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. And take great profile pictures whenever you want!
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, 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?
Profile pictures with friendly smiles, simple backgrounds, tidy hair, and good light will attract people to the subject.
Social media is a puzzle in which profile pictures play an important role. First impressions are difficult to forget.
Accounts without profile pictures are suspicious. But low-quality photos aren’t an option either. Accounts that feature poor photos of themselves (or their pets) aren’t appealing to the eye.
Think of real-life scenarios. Imagine going to a business meeting dressed in pyjamas and slippers.
Your clients will think you’re unprofessional and will definitely not forget that! The same applies to the world of friendships and dating.
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.
1. Find a Safe and Well-Lit Location
This can be a shaded area in a park, a room on a bright day, or any other place that has good lighting. And makes you feel comfortable.
Unlike artificial light, natural light won’t create colours that are difficult to edit.
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.
2. Avoid Direct Light
Window light and the golden hour work very well together.
Direct light 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.
If you’re indoors, photograph yourself in front of a curtained window. Soft window light is one of the best lights for classic profile pictures.
Take Vertical Photos
If you want to emphasise more than your face, rotate your camera to a vertical position. Vertical profile photos will show off your outfit, posture, and pose. They work better for that than a horizontal photo.
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 photos in places with lots of foregrounds. If something is covering your lens, it’s likely that your photos will end up looking blurry. If, for whatever reason, your camera can’t find you, hold your hand above your head to catch its attention.
Have a Mini Test Photo Shoot Before You Start
Sometimes, pre-shoot outtakes end up becoming the best photos! Be as silly and open as you want before you start taking professional photos. The results might surprise you.
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 photo shoot, go back and forth.
Make sure that you’re standing in the right place and that the composition looks great. And 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
This self-portrait was taken using an aperture of f/1.8. Larger apertures are harder to work with because they focus on very specific parts of a subject. But they’re worth the hard work. If the background hadn’t been blurred here, the composition wouldn’t have looked that appealing.
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 most effective profile photos use a large aperture. Separating the subject from their background makes them stand out.
Cool Profile Pictures Posing Tips
Posing might seem like a daunting task. But it’s actually very easy to master once you find your favourite go-to poses.
These tips and tricks have helped many photographers look cool in front of the camera.
8. 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.
7. Stand, Don’t Sit
If you sit straight on a chair, you’ll look stiff. But if you stand upright, you’ll look both professional and comfortable.
6. Face the Sky
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.
5. Don’t Press Your Arms Against Your Body
Hands-in-pockets is another great pose for casual profile pictures.
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.
4. Stand in Front of a Simple Background
Neutral and pastel colours, like this light shade of pink, will look complement your profile picture.
Vibrant backgrounds can be distracting. So make sure your location isn’t filled with busy background details.
3. Hold Someone You Love
Self-portraits featuring children and older people are heartwarming and meaningful. They also make it easier for visitors to figure out who the main subject is (in this case, the mother).
You don’t have to be the only subject in your photograph. To show off your interests, take photos of yourself holding something you love.
This can be a pet, a musical instrument, a favourite book, or even a camera (mirror selfies are acceptable!)
When it comes to self-portraits that feature other people, you have to be a little more careful. New visitors on your page might not be able to figure out who the profile picture belongs to.
You can take photos with people who are much younger or older than you. Like grandparents or children.
2. Make Sure Nothing Is Covering Your Face
Though this photograph is beautiful in the world of general photography, it wouldn’t make a great profile picture. 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.
1. Be Extra Tidy for Professional Profile Photos
The subject’s hair, eyebrows, skin, and outfit are all tidy. You don’t need to look this perfect to take professional profile photos, though. A few stray hairs, blemishes, and dust can be removed in Photoshop.
While fun profile pictures can be a little messy, professional ones demand tidiness.
Before your shoot, iron your outfit and style your hair. And make sure your eyebrow hairs aren’t all over the place (this is a common problem!).
Best Backgrounds for Cool Profile Pictures
- Textured walls – a slightly textured wall will make your profile photo stand out.
When taking photos in front of a textured background, such as a brick wall, make sure your aperture is large so that any distracting details are blurred out.
- Plain walls – a plain wall will put the spotlight on your subject.
When choosing a plain wall, make sure its colours complement your subject. In this case, the light brown wall works well with the subject’s hair and skin, and the cat’s fur.
- Nature – parks, beaches, and forests are all great background subjects. The mild greens and yellows of nature, especially in autumn, will complement your features.
- A mirror – 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 a very cool 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 cool 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.
- Self-portrait editing is wrong: There’s nothing wrong with light retouching. When I edit my profile pictures, I usually lighten dark circles, remove blemishes, and brighten my eyes. You don’t need to dramatically blur your skin or remove every pore to look good.
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!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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