photo of yourself with a camera. Then, stand next to your mirror.
Merge the two photos in Photoshop and you’ll get an awesome profile photo with an even cooler background!
Profile Picture Myths You Can Ignore
You have to look at the camera. Some of the most endearing and best profile pictures I’ve seen feature people laughing. Or they’re looking down or having fun in their own world. You don’t need to look at the camera if you don’t feel like it.
You must stand still. You may have had to sit still for your high school photos. But that’s no longer the case. If you love dancing, dance. Stay active, or do anything else that involves movement if you want to! The more expressive you are, the more comfortable you’ll feel. And the more authentic your photos will look.
You’re not allowed to fake a smile. Fake smiles don’t have to look unflattering. Practice in front of a mirror. This skill will come in handy in a variety of situations. The best thing if you imagine making eye contact with somebody!
Self-portrait editing is wrong. There’s nothing wrong with light retouching. When I edit my profile pictures, I often lighten dark circles, remove blemishes, and brighten my eyes. You don’t need to blur your skin or remove every pore to look good. But to achieve high quality, the photo needs a bit of editing.
You won’t look flattering in a profile photo if your photography skills aren’t strong. No matter how beautiful you are.
Knowing how to take self-portraits will save you lots of time and money. And it will help you leave a positive impression on anyone who visits your page.
Now, check our article on Instagram profile picture size!